August 7, 2019

The Benefits of Attending Conferences

Posted by Molly Longstreth

Although young researchers might feel intimidated by conferences and presenting research for the first time, conferences provide a significant amount of professional and personal development, which makes them an extremely valuable experience.

Communicating research in a concise and engaging way can be challenging, especially for less experienced researchers. Presenting at a conference allows young researchers to refine their communication skills. Researchers can practice presenting to an audience and receive immediate feedback from professionals and experts in their field. Part of this feedback process might include responding to challenging questions. Learning how to respond to questions that you don’t know the answer to without freezing the discussion is an invaluable skill that can be honed at a conference.

In addition to developing communication skills, conferences also help young researchers make professional connections. Conferences often feature poster sessions, which are useful for networking. In a poster session, you discuss your research with visuals and data on hand and, unlike in a more formal presentation setting, you are more likely to chat one-on-one with people interested in your work. This is a great opportunity to start building a network for future employment and collaboration.

On that note, conferences are also a great way to build your resume. Experience presenting research at an academic conference signals to employers that you know how to present and communicate well. It also indicates that you are passionate about your field of study and want to remain informed about the most recent research, while also contributing your own research.

One final benefit of attending a conference is the travel. Conferences take place around the country and even internationally, so as an attendee, you gain personal development provided by travel and the exploration of a new city, in addition to the professional development derived from the conference itself. Unfortunately, the cost of travel plus the often-expensive registration fee for conferences prevents many students and young researchers from attending conferences. AGU’s Virtual Poster Showcase aims to make the important professional development experiences associated with a conference accessible to all researchers without the hassle or expenses of attending a conference in-person. The Virtual Poster Showcase lets researchers upload videos of themselves presenting posters and receive feedback from experts in the field, thus allowing young researchers to practice communication skills and improve their work based on the comments and questions they receive. Julia Jeanty further discusses benefits associated with the Virtual Poster Showcase in her On the Job post, Getting Ahead Online: AGU’s Virtual Poster Showcase.

Mia Ratino, Talent Pool Intern, American Geophysical Union.