A survival guide for new PhD student in conference

You are a fresh PhD student who attended an international conference first time. You have an ambition to make your academic network, and you want to use the conference as a leverage. How are you supposed to do that? This is a practical survival guide for such ambitious PhD student, who usually ends up with a frustration, feeling alone in the big conference venue. The guide is based on my own experience as well as some observation of students around.

You may be excited to see “big guys” and want to have a chat with him/her. But, it doesn’t worth it in general. Most of time, the big guy is already talking with another big guy, surrounded by their acquaintances. Although you approach the group, they will keep talking as if you didn’t exist.

Saying hello to someone sitting next to you in banquet doesn’t help you either. Unless you are extremely lucky, he/she has different research interest from yours. Banquet would be pleasant, but small talk in a noisy dining hall is not what you want.

Then, what’s my recommendation? Ideally, what you can do is to look for someone in your “ladder” but good enough. Listen to sessions carefully. Find out a PhD student or post-doc who wrote good paper and gave good presentation. He/She would be very happy if you ask relevant questions and give constructive questions. Such conversation could continue to lunch and next coffee break, and you guys will feel like you are friends. The fact that your new acquaintance is competent means that he/she has a high chance of appearing in other good conferences. Meet him/her as a friend next time. With this, you can build your network which grows with you. Who knows if you and the guy will put together a joint application in five years.

Does it sound difficult? Well, it actually is. But it is my best shot. Making a good network on your own is anyway difficult.

p.s. If your adviser is one of big guys, things will get much easier. This is a guide for those who should survive on his/her own.

p.s. The last day of IEEE PIMRC was full of technical oral presentations without keynote, panel, or poster. Although I found several papers interesting, I decided to post more practical guide rather than talking about specific papers.

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