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Welcome Newcomers!

Written by Amy Sullivan, Laser Mom Blog
This post is mostly for new conference attendees, but for those of you who are veterans of the conference, this is a reminder for you to do your best to make these newcomers welcome. This is your community and it is your responsibility to make it a friendly and welcoming one.
I was talking to some friends recently about our first conference experience. Going to a big conference like Frontiers in Optics as your first conference can be really exciting and also pretty intimidating if you are a little shy as I am.
It took me a long time to go to my first conference. I was starting to think that I was jinxed. The first time I submitted a paper to a conference, I was working on a government-funded project in industry. I was very proud of the work and excited to present it, but a few weeks before the conference, the funding agency decided the work was ‘sensitive’ and they did not want it published (it has since been published). I was pretty bummed…
So the next year, I was working on a very non-sensitive laser system and submitted this work to a different conference. Then, I decided to leave my job in industry and go back to graduate school and was unable to present the work…
A year and a half later, I had a nice paper submitted and accepted to yet another conference in April. The day we were planning on flying out, there was a blizzard in Denver. The airport was shut down and I couldn’t get a flight for 3 days…
I did finally make it to my first conference and presented my first paper. I was by myself at the conference and nervous about presenting my first paper and shy about introducing myself to people I did not know.  Fortunately, the presentation went really well, and several people came up and introduced themselves after the talk and chatted with me over coffee. I realized that it was silly to feel nervous about talking to people – everyone was very friendly and helpful.
So here are some thoughts from myself and others about your first conference:

  • Preconference prep is really important. You’re thinking that this is not useful advice on the first day of the conference, but you can still make the most of your time. Pick up your schedule at registration or go online and plan out what talks you want to see and who you want to meet and talk to. There are a TON of talks all at the same time, so you really need to plan your day carefully.
  • Be ready with a two minute elevator speech. You never know who you will meet and who might be interested in helping you, collaborating with you, or hiring you in the future. Make sure you can explain your research very clearly and concisely in less than two minutes. Practice this! Your opportunity may very well be in the elevator since the other conference attendees will likely be staying in the same hotel. Do not miss out on this opportunity to impress and get to know people!
  • Attend the organized social events whether you are at the conference on your own or with a group. Identify people from talks you have attended, or people you would like to meet, or just people who look friendly. Introduce yourself. If you are a student, meet the other students – theses are your future colleagues. If you are with a big group, invite someone who looks alone to join you for lunch or dinner.
  • After the sessions, follow the group out and continue the discussion at coffee instead of running off to check your email. Take advantage of these opportunities to meet others in your field and discuss research ideas.
  • Attend talks that are outside your research topic. Expand your knowledge and network with these people. This can lead to new, interesting ideas and collaborations.
If you are new, enjoy! Frontiers in Optics is a great conference and the optics community is an incredibly welcoming one.

Posted: 10/14/2012 11:02:12 AM by Amy Sullivan | with 0 comments

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