Attending STEM Conferences are an important part of one’s journey to becoming a STEM professional. Going to a conference is more than just going to a new place, hanging out and staying in a nice hotel. A STEM conference provides an opportunity for you to present your research, participate in STEM competitions, acquire new knowledge through workshops and expand your network. STEM Conferences also can be a great opportunity for you to discover and secure internships, post-graduation opportunities (college, graduate or professional schools, jobs) and funding opportunities for your education (scholarships or fellowships). Below are a few strategies for maximizing your attendance.
Attend the conference
It is so tempting just to go to a city and kick it, but going to a conference isn’t a vacation. You should find a balance between enjoying the city where the conference takes place and taking advantage of the conference program.
Look at the Conference Agenda/Schedule before arriving at the conference
Most conferences have their online agenda weeks before the conference. Reviewing at the agenda helps you prepare for your trip in many ways. It will guide your travel schedule; this is important especially if you aren’t able to attend the conference in its entirety. It will determine what clothes you will need to pack and if you need to purchase anything before the conference.
Many STEM conferences have events were the attire can vary from business casual to semi-formal or formal attire. It will allow you to plan your schedule for your trip, so you will know the time of the activities that are required or want to attend; this is especially important if you are receiving financial support or presenting your research at the conference.
Have Your Elevator Pitch/Speech Ready
You never know who you will meet and if they are or someone in their network can do something to the help you achieve your goals. Your Elevator Pitch/Speech will allow you to start a conversation with individuals that you meet that can open doors for you and help you to expand your network.
Create Your “Professional Toolbox”
A professional toolbox includes the various ways that you can share your contact information and professional expertise. It should include printed items like business cards and your resume. Your toolbox also includes items that are a part of your social media/web presence such as a LinkedIn account, Twitter account, and website. Make sure that the email address that you are using on your business cards and resume and the photos on social media are professional.
Submit Your Abstract for Participation in the Technical Program
If you are conducting STEM research, you should submit your abstract to present an oral or poster presentation. Participating in a conference’s technical program allows you to meet and interact with individuals that are in your field or doing interdisciplinary work connected to your field. It also provides an opportunity for you to get feedback on your research and STEM communication skills. Also, participating in the technical program may provide funding for your attendance to the conference. The host organization of the conference and your school may provide you with a travel stipend if you are presenting your research at the conference.
Always Attend the Career and College/Graduate School Fair
One of the most important things you can gain from attending a conference is educational and career opportunities. Companies that are looking to fill internship and job opportunities come to conferences to recruit and many of them interview and hire during the conference. Also, colleges and universities that are looking to recruit for their undergraduate, graduate and professional school programs. This fair is a great opportunity for you to learn about and take advantage of opportunities that you would otherwise not know about.
Meet New People and Follow Up with them after the Conference
Attending a conference allows you to expand your professional network. So give out your business cards and collect business cards. Connect with folks on LinkedIn and Twitter. Send follow up emails within 2-3 days after the end of the conference. Be sure that your follow-up email includes when you meet, details about your conversation and what you would like from the person that you are emailing.
Below is a list of a few African American STEM Professional Societies, that host STEM conferences.
- Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS)
- National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE)
- National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) www.nsbe.org
- National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP)
- National Association of Black Geoscientists (NABG)
- Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS)
- National Association of Mathematicians (NAM)