Category Archives: conferences

“Student competition sessions” at conferences are weird

Image: Part of the conference programme for the 2016 International Congress of Entomology.

I’m never surprised when I open up the programme for a conference and see a “Student Competition Session” – a bunch of grad (or sometimes, undergrad) student talks gathered together and judged for prizes*.  Not surprised, but mystified, because I find this distinctly weird. Continue reading

Negative results, conferences, and the open file drawer

I had more than my usual dose of conferences last summer (as you might have noticed).  After four major conferences in three months, something finally sunk in to my tired, tired brain: conferences tell a very different story than journals.  In particular, conference talks are loaded with negative results – far more so than our journals*.  So is this a problem?  An opportunity?  Both? Continue reading

Nametag with knotted lanyard

Are you wearing your conference nametag wrong?

Well, that’s a stupidly arrogant thing I just asked, isn’t it?  Who am I to tell you you’re wearing your nametag wrong?  But here’s the thing: you may not be, but I can make a good case that many of your colleagues are. Continue reading

Conference nametags mostly suck

I’ve been to a lot of conferences, and at every single one I’ve been issued a nametag.  I don’t know how those nametags get designed, but I’m guessing it’s mostly an afterthought.  That’s because they’re mostly terrible.  If you think about it, that’s pretty astounding – because as easy ways to improve a conference go, better nametags are such low-hanging fruit they’re practically lying on the ground.

Here’s a good place to start: what’s a nametag for?  Continue reading

Steve presenting at a conference

Conferencing as an old fogey

Photo: Me hijacking my own talk at CSEE 2016 to shamelessly plug my book.  I don’t look all that old, right?  Photo © Alex Smith, with permission.

I’ve just (as I write this) come from my favourite yearly conference: the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution.  It’s my favourite for a number of reasons – among them, really superb science, a broad range of topics, and a lot of friends.  (The latter makes a big difference when you’re conferencing as an introvert.)

I’ve realized something a little bit disturbing.  When I went to my first conference (the Ecological Society of America meeting in 1993, I think), I was young, and a rookie.  I watched the grey-haired old fogeys whose names I knew from the literature, and I knew I should introduce myself and get to know them, but it was hard.  But now, in 2016, I have become a grey-haired old fogey*. Continue reading

For your next conference: poster or talk?

Photo: Poster session, SunShot Grand Challenge Summit and Technology Forum, Denver; Dennis Schroeder/NREL via flickr.com. Public domain (US government agency).

I guess I’ve had conferences on the brain lately, with posts about why conferences have themes and about how I survive conferences as an introvert.  But there’s one question about conferences I hear asked more than any other: Should I give a poster or a talk? Continue reading

An introvert goes conferencing

Image: Joe Wolf via flickr.com CC BY-ND 2.0

While I was grumpy recently about conferences having themes, I’m not at all anti-conference. In fact, I agree entirely with Terry McGlynn here that going to conferences and meeting people in your field is really important. In fact, I just registered for two of the four conferences I plan to attend this year (a personal record high). But here’s the thing: while I’m looking forward to them, I’m also not, because like a fair number of academics I’m an introvert*. I find conferences, and all the people at them, exhausting. So I’ve been running through in my mind some of the strategies I use to cope. If you’re a little like me, maybe you’ll find some value in my writing them out**. Or at least in knowing that you aren’t the only one. Continue reading