18 December 2015

AGU Fall Meeting 2015: Guide TO Conference-Goers

Posted by Jessica Ball

You meet all sorts of interesting people at Fall Meeting...

You come across all sorts of interesting people at Fall Meeting…

For my final Fall Meeting post of the week, I thought I’d do something a little humorous. I’m rounding out my own conference experience by being a part of the Up-Goer-Five Challenge, where I’m going to attempt to explain numerical modeling of volcano hydrothermal systems in the thousand most common words of the English language. Fortunately rock is one of them, or I’d be in big trouble, but I anticipate the session is going to be pretty amusing all around!

You’ve probably seen all the excellent “How to navigate a conference” posts that pop up in the fall and winter each year, and they’re great, but this isn’t one of them. My take is a little different; I’m going to give you a kind of bird-watcher-style guide to the people you’re sure to meet every year at AGU Fall Meeting. Many of us fall into one or more of these categories, depending on the ways we find to survive the whirlwind conference week.

The Badger: Before making eye contact, these folks (really, all of us at some point) will stare in the general direction of your navel to see what your name is and whether they know you (or should). This is inevitably necessary in a group of 20k + scientists, but also a way of establishing the conference hierarchy, although made more difficult by the fact that AGU no longer indicates whether you’re a student or not. The Badger especially loves using this maneuver on escalators, since it requires minimal eye and head movement to follow the progression of other conference-goers, but it makes for a dilemma when a friend is spotted traveling in the opposing direction.

The Raring Ribboner: Comparing the length of one’s accumulated ribbons is a favored pastime among conference-goers, and some conference attendees (especially those who are overcommitted to service positions) will have a colorful cascade by conference’s end. The overall variety of ribbons has been made more interesting in recent years by the creation (and semi-illicit distribution of) some very snazzy non-AGU ribbons, including “Beer Inspector”, “Badge Committee”, and one notable instance of “My Badge is Better than Your Badge”. More creative ribboners will make one-offs from fragments of existing badges, ransom-note-style.

The Charging Chasseur: For the electronically-burdened conference-goer, a free electrical outlet is a resource to be snapped up and guarded jealously. Chairs are few and far between outside of session rooms and the floors are reasonably clean, so a legs-out-sprawl is the favored position for those in need of battery top-ups (and a boon to those who have been on their feet all day).

The Two-Brew Guru: Everyone knows poster sessions (and everything else) is better with a beer or two, but lines get long quickly. The experienced afternoon conference-goer picks up two (or three, depending on hand size) beers at once, one for immediate consumption and one to be drunk later (or traded for a preferred brew if a friend has found a different variety). These can also be used for bribing someone else to stand in line for the next round.

The Reception-Hopper: Experienced students know that the Marriott receptions are most likely to have food, and an expert can eat a full dinner without leaving the hotel. Interdisciplinary work can lead to membership in multiple sections and thus maximize the availability of drinks and hors d’oeuvres, as can making friends with AGU top brass (although be careful, or you might end up serving on Council).

The Exhibit Enthusiast: First in line when the Exhibits open for the Ice Breaker, this person will have acquired the latest Google swag, NASA Calendar, snazziest shoulderbag and the best squishy squid/Earthcube/rock/penguin within minutes, and be drinking a beer by the time you’ve figured out where the NASA booth actually is. Especially lucky individuals will walk away with free books, wine and stuffed trilobites (bet you wish you’d bought those business cards now, don’t you?)

The Session Superhero: Seems to be at every talk in your discipline and always has the best questions. Dabbles in a little of everything. Will often be first in line at Town Hall question periods and on the author list/presenting half a dozen talks and posters. Will probably submit a paper, write three or four recommendation letters and maybe accept an award or two before the first three days are up. (Make friends with these people – they’re good at finding funding!)

That Person Passed Out On The Mezzanine: Probably someone who got involved in too many service opportunities and thought it would be a great idea to give multiple talks and/or posters. Don’t worry, they need the sleep and the conference staff will wake them up eventually.


I hope everyone attending the meeting (or living vicariously through those of us who are here and can’t resist blogging and tweeting about it) has had as rewarding a conference as I have this year!