Purpose of attending conferences before/during PhD?

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Jedi4
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Is there a purpose of attending conferences, other than free food, and listening to the first speaker and your concentration lapsing as the day goes on? Long full 9am to 7pm conferences that just want to make you cry towards the end.

Can you add it to your CV or academic record?
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llys
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You meet people, you talk to them about their work / your work, you may get some interesting ideas. If you give a talk you may put it on a CV, perhaps, I wouldn't bother though, I think. Also, you don't have to go if you don't want to.
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nonswimmer
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Yes you can add it to your CV.

Some purposes:

- hearing the latest academic research LONG before it is published (academics often test their work in progress at conferences)
- networking upwards, ie getting to meet more senior academics who before long might be sitting on the interview panel for your first job
- network outwards, ie meeting your postgraduate and early-career peers; swapping experiences, building relationships that enable you to put together future conference panels or make joint funding applications
- networking downwards - an opportunity to meet people (MA students, undergraduate helpers) who might look up to you and be useful contacts if and when they make the leap to postgrad study

As for "long full 9am to 7pm conferences that just want to make you cry towards the end", well if you're attending every minute of every paper of every day of every conference, you're doing it wrong.

Pick and choose. Don't attend all of every panel if not all of it interests you. Have a coffee with a new friend to discuss research one-on-one.

The papers at a conference are really the least important thing on the agenda. Look up the original meaning of 'symposium' for a clue as to the real purpose of conferences... ;-)
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merqoperatic
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(Original post by nonswimmer)
Yes you can add it to your CV.

Some purposes:

- hearing the latest academic research LONG before it is published (academics often test their work in progress at conferences)
- networking upwards, ie getting to meet more senior academics who before long might be sitting on the interview panel for your first job
- network outwards, ie meeting your postgraduate and early-career peers; swapping experiences, building relationships that enable you to put together future conference panels or make joint funding applications
- networking downwards - an opportunity to meet people (MA students, undergraduate helpers) who might look up to you and be useful contacts if and when they make the leap to postgrad study

As for "long full 9am to 7pm conferences that just want to make you cry towards the end", well if you're attending every minute of every paper of every day of every conference, you're doing it wrong.

Pick and choose. Don't attend all of every panel if not all of it interests you. Have a coffee with a new friend to discuss research one-on-one.

The papers at a conference are really the least important thing on the agenda. Look up the original meaning of 'symposium' for a clue as to the real purpose of conferences... ;-)
As Alcibiades once said, "Gentlemen, I am plastered."
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Kalivha
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I've not yet been to any conference/workshop that didn't have any positive impact; maybe it's about looking at it positively.

If you get to present, that's something for your CV, and you're very likely to get useful feedback.

If the conference turns out to be not even tangentially related to your work, you just figured out what avenue not to pursue in one day.

If you don't understand anything (yet), at least you might be able to figure out who is knowledgeable and approachable enough to answer your questions later on (via email).

If you need to write a grant, there's often funding-related people about who are much more helpful than when you have to email your research council.

Plus, new friends! Always new friends. People who can relate to your life and struggles, and people whose life and struggles you can relate to. (And the occasionally "I'm not sure if I want to work for you or go to the pub with you" moment, I guess.)

Also, I've personally found 2 PhD studentships I'll apply to next year (on top of the ones I applied to for this year) at conferences, too. And one I was considering turned out to have a very unfriendly supervisor, so that was good to scope out, too.

So yeah, I'm just a Master's student but I've never really considered conferences a waste of time. I pretty much got my Master's offer purely by networking...
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Klix88
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In addition to hearing about the latest developments in your field and networking (at which I am critically poor, I admit!), it helps you understand what is required from a conference paper and gives you tips in how to write/structure/present one (or how not to do it, in many cases).

As a PhD researcher, I've been nagged since Day 1 about 1) publishing and 2) presenting papers/posters at conferences. An academic profile and reputation are vital if you want to continue in academia post-PhD, so the more publicity you can get yourself (hopefully for good quality work) the better.
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Jedi4
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Thanks for the replies
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redferry
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I love conferences!!! They are great for networking, showcasing your work, getting new contacts, meeting potential funders, free training, practising your presentation skills or even just learning the does and don't through watching others!

And you can put them on your CV.
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ellie.rew
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If you consider that a PhD is essentially the training to become a research academic, and that representing one's university and department at conferences is a central part of an academic's daily job, then attendance at conferences seems to me like a pretty essential part of that training. Plus there's all the other wonderful benefits that have already been mentioned
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punctuation
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(Original post by Jedi4)
Is there a purpose of attending conferences, other than free food, and listening to the first speaker and your concentration lapsing as the day goes on? Long full 9am to 7pm conferences that just want to make you cry towards the end.

Can you add it to your CV or academic record?
As others have said, definitely yes. Personally, the main benefits of attending conferences (if you're not presenting) are: 1) hearing about others' research - whether you want the latest, cutting-edge advances, potential research topics for your PhD, or even potential lab groups/people to do it with (poster sessions are good for this). 2) networking - at poster sessions, during meals, etc. I've been to two conferences and it's been really fun chatting to people about their work, their interests, etc. If you're at a conference you're probably meeting people right in your field, and it's one of the best chances to meet loads of people who do similar work to you. Again, potential supervisors, potential lab groups, potential collaborators, etc.

If you're presenting (oral presentation or poster) the benefits are even more obvious. Not only the chance to practise presenting your research, you also showcase it, get a line for your CV, field questions about your work, think about it in new ways, etc. The expense is not minimal if your department doesn't pay for you, but many conferences have bursaries and it's often worth it even without.
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Enoch Afriyie
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#11
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Is it possible to attend a conference as a Postgraduate student? If yes , can someone suggest some to me especially that of the US.
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