I recently went to New York to present a paper in my very first academic conference!
My paper was about ethnic and civic nationalism in Hong Kong; it was part of my data analysis for my PhD project. My presentation took about 20 minutes and afterwards there were comments and an open Q&A session.
The conference was very well organised and the quality of the papers was excellent. It was enjoyable and fascinating; however… there were frustrations too.
In order to present my paper I spent almost a week writing a 250-word abstract – a summary of the paper I had to submit to them. After my abstract was accepted, I was asked to draft a full paper (5,000 to 10,000 words!). That took me about a month. Then I spent another three days preparing for the presentation, not to mention the unmeasurable anxiety I went through. Yet, after all my hard work, only six participants came to my presentation!
As much as I like meeting people, I consider myself an introvert and networking can be a stressful idea. At the conference, I was alone most of the time because I didn’t know anyone and was uncomfortable with initiating small talk with strangers. In the end, I was glad that I could make friends with the other presenter from my session.
Questions you may ask yourself…
Should I attend an academic conference?
Most conferences charge for an admission fee so I would recommend students to secure some sources of funding if they decide to attend one. Also, the papers presented are highly specialised and technical so you should only attend if you have a clear goal and a high level of knowledge in the field.
What is an academic conference?
In general, an academic conference is for researchers to present and discuss their research. For example, the conference I attended was about ethnicity, nationalism and Eurasian studies. Basically, academic conferences welcome everyone, not just academic researchers to share their research insights. For example, the participants for the conference in New York included high school teachers and lawyers. The diverse profiles and experiences of the participants created a unique vibe.
What happens at academic conferences?
It varies depending on the discipline. According to my experience, there were paper presentations, book exhibitions, documentaries and drink receptions for three days. Participants were given the chance to attend their preferred sessions, build networks with other participants and exchange their latest ideas.
Do you have any questions regarding academic conferences? Would you like to share some of your experiences? Feel free to leave comments!