Presenting your data at conferences is key for doing good science. This can be at a large international conference, or a regional gathering but in both cases it is very important to make the choice for your conference wisely. However, finding the right conference can be as challenging as the actual experiments. Especially when you work in interdisciplinary fields there is a lack of overview of what is organized and where. For meeting ideas, we scientists mostly rely on the occasional mail from our supervisor or on the few meeting posters that litter the hallway (and who looks at them anyway?!). But what criteria do you use to select for conferences? You just started working in a new field and want to learn more about that topic? Or do you want to get in touch with your (hopefully) future PI? Or do you just want to go to Japan for a few days? Thinking about your reasons to go to a conference helps a lot with decision making.
Some guidelines for selecting what conference to attend
Are you a fresh scientist? Try to attend a broad conference. This stimulates open mindedness and gives an idea about what’s out there in the world. Because you never know where you end up later in life. Furthermore topics will be explained better because people from different fields are gathered together.
Are you a bit further in to your PhD? Attend a more specialized meeting. This will give you an idea about what competitors are working on and what’s hot at the moment. You can also get some good input regarding your poster.
Late in your PhD or postdoc? Try to maximize your presentation chances by attending a conference with many open slots for talks. Or go to a conference based on the speaker list in the hope to get to talk to the PI you want to work for.
And always make a poster. If not for the input, then do it for your own benefit. Making a poster forces you to think about your message and the strong and weak points of your research. So it helps to clear things in your head. And you might already have some illustrations/figures ready for when you’re going to publish later on.
Enjoy your few days of science outside of the lab!
Guest Author: Ruud Wijdeven, a PhD student at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, is co-founder of Biomeeter, a website that makes it easy to search and find biology meetings and conferences.