Post Conference Reflections

Well we’re back and we survived! If you’re staying updated with the blog, my colleagues and I were in Baltimore for a Pediatrics conference the week before last. It was an intense few days to say the least (what is with conferences who decide to run events from 6:30 am to 7:00pm!) but I learned loads and it was a very beneficial experience.

Here is a quick run down of a couple of things I did in preparation and how they worked out. Check out the pre conference blog post if you’d like a bit more context.

  1. The canvas poster was excellent and beyond convenient! We were able to pack our posters away without thinking or worrying about them and they hung up neatly and easily.
  2. My pre-trip planning involved looking up a few restaurants and regional dishes which came in very handy. It was great to know where we could run to for a quick lunch and when we did have an afternoon free we had an idea of where to explore. Sadly, we never made it to IHOP, but we did get our hands on some excellent seafood and soul food (and I’m pleased to report that any skepticism on how delicious chicken and waffles would taste dissipated about as quickly as it takes for syrup to be properly drizzled).
  3. Jet lag is awful but thankfully all the techniques payed off and that, coupled with having a schedule to stick to, worked just fine. We were there on a mission and that made getting up early every day easy to do.
  4. Despite this being a massive conference I didn’t find it particularly overwhelming. The opportunities to network were really only centered around the poster sessions and you could easily decide how much or how little you wanted to network. I met some really interesting medics and researchers, and had some excellent feedback on my work that gave rise to a lot of helpful critical thinking.
  5. Snacks saved me on many occasions. Never underestimate the power of snacks.

So how did it go? Very well thank you! As I’m not a medic, many of the talks and symposiums weren’t the most relevant to me but that’s not to say they weren’t fascinating. I learned so many things that I would never have otherwise, and there were many instances where the talk in question seemed completely irrelevant to my own work but in fact had aspects (or questions or comments) that I could easily relate back to my own research.

I met some very interesting people, had the opportunity to show off some of my own work for the first time, and even had the chance to dust off my bilingual bone with some French Canadian presenters.

A couple of quick take aways

  1. Strategic coffee- We realised very quickly that the key to happiness if you’re in a group or with a pal, is to get one person to leave the session slightly earlier to get in line for coffee. There’s often a lot of running between talks and having someone already in line for some very vital caffeine was helpful and efficient.
  2. Take notes- Even if it’s not a talk you’re directly interested in, I found that there have been a few times in the past few weeks where I’ve wanted to go back and remember something and having some quick notes jotted down really helped.
  3. Be open- Just because a talk or a session doesn’t sound relevant doesn’t mean it won’t be interesting to you. Keep an open mind and try to learn new things. That’s the best part about conferences. You have this vast access to research and it’s great to grab that by the horns.
  4. Be mindful- That being said, do be mindful of how much you’re putting yourself through. It’s a fine line between seeing as much as possible and knowing your limits. There’s only so much information that one person can absorb in a day.
  5. Have fun- Even if you hate conferences, try your best to enjoy yourself, even if a lot of that enjoyment comes from the bits surrounding the conference. We went out for ridiculous portions of seafood, walked outside and enjoyed the sunshine, and grabbed ice cream and sat by the harbour. Those moments helped balance out the slightly stuffy air conditioned air and large volume of information held within the walls of the convention center.

So if you have the opportunity to go to an international conference I would highly recommend it. Yes it was exhausting. Yes 2 out of 5 people got ill. Yes traveling 14 hours for only a couple of days was a lot. But existing somewhere between exhaustion and inspiration is what being a PhD student is all about right?!





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