This is a guest post written by Dr Julie Rowlands from Deakin University, Australia.
Greetings from the ECER conference at Porto. As a recently appointed academic after a mid-life career change, this is my first international conference. It is very exciting and a little bit (OK, a lot!) nerve wracking. However, this post is not about the conference itself. It’s about what I did and what happened to me before I even got to the conference, because I hope that sharing this story might make the first international conference experience a little easier for others also.
This story starts in Australia, where I am from. Like all conscientious early career researchers I read every pre-conference email from the organisers and was keen to be prepared in terms of knowing where I wanted to be, when and with whom, before I even got to Portugal. As soon as the conference app was available I therefore downloaded it and carefully selected the sessions I wanted to attend. The first of these was my own session of course – there was no way in the world I was going all the way to Portugal only to miss my own session. But there were lots of others also – sessions being given by my colleagues, sessions by luminaries whose work I admire and have cited (and who I hope I might get to meet at the conference), and sessions by those whose names were not familiar but whose work was interesting and relevant to my own in some way. When I had finished selecting all of these sessions the conference app asked if I wanted to sync the details with my calendar. I said yes – and all of the relevant details magically appeared in my Outlook. This was neat! I also registered through the ECER conference website for the personalised online programme. Of course, I also polished and rehearsed my presentation. In short, I left Australia on the 23 hour flight feeling quietly confident with my pre-conference organisation.
My first inkling that something was not right with all of this came when I had arrived in Porto and was having a chat with my presenting colleagues about where we had to be, when. I dutifully pulled out my smartphone, opened the Outlook calendar to check the venue for our first session, only to find that we were presenting – at 6.45 am! This can’t be right, I thought, and carefully checked all other sessions I had selected. They were all at odd times too. Worst of all, my own presentation was showing as being at 2.00 am. It seems that when I arrived in Portugal all of these events were helpfully moved back nine hours, corresponding perfectly with the time difference between Australia and Portugal. That was when I noticed that it was not only the conference sessions that had moved – my son’s swimming sessions and my next eyebrow wax were also in the middle of the night! It seems that by downloading the conference app and moving selected events into my calendar before I left home, everything in my calendar had moved back nine hours, even though I did not have ‘time-zone sync’ selected in my calendar settings. Not to worry, I thought, I will muddle through with the online programme and at least when I go home all of my other commitments will go back to normal. Apparently not, advised more experienced colleagues who had been through this before – some pre-existing calendar entries never recover from this international conference-imposed time warp and need to be deleted and re-entered, from scratch!
The moral of this story is that sometimes too much pre-organisation can be a bad thing – especially if it involves conference program apps. The rule, which I shall be sticking to slavishly from now on, is don’t download your conference app until you have arrived at the venue and are safely in the same time zone as the conference. Then you can download to your heart’s content.