Networking at academic conferences

For junior academics, networking at conferences is both a great opportunity and a terrifying prospect! They offer unparalleled chances to enhance and develop your career, but one false move and you could be doomed for all eternity! Well, not quite, but there are still certain unwritten rules that might help you out a little bit.

Nature recently featured an article documenting the experiences of several social media savvy researchers at conferences, including David Shiffman, Jacquleyn Gill, and for some bizarre reason, little me. It’s a really great piece worth reading, documenting tails of epic karaoke quests, to the overwhelming benefits of using social media at conferences. For my part, I talk about the social advantages of conferences, in that they can help you develop a global network of colleagues and friends, something which has helped me get through this *expletive deleted* PhD without a doubt.

I can’t remember what else we talked about during the interview exactly, but do remember my one key bit of advice is to treat social media-oriented networking like real life conversations (i.e., “don’t be a dick”). Don’t think the internet provides you with any sort of protection, just because someone you’re talking about isn’t there in the room next to you. Courtesy trumps everything. Those who know me personally will appreciate the irony in this statement, as I have messed up a couple of times (big time..) at conferences earlier on in my career, but I guess the important thing is to learn from your mistakes. Thankfully, articles such as the Nature one are there to help make sure you don’t make those mistakes in the first place!

2 thoughts on “Networking at academic conferences

  1. If you learned from earlier mistakes on social media, then I think that’s fine. Just about everyone (me included) has messed up at some point. I respect people who make mistakes, recognize the issue, accept the consequences, and change, in part because that represents personal growth but also because I would hope to have the same compassion from others! This is a facet that, I think, is sometimes missing from social media conversations.


    • Thanks for your comment, Andy. And yeah, I think that’s where the community aspect of social media comes in too – no-one is perfect, and it’s great that there’s a sort of ‘safety net’ of people out there for if things do get a bit oopsy.


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