conference blog: getting ready to network

This is the first of five posts written to coincide with attending the European Education Research Association conference in Porto.

There is more to getting ready to go to a conference than getting the abstract written and accepted. Indeed there’s more than preparing and rehearsing the presentation. That’s all necessary and not exactly straightforward. But in this case, it is all done.

And getting ready for a conference is not just about packing up the various bits of technology needed to keep up during a week away from the desk – laptop, ipad et al. It is that and my carry-on luggage attests to how much I feel is necessary to carry with me! As it happens I forgot an adaptor but my hotel came to the rescue, so I’m all powered up.

Nor is getting conference ready just about anxiously sorting out what the weather is likely to be, and packing appropriately, within the weight limit allowed by budget airlines. It’s likely to be hot and sunny in Porto so not much to worry about on that score.

Hang on, there’s still more. There’s also the getting-ready-conference-work associated with networking. You see, networking doesn’t just happen. It needs a little help.

These last few weeks I’ve been checking out which colleagues are going to be at this particular conference. I’ve touched base via email with a few of them and we’ve agreed to have a coffee or drink together. Some of these arrangements are pretty loose and will be relatively spontaneous, others actually already have times attached to them. I also haven’t contacted some people I know well, because I know they will be here – they always are at this conference, and we always do spend a bit of time catching up. But I’ve also had a quick look at the online programme to see who is around that I might want to talk to, people perhaps I don’t feel so confident about just emailing, but will feel OK about wandering up to afterwards and chatting to after their presentation, or when we are hanging around the coffee at break times.

I don’t have an agenda for most of these conversations, although something interesting might well arise in talking. That’s always possible. I reckon that it’s just good to find out what interesting work other people are doing. But there is one definite conversation in the offing about a potential research collaboration.

I’ve got a couple of meetings with publishers in the diary. These could be made by email but in this case were decisions made a while ago in other meetings. These are more of catch-ups than pitching sessions, but they are still important conversations, particularly for someone like me who has a grossly overdue book manuscript to make apologies about. It’s important to keep in contact with your publisher, it makes the whole process of publication much easier for everyone. But for anyone wanting to talk about a new book, conferences are certainly a great place to talk face to face to publishers and comissioning editors. Much better than by email.

I’ve even had a little bit of a think about what books I might be carrying back in my luggage. There are always publishers’ stands at the big conferences, and books are discounted. I do think a little about which of the multiple possibilities might have to be added to the weight of the bag and carried back because I want to read them now – rather than being posted to me some weeks later by the publishers. So I’ve made sure I’ve left a bit of room for these must-read-now-books.

And in keeping with the prejudice about academic conferences being nothing but a big junket, I did arrive here late yesterday afternoon. There is now the best part of a day to explore Porto before the conference registration opens this evening… I’ve come to the conference with my good friend Jill, and we’ve got our day organised to pack the absolute maximum amount of touristing in.”Tem um bom dia”, I hear you say? Indeed, we certainly will.

About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
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4 Responses to conference blog: getting ready to network

  1. Haitham Al-Sheeshany says:

    Soooooo, we need to plan these things (conferences-networking) too! 🙂
    I mainly just go with the flow.


  2. Christine Hall says:

    desejo-lhe um bomtrabalho

    say hi to Jill from me


  3. I have yet to go to a conference. But, when I do, I keep these facts in mind! Thanks for sharing.


  4. Pingback: Making the best out of conferences | ORGANIZING CREATIVITY

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