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Who attends small science conferences ?

  1. Sep 24, 2009 #1
    I’m getting sent to a wellcome trust science conference (or meetings) to give a poster presentation of our companies work. Its a pretty small and specialized meet.

    My supervisor doesn’t appear to know much about science conferences, and i am a conference virgin so here goes. Be gentle now

    1. What is the ratio or make up of who goes to these conferences..as the fees and costs are high £400 upwards..is it just other scientists presenting their work to each other and the conference organizers ?

    2. There only appear to be 40 giving presentations/posters…so how many people in total are likely to be there ?

    3. What happens with the poster presentation part of the conference. Is every conference attendee expected to grace the posters section with their presence ?

    Also any dos and donts that spring to mind regarding these events would he helpfull...
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 25, 2009 #2


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    1. It all depends on the particular conference. Most conferences I go to have a mix of scientists, professionals, students and commercial representation, but the ratio varies depending on the purpose of the conference. Annual meetings of professional societies will naturally see more professionals whereas commercial shows will have more significant corporate representation.

    2. If you and your employer don't know, you can always email the conference coordinator to ask how many attendees are expected.

    3. In general you are assigned a location for your poster and a time to put it up and take it down. In some cases, that's it. Usually though, the conference will have dedicated "poster session time" (often with food/drinks) where you stand in front of your poster for a couple of hours and chat with anyone who comes by and shows an interest in your work. This is a great time for networking, and sharing ideas. Not every attendee will pass by, nor are they expected to. Usually, when I go to something like this, I browse through the list of abstracts and select the posters I would be interested in seeing and the people I want to talk with.

    Tips for a successful poster session:
    - Practice giving a brief overview of the material presented in your poster. You will sound more professional and confident if you have put some thought into what you want to get across your audience and can deliver it smoothly.
    - Keep it brief. Some people think they're writing a paper and end up with a massive poster filled with tiny font and hundreds of graphs. The point of a poster is to summarize the idea, not explain it in detail. Readers who want details will ask.
    - Keep your card handy and be ready to give it out. Remember, this is an opportunity for networking. You may find a potential collaborator, mentor, or even a future employer at these sessions.
    - Be open-minded when someone asks a question. Most readers aren't trying to stump you with questions (although many students feel this way). Answer when you can and don't try to fake it when you can't.
  4. Sep 25, 2009 #3

    Andy Resnick

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    I have been to both large (>10000) and small (<100) conferences (also a few medium-sized). Personally, I enjoy the smaller ones as they offer more useful interactions, even though the larger ones have vendors giving away lots of free stuff.

    Smaller meetings are more focussed on a perticular topic, you will meet people actively doing work very closely related to yours, and so you will have the opportunity to both share your results as well as learn what else is going on that is relevant to your work. And possibly talk to others who have had similar technical difficulties and figure out solutions, or possible solutions.

    You should be at your poster as much as possible. Standing in one place for 3 hours can be dull, so if you must wander, at least keep and eye on your poster and if someone is looking at it, go over and introduce yourself.
  5. Sep 25, 2009 #4
    Thanks for the info on this..

    there is only four poster presentations at this conference so this is why i was having doubts about the whole thing. I was going to look at it as presentation practise, but if its unlikely anybody shows up it wont even be that.

    also would it be ok to hand out copies of the paper the poster is presenting ?
  6. Sep 25, 2009 #5


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    It's not uncommon for posters to have smaller copies available for interested readers - usually in a small pocket tacked underneath the poster itself. If you have a related paper, I don't see why you couldn't hand it out. Also, especially at smaller conferences, it's common for poster presentations to have extended (2-3 page) abstracts, that the attendees will be provided with in the proceedings.
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