A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

Preparing for your first conference

Academic conferences are an exhilarating, if slightly intimidating experience. Whether presenting or attending, you have the opportunity to meet leaders in your field, see the newest research, and meet other students and researchers. Leiden University is a research focused university and your department will often encourage and support you to attend conferences.

However, for first generation students and other students with less academic backgrounds first conferences can be really stressful, with uncertainties about what to expect and the practicalities of conferences. Hopefully this short guide will help assuage some of those worries and help you get prepared!


Speak to your supervisor: Let them know you’re planning to attend and see if they know anyone else attending. If you’re presenting ask them to read over your notes and go through it with you. This can help you feel more confident on the conference floor.

orange and green pen on graphing notepad

Check the practical information: Check where and when the conference begins. Is there a registration session? If this information seems unclear don’t be afraid to email the organisers and check, they’ll be more than happy to help and will help them to make the information clearer- you’re not the only one in the dark!

Packing: Dress code at conferences can be unclear, with it varying from disciplines. Generally, smart yet comfy clothes are a good call, make sure they’re suitable for whatever climate you’ll be in. Make sure you feel confident in your clothes, this is what people will notice. Bring a notepad, several pens, and a water bottle, and a powerbank if you have one!

Plan ahead:  If it’s a large conference check the programme beforehand, see what sessions you want to attend and if there’s anyone there you’ve met before. Having a plan of what you want to see means you can avoid missing out on anything amazing.


iphone conference keynote smartphone

Twitter: Twitter and other social media are being increasingly used during a conference and provide an excellent way to get your name out there and connect with other people. Whether live-tweeting sessions or speaking with other attendees over social media, this is definitely worth exploring. Is a particular hashtag in use?

Engage: Don’t be afraid to engage! This is a chance to meet new people in your field so take it. It can be useful to set small goals, such as talking to one new person in each coffee break. Reach out to people who’ve just presented or if someone is standing alone.

Don’t anxiety-drink: If there’s a drinks session, take it easy. It can be far too easy to go overboard with free drinks, especially if you’re feeling unsure. If you do drink too much, don’t worry, literally everyone makes this mistake at some stage and no-one will remember.


Keep in touch! Don’t let your new contacts and friends drift away, connect with them either by email, twitter, or another method. These links are so useful if you want to pursue academia further, and also provide an excellent starting point for friends at your next conference!two white message balloons

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This entry was posted on September 30, 2018 by in Practical Stuff, Sophie, Study and tagged , , , , , .

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