Congrats….you are off to that awesome annual meeting you adore where your science friends chat you up, cheer you on and buy you a beer. Here’s some protips on making the most of your time, some fun things to do to pass the time and a stern look over my glasses for those of you haven’t been making the most of meetings thus far.

1. If you are doing a poster and you haven’t been checking out Dr Zen Faulks‘ 
tips on Making Better Posters, it time to run over and check out this guy’s genius. Zen makes it easy for your audience to stay on topic, engaged and damn impressed to boot.

2. Set up meetings NOW. Yes, now. Weeks before you head out the door. And not just with your beer buddies. Find the people who are doing that technique you really want to learn, the ones with the great constructs, the ones whose paper you just read. Invite them now to go for coffee after their talk/poster. These folks will welcome the opportunity to talk about what they are doing and this is how collaborations are made. Be brave. Set up at least one of these meetings a day.  It’s a lot of coffee, but you can do it.

3. Steal all of Nature’s swag. Nature’s publication and subscription fees are through the roof and they are merciless to authors. They also are make dreadful commentary on women, minorities, and kittens. I don’t have a link for the kittens, but I’m sure they hate on them in private. It’s time to put the boot to the man. Go to Publisher’s Alley with bags, boxes and carts and strip their booth of everything. Journals, pens, candy, tables, carpet, lunches, unattended laptops, book displays….it’s all yours. Just take it.

4. Follow Hope Jahren’s genius safety rules for going out to dinner or lunch when you are on a job interview (yes, this is the link). Her blog is currently being revamped, but a) pay for yourself – insist on this or say your boss insists on this b) one drink max, ideally none c) LEAVE ANYTIME IF YOU HAVE SMALL SENSE OF ANGST ABOUT SAFETY your mentor, if they are worth a damn, will cover for you d) no hotel rooms ever e) Have a buddy meet you at the end of the interview. Boundaries are your best friends. Well, boundaries, boots, stolen Nature swag and snarky bloggers.

steno-note5. Take some damn notes. I’m a fan of the steno notebook because they are small enough to fit in a bag easily and sturdy enough to write on You. Will. Not. Remember. Everything. Rain Man. Write it down.

6. Bring your business cards. Seriously. You’re a grown up. No one wants you to have your email written down on a ripped edge of a program. That’s just creepy and they are never going to remember who you were. They may use you to wrap up some chewed gum though.

7. Bring the best walking shoes, earplugs/headphones*, water bottle and bag you can afford. Better yet, charge it all to your Dean of Faculty. Honesty, they’ll understand. Ish. Water in convention centers costs more per liter than gasoline. Just bring your own bottle and fill ‘er up. As for bags…well, you’ve come to the right place because I love bags almost as much as I love boots. And I really love boots. I’m a fan of the shoulder sling. Won’t mess up your back, has nice pockets for organization and can be tossed on quickly as the interns at Nature chase you through the convention center (they’re slow AF…). Check out this awesome site for other great options. *Earplugs are for planes and getting work done, not for talks. Although, if the talk is really bad, maybe?bag

8. Ask a damn question. Seriously. Did those people just say that they can measure autophagy with LC3 staining alone because, Oh, Snap! Y’all are wrong in the head. Go to the microphone and correct that nonsense. You’ll be a hero and people will take note. Or, just ask a polite question, because if you’re thinking it, everyone else is. And then they’ll see your sweet bag and be like, “Damn Gina….you’re the boss!”

9. Tweet. Find your meeting’s hashtag and use it. You’ll find awesome recommendations for talks you might have missed, short coffee lines, and meeting Bingo.


What did I miss? Do you have a favorite meeting sanity saver you like to use? Tell me!!

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Damn straight: Ask a damn question! And respectfully resist letting nonsense go by. Microphones aren’t just for the full profs. Fight on Fighty!!!

Everything in this piece is…YES!!!! Thank you for writing this.
Also: make a deal with yourself to *go* to the networking receptions, even if it’s just for 30 minutes. If you attend conferences with a group from your lab or grad school, keep an eye out for people who might be attending solo and could use some buddies. Good karma will come back to you.

A. Zach, PhD says:

If you’re at one of those smaller meetings where everyone eats meals together, feel free to walk up to any table with an empty seat and ask to join them. They’ll almost always say yes, and usually ask you about yourself and welcome you to join the conversation. (Although once I was basically ignored and had to listen to a conversation about departmental politics that I totally couldn’t follow). It’s a good way to network, don’t be afraid of the bigwigs!

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