“We don’t need no education….” (Part II)

But most of us need a holiday from time to time….


Lots of people deny that conferences are holidays. I don’t. I freely admit that when choosing to go on a conference, the venue is just as important as the topic matter. Both are important. If the conference is on a topic of partuclar interest to you, then you may not have any choice on the location.

There are literally hundreds of conferences out there. Check out www.microbiologyconference.com , which lists most of the major conferences. You should try and find your way to at least two, if not three a year.

I advise travelling to conferences alone. For me conference time is “Me time”, time away from the family, time to reflect, time to think up new ideas, time to explore something new and time to learn something new. I am not saying I don’t socialise during conferences, but I give myself that choice.

If you are going to a conference that lasts for three days or more, then don’t plan on attending the conference from 7.30 am in the morning until 5.30pm at night. You might be able to sustain your concentration for that long over one day but certainly not over three+ days. I certainly can’t. You should return from a conference inspired and rejuvenated, not knackered.

Have a close look at the program before going to the conference and plan what you are going to attend and what you are not going to attend. Before picking talks to go to, ask yourself “Will this talk affect or potentially affect my day to day work?” Don’t feel guilty about taking a couple of hours off each day to go sightseeing, shopping etc. This will help you be more focused when you are actually present at the conference.

I am not a big fan of people in the audience sitting there photographing slide after slide with their tablet computer. It irritates me! I never saw the point of this to be honest and I would bet most of these photographs go unlooked at. The abstract should provide you with most of the notes you need, and you can scribble a few more in the margins if necessary. If you really want to see the presentation, ask the presenter or the conference organisers for a PDF copy of the talk. Note that as we move into the digital age, some conferences now provide USB sticks/CDs of the presentations where the presenters have given permission.

If the opportunity arises to present a talk or a poster at a conference, then take it. Look for something interesting that has been happening in the lab eg a case study, a new method, a QC problem, a restructuring, a new piece of equipment etc. etc., and then submit an abstract (poster or oral) for the conference you plan to attend. If you find it interesting, the chances are that other people will also. It’s natural to get a little nervous, but let’s face it, what’s the worst that can happen? I have done many presentations over the years, some good and some bad. I doubt anybody really remembers the bad ones.

And finally eat and drink well! It is a conference after all. The catering should make you feel like you are on a stationary cruise ship. However don’t drink so much that you miss the whole of the following morning’s talks. I would never do that…..

Happy holidays!





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