|My first international conference as a student|
This week, I submitted presentation proposals to a local conference and an international conference, both of which will take place next Spring. It was kind of last minute but a colleague already had an idea that seems like it will be easy to build upon. Speaking in an international forum is such an accomplished feeling. To me, only the most dedicated and interested minds make the effort to attend and share their ideas and research in that type of setting and it is a privilege to address that crowd. It may sound daunting, but proposing an idea is easier than you may think. And for those of you who are early in your careers or still students, you are welcomed too!
Here's how I have gone about it and I have been accepted to every single one that I have applied to, with the opportunity to travel to Australia, Vienna, Oslo, Portugal, and Copenhagen.
- Find the conferences. As I mentioned in a post on opportunity, talk to mentors, supervisors, or professors about professional organizations that you can be a member of, specific to your field of study or work. Usually there will be local regional organizations (here in the US we have one in most states for forensic psychology), national organizations, and international organizations that meet to share ground-breaking research and new ideas. Virtually all organizations have websites with tons of information.
- Check for conference dates and submission deadlines. Each organization will have their conference around the same time each year, or however many years apart they meet. Get an idea of what season they meet by gathering information from their website. Submission dates for proposals are usually due 6 months before the conference takes place.
- Team up. This is a good way to ease into presenting research with someone else or to brainstorm an idea to present. Maybe that professor or supervisor has an idea on the back burrner that needs some new blood.
- Review the submission criteria. Most importantly, when is it due? What do they want? Some only want an abstract summary, but others will want an outline of the entire presentation, handouts, and a word about how it will benefit attendees.
- Choose a form of presentation. You will either be presenting new research that you have conducted and talk about the methods and results of that study or you will be doing an "unstructured" presentation of a new idea. There are usually a few forms of presentations available, from all day courses to a 20 minute talk to a simple poster presentation. I usually opt for a 20 minute talk as part of a block of speakers who have a similar topic. Just the right amount of time to express a new idea and to entertain questions before getting back out to sightseeing!
- Write an abstract and submit! Once you have your idea and possibly a presentation partner, all you need to do is write up a summary about what the presentation will include. This is usually included in the conference program, so you want it to be well-written and intriguing enough to get people to attend.
You will generally be notified about 2-4 months before the conference if you have been invited to speak. This is the time to do the real work and put together your presentation. Here are a few more tips that I follow for preparation:
- Keep an ongoing list of research/ presentation ideas at any given moment. That way, you always have something to pull from if a conference comes up in a location that is somewhere you want to visit.
- After a submission is sent, start a PowerPoint outline even if it is just an idea. Jot down the highlights or ideas as they come along.
- Always document a note or idea ASAP in your phone. You don't want to forget a great PowerPoint slide once you get back in front of your computer.
- Once you get accepted to the conference, you can fill in the rest. Also try to get in front of some sort of audience to try out the material and timing. Work or internship is a good place to do this, but family or friends make good test audiences too.
- Don't forget to make accommodations early and use the conference discounts on hotels. Cities usually get sold out fast and jack up prices if conferences are in town. Read about my hotel struggle in a sold out city here.
- Keep all of your receipts if you are sending yourself to the conference- it's a tax write-off!
This post is really the secret to the way I get to travel so much in my work, on my terms. I don't have to commit to travel for my job and I can pick and choose where I want to go. I am definitely skipping that conference in Missouri next year and hoping for Croatia instead! Sometimes I go to conferences as an attendee and location doesn't matter so much because I know that I will be in a lot of interesting sessions all throughout the conference. But who am I kidding? If I can knock out some knowledge and see a new place, I'm all for it!