Conference Season: Communicating about your science at conferences
COMPASS Journalist Fellows onstage at the 2015 Biennial Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference.

Communicating about your science at conferences

Posted by Lauren Hertel on Thursday, July 7 2016


Editor's note: The following blog post by Sarah Sunu first appeared on our training partner's blog, COMPASSblogs.

As schools let out and the days grow longer and hotter in the Northern Hemisphere, the busy buzz of the summer field season is often punctuated by a flurry of scientific conferences.

Conferences are great places to work on your communication, share your science, and connect with new people. They can be exhilarating and exhausting, stimulating and stupefying, optimistic and overwhelming – but don’t forget to incorporate ways to improve your communication skills and work toward your communication goals. This week, we’re sharing our top tips to help you communicate at conferences. Click on the links for more on each tip!

Do your Message Box.

This is where we start with everyone (and where we start ourselves!). It helps you hone in on what you really want to say to your audience. This can prepare you both for your presentation, and for discussing your science during the coffee break. Download it here.

Prepare your presentation.

While an audience of your fellow scientists may have more background in your subject matter, that doesn’t mean that you should leave out the ‘so what?’ of your work, or flood your presentation with barely-legible figures. Your Message Box helped you identify the main, key ideas that you want to get across; choose two or three to focus on for your presentation, and make sure that your slides and talking points are in service of those key ideas. More is not always better, particularly when it comes to text and figures on slides.

Scope the scene.

Many conferences happen in major cities, which are hubs for policymakers and the media. Is there a policymaker you’d like to connect with? Or a journalist who may be attending the conference as well, since it’s in their area? Conferences can be great opportunities to meet policymakers or journalists in-person, if you reach out in advance to let them know you’ll be there.

Plan your goals and your trip.

Think about your goals for attending this conference—are you hoping to learn more about a specific topic, or meet a certain researcher? Identifying your goals for the conference, and looking at the conference program in advance, can really help you to have the conference experience you’re hoping for.

Get a handle on the social media.

You can’t be everywhere at once, but keeping an eye on the social media around the conference can provide a peek into the sessions you couldn’t make it to, and another way to make new connections and hear about events and resources.

We hope these tips are helpful as you dive into summer. Meet up with the COMPASS team at the following conferences, and tell us your top tips for surviving and thriving over the conference season!

COMPASS staff will be attending:

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