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Tips for Your First Academic Conference

I was quickly packing my suitcase the night before I was set to leave for a communications conference in Salt Lake City. Finally having a moment to myself after a busy week, I sat down on my bed and realized I had no idea what a research conference was going to be like. Only a few months ago I was terrified by the idea of conducting research for my Communications Research Methods class. Reading through scholarly articles, gathering data, and creating experiments or surveys seemed like a monumental task. Somehow I survived this process, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I actually enjoyed it. So my professor encouraged me to further my research by submitting my paper to a conference.


Research can be an incredibly interesting and rewarding part of your college career. You have the opportunity to focus on research in your field, and the freedom to choose a topic that you are curious about. Sharing your work with other students and faculty from different universities can allow for helpful feedback, and is a unique learning experience outside of the classroom. If you plan on presenting at a conference, congratulations! Here are some of the things I learned and found to be helpful during my first academic conference.



Before the conference:

  • Ask for funding: As college students it’s fairly likely we don’t have the money to afford to stay in the nice hotel where the conference is occurring. Luckily your department has funds for these ventures. Check in before hand so you understand how much your budget will be for the trip and plan accordingly.

  • Find roommates: If you have a roommate you will definitely save on your hotel room expenses, and it’s a nice way to meet people before the conference. Instead of walking into the conference room all on your own, you’ll already have someone to sit with. Let other know that you are looking for a roommate by emailing the coordinator of the conference. They can send out a notice to all the attendees.

  • Pack the perfect outfit: Dressing professional is the first way to make a good impression on your audience. Wear whatever will make you feel the most confident while you are presenting. If that means wearing those killer high heels, then go for it! If you’d rather stick to comfy flats, I completely understand.



During the conference:

  • Relax before your presentation: Your presentation should be an exciting moment, you made it this far and now it’s time to share your research with others. Don’t worry about memorizing a speech, or referring to all of the sources you used. There may be a moderator there to give you feedback, but they too recognize the amount of work it took for you to get to this point. Show the audience that your research was something you truly cared about and remind them why it matters. Enthusiasm is contagious, so take a deep breathe and smile.

  • Network: After blowing everyone away with your amazing research, give them a reason to remember your name. Make a point to connect with presenters that you enjoyed listening to, you can exchange emails so you can read their papers. It’s also important to connect with faculty or staff that work with a graduate program that you may be interested in. If someone can put a face to your name when looking through applications it’s much more likely that you will stand out.

  • Explore the city: Most conferences tend to be held in big cities, so take advantage of it. After sitting all day listening to panels, it’s good to get up and walk around. Check out notable places and treat yourself to a nice restaurants for dinner. Invite students who you’ve met from the conference to join you and take plenty of pictures.



After the conference:

  • Say thank you: Be sure to thank the people who helped to make your academic success possible. Your professor and advisor will love to hear from you after the conference. Let them know how your presentation went and what a valuable experience it was for your college career.

Photos: 1, 2, 3


Sara is a junior double majoring in Journalism and Enviromental and Natural Resources. She was born in Northern Kentucky but has lived in Laramie for 10 years now. She has a communications internship with the Wyoming EPSCoR program and writes for their blog. She also works as a lifegaurd and swim instructor at the local recreation center. To balance out her busy life Sara loves to read, do yoga, and plan her adventures abroad. She enjoys the small things that make life wonderful including rain, green grass, and coffee. One day she hopes to live in Seattle, write for an environmental publication, and travel the world to cover her stories.
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