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Checking in (and chatting) with your tribe

By Oct.07, 2013

I’ve just come back from an excellent conference run by the Women’s Engineering Society.  It was the Harnessing the Energy Conference 2013 held at the impressive venue of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.  I am a proud member of both organisations and my experience got me thinking.

I gave a presentation about my research and although it can be daunting facing a theatre full of faces looking at you, I am very glad I did it, and truly believe I got a lot out of it.

It’s a fact that doing research is by its very nature is in turns isolating, frustrating and confusing.  This is why it is really important to ever so often check in with your tribes – your peers/colleagues/people to look up to in your field.

The benefits are massive, by presenting your approach to your research you get free (and kind) feedback from people who understand.  The questions you get asked are always relevant and should be taken seriously.  The questions you provoke in your audience must be answered for your examiners.

Then there are the chats…sorry, I mean networking over the tea and coffee.  These discussions are hugely beneficial.  Delegates who may not have had a chance to ask you a question will come and quiz you, and then there are the wonderful people who share ideas and potential sources of information.  Don’t forget to listen to (and if you’re like me take notes) of the other presentations given.  Where else are you going to get access to so much free information, new research and have access to the people behind it?

You won’t get any of these benefits if you don’t go.

I would definitely urge researchers to attend relevant professional events and conferences.  Share your research.  chat with your tribes.

Here come the caveats:

  • Be involved with your relevant professional organisations and keep yourself informed about events.
  • Be discerning – your time is not free.  It is extremely valuable and you can’t afford to spare your time attending too many or too tenuously-linked events.  Also, consider if you can spare the time away from your research (if it is a crucial stage) and don’t forget the travelling time (and recovery).
  • Get into the habit of writing abstracts – get some training or advice on the rules of writing a really good abstract to improve your chances of being accepted.
  • Practice, practice, practice your presentations.  You must keep to strict time limits on the day so plan for that.

Presenting, attending and chatting with your tribes is great, actually.  Get stuck in!  You will enjoy it!