If you’re a chemist looking to network with peers, expand your knowledge of your field, and be an active member of the chemistry community, there’s no better place to be than an international conference. Attending a variety of educational sessions and exploring the array of offerings from vendors in the exhibit hall can provide a welcome break from the predictable routine of a chemistry lab.
With so many opportunities to learn and network over a short period of time, how can you get the most out of international conferences? Here we share ideas to help you find the best opportunities to meet your international peers and make key connections to expand your research globally.
Gather Information About Your International Conference
Your first task is to explore the meeting’s website. There, you’ll be able to view all of the information relating to the event, including the educational program and a list of exhibiting companies. This will be your richest resource for the meeting. Some international conferences even offer a digital app for download on your mobile device. Use it to keep your schedule organized and access the program on-site. If you still prefer to consume this information in paper form, rest assured that most conferences offer an attendee bag at check-in that includes a print version of the program.
Register for Your International Conference
Instructions for registering can usually be found on the meeting website and once you receive confirmation, you can begin to book your hotel accommodations and flight arrangements. Do this sooner rather than later, as the most conveniently located hotels usually fill up first. The website for an international conference typically has housing information that can help you plan your stay. Familiarize yourself with your hotel’s location relative to the convention center and investigate places where you can have dinner after a long day at the conference.
Note: Sometimes travel visas are required to attend an international conference. Make sure you plan accordingly and give yourself enough time to get all of your documentation in order. Often, international conference organizers can provide you with a letter of support.
Plan Your International Conference Itinerary
Once your travel arrangements are made, it’s a good idea to review the educational offerings at your event and take note of the ones you are most interested in attending. It is likely that your calendar will fill up fast with activities, so be strategic about how you spend your time. Don’t forget to leave time to visit the exhibit hall while it’s open so you can learn about the latest innovations and technologies in chemistry – plus collect the various free giveaways to give to your kids or labmates.
Be Part of the Conversation Around Your International Conference
National and international chemistry meetings are another great way to interact with chemists working in similar areas. Don’t be shy about engaging in chemistry discussions with leading experts—panels, poster sessions, and seminars are a good way to do this. Listen, ask questions, and talk about your own work. Stay informed with what people at the conference are talking about in real-time by following the official conference hashtag on Twitter.
Get Involved With Your International Conference
Attending an international conference by itself is a positive experience but if you have a chemistry paper that contributes to advancing your field, consider submitting an abstract to the conference. If it is accepted, you can share your work on a much larger stage. In addition, you can practice your presentation skills in front of peers. This can be a valuable experience, especially if English isn’t your first language. People can ask questions about your work directly, facilitating a valuable dialogue that can introduce new ideas to your research. You may even meet future collaborators or learn about potential job prospects this way.
Make New Connections at Your International Conference
International conferences are ideal settings to network with colleagues and peers for future collaborations and career prospects. Take business cards everywhere you go and exchange them with everyone you meet. Plan to attend the conference-sponsored social events, too, as it’s easier to talk to people in a relaxed atmosphere. Many of these events have free drinks and food, which you will need after a long day of stimulating chemistry discussion. When you return from an international conference, it is a good idea to follow up with the connections you’ve made and invite them to stay in touch.
In addition to making new connections, foster old ones by getting valuable face-time with international colleagues that you partner with remotely but don’t often have the chance to see in person.
Embrace Getting Away at Your International Conference
Finally, international conferences provide a reason to travel the world. The experience is whatever you prefer it to be. If you wish to spend free time doing some sightseeing, whether on your own or through a guided tour, you are bound to come home with lots of memories. If you’re not feeling as adventurous and just want to have quiet meals at the hotel and enjoy being away from the stresses of your daily routine, an international conference visit can still be a welcome reprieve. Sometimes a change of scenery can be enough to open up perspective and make you that much more productive when you get back in the lab.
International chemistry conferences will continue to be a valuable part of any chemistry researcher’s career, especially as the field becomes more collaborative and international. Take advantage of all the networking opportunities they offer and enjoy traveling to a different place to share your passion for chemistry.