2019 Annual Meeting Webinars
The Annual Meeting is just around the corner and in preparation we want to help delegates prioritise, have amazing networking opportunities and avoid burnout.
Last week we held 2 webinars where we focused on top tips for those attending a conference for the first time, as well as advice on supporting your mental health and wellbeing. These webinars were led by some great leaders in our membership body: Cass Raby, Dan Forman, Melanie Edgar, Iain Stott, Ali Birkett and Emma Peasland. So, here’s what these experienced members have to say about being organised, networking and personal wellbeing at conferences. These notes are specific to our Annual Meeting, but can be applied to any conference you are wishing to attend.
With over 1,200 delegates, hundreds of talks and posters, and four days of excitement at our Annual Meeting this year, it can be a challenge prioritising your schedule. Some suggestions to help prioritise are:
Create your own calendar.
Have a look at the conference app before attending the meeting and start deciding which talks and posters you want to see. The Annual Meeting conference program is huge so take some time to choose what interests you the most. When you arrive at the conference, you’ll receive a paper programme at the registration desk; you may prefer to plan from the paper version instead of, or as well as, the app.
Get to know the conference centre.
Take note of the location of talks and presentations. It’s important to keep in mind that the conference building is very large, and it can be exhausting if you are constantly running from one end of the building to the next. You may want to consider sticking with one session for the whole time slot. It might also be a good idea to locate the bathrooms, seating options at the centre and quiet seating options. There is also a cloakroom at the conference for bags and coats, but keep in mind it may be very crowded on the last day.
Get to know the city.
Familiarising yourself with the area before you go can help you feel more comfortable when exploring outside of the main conference centre. Check out the nearest food options to your place of stay and the conference centre, where socials will be held outside of the centre, where the closest hospital is, and any attractions you might be interested in visiting. You’ll find lots of details on Belfast here (link to travel page).
You might consider bringing your laptop to the conference, but keep in mind laptops can be heavy and you may find you never use it during the day. A simple pen and paper can go a long way instead and the BES stand has a beautiful array of colourful and free options.
The best way to network is through genuine connections, so reach out to groups where you have common interests.
Scientific conferences are all about discovering personal and professional connections, hearing about the latest research, and taking inspiration from others. Introducing yourself to someone new can be daunting and even intimidating. Here are some helpful tips to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and say hi:
Find some common ground.
The best way to network is through genuine connections, so reach out to groups where you have common interests. There are many Special Interest Groups (SIGs), workshops, and other small groups with focused interests. You can find a list of all our SIGs here and look in the program for other group meetups including LGBT+, Women in Ecology, Christian Ecologists, and our Accessibility Network.
Make a plan.
Maybe you’ve chatted with a delegate online about your research, or you really enjoyed a talk you heard the day before and you were hoping you might cross paths with someone. With so much going on, it can be very difficult bumping into someone at a conference like our Annual Meeting, so we recommend sending them a message and plan a meeting instead. Staff and volunteers are also happy to help facilitate a meeting if you need extra support.
Make it fun and try something new.
Not all networking has to be professional and sometimes it can be more rewarding to make connections outside of the box. Many of the Annual Meeting socials are at all times of the day including breakfast, lunch and dinner. We encourage delegates to play our Conference Bingo as well! It’s a great way to meet people and have fun. You will find the bingo sheet in your delegate badge at registration. If you’re travelling with colleagues or friends, you might want to consider branching out on your own, because you never know what you might be missing out on.
Twitter is a great platform for engaging with others and also seeing what the buzz might be at the conference. #BES2019 will be trending at our Annual Meeting this year and it’s a great way to interact with presenters and see what else is being discussed at the meeting. You don’t even need a Twitter account to follow the hashtag, but if you do have it and you’re presenting, sharing your handle can be a great way for others to contact you.
Exchange contact details.
There are many options for exchanging details while networking. You might choose to carry around business cards, write details in a notebook, or exchange directly through email or telephone. If you’re presenting, it may also be a good idea to share your contact details on the first and last slide.
The science is important, and the connections are too, but nothing is as important as your own wellbeing and keeping yourself happy, comfortable, and healthy. Here’s some advice about how to check in with yourself and avoid burnout:
Choose conferences carefully.
Our Annual Meeting is an exciting opportunity but it’s a large conference and travel may be difficult for some. It’s important to find the right conference for you and to consider some questions about your wellbeing: Do you need to attend? Is anyone you know going? How difficult will the travel be? Are there other options to network and access the information without attending?
Ask for support.
You are never alone, and conference facilitators and the BES staff are always happy to help. Make sure to speak to staff if you need any extra support, including seat reservations, scheduling priorities, transportation options, or bringing a helper to assist you.
Mental and emotional self-care.
The meeting is a great time to simply think, soak it all in and be inspired. Take the space and time to reflect on your own. Don’t plan too much of a busy schedule, even if it means you might miss out on something. Post-conference fatigue is something that also needs considering on your return to work. Big socials can be a challenge so also consider alternative options. If you do find the idea of welcome mixers a bit daunting, we recommend joining us at the Freshers Function or Smaller Welcome Mixer first. It’s important not to compare your accomplishments to others throughout the conference, but to realise that you have done amazing work.
Take care of your body and make sure to get a good night’s rest. Power naps can be a great opportunity to relax and take a moment to yourself to re-energise. Monitor your socialising throughout the conference so you get the most out of the experience. Socialising and drinking culture can be fun but it can also ruin your plans with an unwelcome hangover. Don’t forget to eat food and drink lots of water! Carry a water bottle around so you can stay hydrated as you may do a lot of walking and talking throughout the week.
We hope these tips will give you the confidence and resources to get the most out of your conference experience. You can find more tips in our Attending Your First BES Annual Meeting guide.
Like what we stand for?
Support our mission and help develop the next generation of ecologists by donating to the British Ecological Society.