How to make the most of your conference experience once the meeting is over.
So you had a great experience at the conference. Now what? If you are like me, then you will understand when I say that I often have the “post-conference blues.” The longer I am in graduate school, the more excited (and less nervous) I am in the weeks leading up to a conference. I get excited to share my ideas and research projects with colleagues. I feel confident to engage in meaningful conversations with scholars of similar research interests. And I look forward to seeing at least a few familiar faces. But then the conference is over and I come home to my “normal” life as a graduate student. At first I found it difficult to integrate the energy and excitement of each conference experience into my daily work life. I kept trying to find ways to make the most of my conference experience once the meeting was over.
Below are four strategies I use to combat the “post-conference blues.”
1. Create a spreadsheet of your colleagues or those who share similar interests. Once I get home from a conference, I take all the business cards I have collected and input everyone’s contact information into an excel spreadsheet. I include their name, place of employment, job title, email address, and where I first met them or any other information that will help me remember something unique about each person. Not only does this document help me visualize the network of people who have similar interests as me but it also helps with point #2.
2. Keep in touch with your colleagues. Finished with an article or have an idea for an innovative research project? Why not send an email to your colleagues keeping them up-to-date on your work?! This is a great way to extend the collaborative exchange of ideas beyond the conference dates, get feedback from more senior scholars or those who are a few steps ahead of you career-wise, and network between annual or biannual meetings. Just make sure you remind your colleagues who you are and how you met them.
3. Create realistic goals. Usually when I attend conferences, I leave with a million research ideas – which can be quite overwhelming. I have found it helpful to write down one or two mini-projects I would like to complete within the next couple of months. This could be anything from finishing a literature review for your thesis/dissertation to reading a set number of articles in a particular content area or by a specific scholar. The key here is to create goals that will help you reach your long-term career aims AND to set realistic deadlines.
4. Talk with your mentor. After a conference I try to set up a meeting with my mentor within a couple of weeks of coming home. I use this time to process through my conference experience and get feedback on any new ideas that have developed. I talk about whom I have met, new topics or ideas, and how I see my research being impacted by my conference experience.
So you may not be like me and get the “post-conference blues.” You may find these meetings challenging, exhausting, and stressful. That’s ok. I whole-heartedly believe that these tips will still be of value to you. To be honest, I don’t do all of these exceedingly well (particularly keeping in touch with my colleagues), but I do find them helpful as I attempt to transition back into life as a graduate student where the stresses of class assignments and theses/dissertation deadlines loom. In fact I have made number 2 one of my post-conference goals.
By C. Turnley
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