December 15, 2017

It’s Never Too Early: Starting on your 2018 Fall Meeting Abstract

Posted by AGU Career Center

Now is the time to start preparing for the 2018 AGU Fall Meeting, which will be held in Washington DC, 10-14 December.

What’s that?  You’ve barely gotten home from the 2017 meeting, and haven’t even unpacked your suitcase?  Great!

The best time to start planning for next year’s meeting is when you are energized by all the great things you learned at this year’s meeting, and have all sorts of ideas for things to do, people to contact, and ways to make your next meeting even better. 

Everything starts somewhere…

Start by writing down all your great ideas.  Make lists of people to contact, experiments to try, and new topics or technologies to learn.  Prioritize your action items, and give yourself deadlines.  For example, follow up with all the new people you met within two weeks of returning home. Especially important is making a list of the people whose work you want to follow, and possibly meet at next year’s conference.  Add their names to your literature searching alerts.

Fall 2018 will be here before you know it, so start thinking about your presentations now.  If you didn’t submit a poster this time, why not? With almost a year to plan, you should be able to identify an appropriate experiment for next year.   Review the technical sessions from this year’s conference to see where your work might fit.  They won’t be exactly the same next time, but should be similar. If your work doesn’t fit in any existing sessions, maybe you should look into proposing and organizing a new session for next year. 

While dates are always subject to change, the online abstract submission will probably open in June, with a deadline of early August.  That means you have until August to figure out what you’re going to do, until November to actually do it., and then a month to prepare the actual poster. 

Remember that in your abstract, you don’t include need to include specific results, just a description of what you are going to present and preliminary results.  For example, you can say “Detailed analyses of X were performed….” and “results will be discussed”, but you don’t have to list the results – or even have them all yet.  You do need to make sure that you will have the results in time to present them at the meeting. 

Another reason to keep the abstract open-ended is that once the submission deadline has passed you won’t be able to make changes.  Keeping it more general allows you to refine the data and conclusions after submission, but before the meeting. 

Once you’ve submitted your abstract, you can start working on the presentation itself.  Start learning Powerpoint, and find appropriate poster templates.  For example, you may find it easier to work on a half-size electronic file, which is doubled in size when printed.

There and back again

You will also want to start thinking about logistics. What will it cost to attend – transportation, hotel, fees, food? You will want to stay at the conference hotel if possible, both for convenience and to maximize interactions with other conference attendees.  But is there someone with whom you could share a room, for example?

AGU sponsors several travel grant programs  – see  Does your institution or department have similar programs for which you could apply?

Once you have a reasonable idea of costs, discuss with your advisor both the financial and scientific aspects of your attendance.  The two of you can come to an agreement about specifics – who will pay for what, how long you can be gone, and so on. 

Registration for the meeting will open in mid-August.  If your attendance is contingent on your poster being accepted, you can wait until early October for a decision, then register.

Then you just have to do the work – the fun part!  The non-negotiable deadline of the meeting may even help to motivate you.  In addition to doing the work and preparing the poster, actively seek out opportunities to practice your presentation.  By the time the meeting rolls around, you will be a polished, relaxed expert. 

And if you really want to plan ahead, you can start thinking about the 2019 Fall Meeting, which will be held 9-13 December, returning to San Francisco, California, to celebrate AGU’s Centennial. 

Lisa M. Balbes, PhD, has been a freelance technical writer and editor at Balbes Consultants LLC for over 25 years.  She is the author of Nontraditional Careers for Chemists:  New Formulas for Chemistry Careers (Oxford University Press).