09 November 2011

How to thrive at Neuroscience 2011

Other bloggers offer you “survival” guides to the Neuroscience meeting. Here at NeuroDojo, I believe that just managing to live through Neuroscience is not enough! I’m here to tell you not just how to survive, but thrive! To come out the other side better, stronger, smarter, faster, and sciencer than before you went in!

1. This is no time to be shy. That person who wrote the paper that revolutionized your field could well be at Neuroscience. If you want to talk to that person, don’t chicken out. “Oh, she is so famous, how could she ever be interesting in talking to me...” Find her. Talk to her. The vast majority of scientists are genuinely friendly and interested in chatting about your work and theirs. Of course, use common sense. That is, don’t ambush the Nobel laureate in the washroom. Awkward.

And if you’re a student, it’s just as important to make connections with people who are at roughly in the same point of their career as you as to find the“famous” people. Your peers will be important. They’re going to become your colleagues who will invite you to campus and the reviewers of your manuscripts.

“But Zen,” I hear you say, “the meeting is so big. How can I find the big name people and people with similar interests who I have never met before?”

2. The meeting feels smaller than it is, You sit there and think, “Neuroscience is the size of a small city, how am I ever going to find anyone?” The good news is that the sessions are generally quite well put together. So if you’re interested in hippocampus and spatial memory, you go to the first poster session on that. The next day, there’s another session on spatial memory, and ... you’re likely to run into the same people again. Because they have the same interests as you. You will run into people multiple times, because people are moving around so much.

3. Conferences are as much about hallways and lunches as talks and posters. Ask the people you meet if they have plans for lunch or dinner.

4. No frickin’ Comic Sans on your poster. People will be too polite to tell you that their respect for you drops 4-20 notches. I have lots of poster advice for you in this post at my Better Posters blog.

5. No frickin’ Comic Sans on your slides. See point #4. I have lots of presentation advice in a short little e-book, Presentation Tips. It’s a free PDF.

6. Get to the vendors early. Of course, the vendors will be there all week, but if you are the sort of person who can use pens and promo gear and stress relievers and coffee mugs and other swag... go early. They run out of swag and freebies early, because they don’t want to pack it all up and take it home.

7. Fuel a project at the #SciFund challenge. Because fueling one of the awesome science projects will help you sleep better, put a spring back in your step, and make you more confident and attractive. And not just for the Neuroscience meeting!

8. Water. You’ll be talking a lot. And the air in those conference centers always dries you out.

9. Play hooky for half a day. There’s a lot of great free stuff to see! The conference won’t miss you if you take a couple of hours to see one or two sights. The Metro in DC is a great way to get around.

10. Take your badge off outside the conference center. There are limits to how nerdy even a brain scientist about look.


Katie Collette said...

#10 Not to mention dangerous because you're labeling yourself as a tourist.

Also for meeting people: ATTEND SOCIALS.

Anonymous said...

Great article. I'm going to be a 1st-time vendor at Neuroscience 2011. With great swag - magnetic pens, t-shirts, and a chance to win an iPad. But mostly with a product that I believe provides phenomenal value to researchers. Would be pleased to welcome you to booth 308 - just come early before all the swag is gone :)
Josh (@BioJEP)