Category Archives: Conferences

Finally, it has happened to me…

I just got a message from a colleague, someone who I presented on a panel with YEARS ago. S/he told me s/he was organizing a panel for Big Area Studies Conference next year and s/he wanted to know if I could participate. I just got an email from Area Studies Association about renewing my membership in anticipation for the big conference. While looking at the email, I thought, sigh! another conference where I’m going to have to beg, borrow, and steal to find a panel that fits. But finally, someone has had the idea to organize a panel, someone I know. And that someone, has thought to reach out to me and include me in the panel. I know that seems so small, even microscopic. But people so rarely think of me when organizing things. And I have been trying to change that by networking like crazy and organizing my fair share of panels. Perhaps if I had a larger ego I might think I am becoming known (even by a few), but really I think my networking has been paying off and the seeds I have planted are finally beginning to bear fruit.

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Re-evaluating Networks

In my usual mad dash to join a panel for the giant disciplinary conference in the fall I have been sending abstracts hither and yon in hopes of being chosen. Every year I tell myself that I will organize my own panel and every year the deadline creeps up on me and I make an excuse as to why I won’t organize one this year. Recently I sent an abstract to people forming a panel who I was in contact with from another conference. They rejected my abstract from a double panel. I didn’t even make the cut of the top 10 presenters. Jeez Louise. In a fit of nosiness I went to one of my professor friend’s facebook page and saw a cfp from another acquaintance posted there. I just emailed this acquaintance, who is kind of a big deal in the discipline, and asked her if there was room on the panel. I also mentioned that I had met her before and the professor friend who we had in common. Immediately, she added me to the panel (without even seeing my abstract) and now low and behold I have another panel for another conference. Sometimes I complain about not having strong networks, but I probably also need to re-evaluate the ties that I have and invest more fully in them, rather than wish for more contacts.

10 Networking Tips for Academics Who Hate Networking

A conversation with someone I went to grad school with inspired this post. S/he made a comment that s/he didn’t want to network at our upcoming disciplinary conference. Rather, s/he wanted to spend time with people she felt comfortable with. I actually don’t think the two sentiments are contrary to one another. For me, part of networking involves finding people that I mesh with personally and academically. There has been talk of networking in the academic blogosphere: Reassigned Time and Ferule and Fescue have great posts encouraging people to network. The Professor is In has great advice for working the conference. You can also find networking and academic PR advice here, here, and here.  I’m sure other blogs have great advice as well. I wanted to throw in my two cents as a young academic just starting out.

  1. Just presenting at the conference and being in the conference program can help you meet other academics interested in your area of study. I got my first invitation to publish in an edited volume (I know some people frown upon this) from the organizer of the volume viewing my entry and asking if I could submit something.
  2. Present on panels at conferences, and particularly on panels with new people or people not affiliated with your institution. When my friend told me that s/he didn’t want to “network” at the conference, I told her that s/he was already doing that by being on a panel. I think my friend needed to revise their idea of networking to go beyond schmoozing at the society receptions to include the actual panel presentations. (Although I personally like schmoozing at the bar too)
  3. Go to workshops at conferences.
  4. Go to association meetings and receptions. You never know who you’ll run into.
  5. If people show interest in your paper follow up. When people ask me for my paper, I send it to them. (I do consider the possibility of plagiarizing so I generally wait until the paper is under review somewhere if I’m going to send it to a stranger)
  6. If you are concerned about networking, maybe setting the bar low would help. Plan to meet one new person after attending a conference or workshop.
  7. If you are a grad student consider graduate student paper competitions. I have entered some and I used to consider their only benefit to come from winning them. However, now I think about them as creating networks by getting my research “out there” and read by people not on my dissertation committee and sometimes by people not in my direct area. Even if you don’t win someone else, probably not at your institution, have looked at your work.
  8. Go to lunch with speakers that come to your university if possible.
  9. Ask questions of people at conference panels and after it’s over go up and introduce yourself and follow up.
  10. Have a website, academia.edu page, twitter, or some internet presence. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve googled someone to find out more about their research and they seem to have left no digital mark. Also, many of my academic friends on facebook promote their talks and recent publications through that venue. It’s funny to me because they generally preface their post with an apology for their shameless self promotion, but then they always include the link to their latest article. (I really don’t think they’re sorry, and they really shouldn’t be) I’ve had a couple friends announce on facebook when their publications have been accepted for publication and I think that might be borderline shameless. But I do like to see the articles when they come out. (See here for further thoughts on academic PR and shameless self promotion)

Since I listed 10 suggestions in the heading I won’t go beyond that number. I’m still trying to figure out how to enter into that elusive circuit of invited talks and lectures at different institutions. I’ve given one talk and attended one workshop at other schools, but I don’t have any invitations on the horizon. I write and think about my networks not being as robust as they could be, but I offer these suggestions and invite others for those of us hoping to improve them.

Conference Fun

David Lodge. Small World. Prologue.

The modern conference resembles the pilgrimage of medieval Christendom in that it allows the participants to indulge themselves in all the pleasures and diversions of travel while appearing to be austerely bent on self-improvement. To be sure, there are certain penitential exercises to be performed – the presentation of a paper, perhaps, and certainly listening to papers of others. But with this excuse you journey to new and interesting places, meet new and interesting people, and form new and interesting relationships with them; exchange gossip and confidences (for your well worn stories are fresh to them, and vice versa); eat, drink, and make merry in their company every evening; and yet at the end of it all, return home with an enhanced reputation for seriousness of mind.

David Lodge is one of my favorite academic novelists and the prologue to Small World sums up academic conferences quite succinctly. I just returned from a conference in the deep south and I must say I had a great time. I think every conference should be in the south. The food was great, the scenery was charming, and the weather was nice. It was 80 degrees everyday, which is a far cry from the current fall weather here in the midwest. The theme of the conference was really exciting as well. It was in a discipline to which I am tangentially connected. If the conference was Basket Weaving Studies then I am Global Basket Weaving. I don’t know if that makes sense, but what it meant for me is that I came into contact with people who I was not familiar with, but who I need to become acquainted with.

As far as socializing, I went to lunch with a grad student I met. As far as networking, a more advanced scholar of Global Basket Weaving was on my panel and it was great to get on her radar. She has a book coming out and she is now in promotion mode. She said she wants to organize a panel for Global Basket Weaving conference and she would keep me in mind. Additionally, she said she was thinking about doing an edited volume on Global Basket Weaving in Particular Country and she would keep me in mind for that too. I basically came away with that one meaningful contact, but at this point I’ve come to realize that one meaningful contact is really all I can hope for at these things. It seems like everyone else is trying to meet and mingle with “more advanced scholar” or “more famous scholar,” both of which I am not. And “famous scholar” is only trying to network with other “famous scholars.” As a post doc I guess I was “more advanced scholar” for the grad student I met and hung out with. But I also got to meet “more advanced scholar” as well. And for that I am happy.

One of the hi-lites was seeing a professor who I had as an undergrad and whose class really influenced me. He said he would come to see my paper, but he wasn’t there when I gave it. I think he too was trying to network with “more famous scholars.” Ah, the academic ladder.

Over the years, I’ve learned that part of living academically is constantly networking. I’ve realized though that, for me, coming away from a conference with one good contact is really the goal and a victory if scored. Having achieved that goal, and having enjoyed the conference, I can happily report that upon return from my “pilgrimage” (as Lodge puts it) I am improved.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

It’s the beginning of “conference season” for me. Tomorrow I set off for my first conference of the academic year. The topic is exciting to me, the papers look interesting, the location is in a cool city in the South – I am looking forward to this. One of the things I like about this particular conference is how organized it appears to be. There is a conference website with the schedule and everyone can upload their paper to the website for public access. The organizers have sent emails with logistics and suggestions for some great restaurants. It looks like it will be so wonderful and productive. The operative word here is LOOKS, because I have been to plenty of conferences in the past that looked just as promising and ended up disappointing me or not really hitting the mark. But right now I’m cautiously optimistic – which seems to be what living academically is all about.

Missing Conferences

Or more specifically, never hearing about them in the first place. Three conferences have occurred that, had I heard about them, I would have submitted an abstract to them. What adds insult to injury is that people I know, and would call my friends, attended and presented at these conferences. I don’t want to complain about them not passing along an email notifying me about a conferences that I might be interested in. But I need to find a better way to stay abreast of the conferences that I would like to attend. There were not conferences for large disciplinary associations in the US. In fact, all of them were for conferences outside of the US (which I would like to attend more of). I have some friends who are constantly asked to attend conferences and participate in panels. One of my friends told me that’s how he chooses to attend the bulk of the conferences on his CV. Rarely am I asked to be on a panel out of the blue, even by people I know. I’m still in the process of trying to decide on what conferences to attend regularly. This whole becoming an academic professional is hard to do.

PS This grant foundation is having its way with me. I have not heard yet!

My First Conference

I survived my very first conference this past weekend. Well I guess I should say the first conference at which I presented. It went ok. I didn’t get too many questions because one of the other panel presenters discussed a very popular topic and she got most of the questions and comments. I was just happy to survive my talk. I also met a lot of people and exchanged business cards. I have followed up with some of them as well. Overall, it was a good experience and I don’t know what’s taken me so long to present at a conference. I met one student there from a west coast University in her first year of her PhD program who was presenting. I didn’t get to see her presentation because our panels were at the same time. But I did wonder what exactly she had to say. But onward and forward. I have two more conferences this semester and I should also be giving a talk next month. Fun times.