The event is estimated to be buzzing with over 30,000 attendees including key researchers and scientists in the field. This is a great opportunity to become an active participant in the scientific community and make the most of the conference. Here are a few tips for expanding your knowledge and network:
1| Come prepared:
Brush up your elevator pitch or “60-second ad.” Be able to quickly convey who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and what your career interests are. Keep it professional (e.g. “I’m a graduate student in Physiology,” not, “I was born and raised in rural Iowa.”) and frame your goals in the positive (e.g. “I would like to pursue a career in industry because I think I would enjoy the fast pace,” not, “I would like to pursue a career in industry because I don’t like the academic lifestyle.”)*
Before you attend, update and polish your resume or CV. Writing a résumé helps you reflect on your accomplishments and identify skills that are valuable to an employer, and it is helpful to have these things “at your fingertips” the sessions.*
2| Do your research:
With so many presentations and posters it could be a bit overwhelming deciding which to go to. The conference website offers a great tool called Neuroscience Meeting Planner where you can search and browse all the abstracts by key words or presenters. Even more, it will plan an itinerary for you based on your interests! It’s like have your own personal assistant! Once you have found the ones you would like to go to, read a little background information about key people in your field. Google them and prepare thoughtful questions.
Also, the conference will feature a free exhibit for biochemicals and reagents, computer related instruments, laboratory equipment and supplies, optical/imaging instruments, physiological instruments, publishers, and pharmaceutical companies.
3| Intentionally make new contacts:
Now that you have picked out key scientists and colleagues that will make great contacts seek them out and strike up a conversation! Check out the Working the Net post for more ideas on networking. If the concept of “networking” makes you uncomfortable, try setting a goal to meet “x” number of new people, to stay for “x” number of minutes, or to meet Dr. “x“. The free online booklet from AAAS/ScienceCareers, Building Relationships, has more excellent advice on networking.*
4| Active listening goes a long way:
As you listen to the speakers, try to gauge whether their career seems to fit with your talents, interests, and lifestyle. Take notes and record your questions for the speakers. Your questions will provide a good conversation starter. When engaging in conversations LISTEN to what they are saying 🙂
If your conversation goes well, it may be appropriate to ask for the person’s email address in case you have future questions. It is NEVER appropriate to ask for a job or to ask for contact information so that you can send someone a résumé.*
*BRET has great advice on career development. Thanks!