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Etiquette for Attending an Academic Conference

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Regardless if you have attended an academic conference before, it is unlikely someone sat you down and explained the basic etiquette for attending a conference. After attending multiple conferences, it is clear that many folks need a basic education. Here is some basic etiquette.

Before we begin, keep in mind that you violate these guidelines at your own peril. You will be surprised who recognizes you, remembers your face, and writes you off based on seemingly innocent actions. Many conferences require everyone to wear nametags, so anonymity is low.

Without further ado, here is the basic etiquette:

1.)    Never use a phone for any purpose while in a session. Turn it off. Think of it is as being on an airplane. Just turn it off for an hour and half. Otherwise, if you pull out your phone, the presenter could see you and feel as though they are boring you. In addition, other attendees may see you on the phone and start passing judgment.

2.)    Only use laptops and tablets for taking notes. If you take anything from this post, this is the most important. The second you start browsing the Internet, checking email, or playing games, people can see you and they will find you rude. No matter where you place your tablet, someone has an angle to see your screen.

3.)    Be on time and leave on time. People coming in and out of the room are distracting for the presenters. In addition, other attendees get a good look at you as you fumble for a seat or run out of the room. If you want to hear a single presentation, plan to stay for the whole session.

4.)    Avoid impressing with questions. Most conferences offer a Q&A portion for each presenter. Never try to stump the presenter. Stay on topic. Avoid questions that cover unrelated to the presenter’s paper.

5.)    Do not talk during the presentation. If you are a presenter and need to practice reading your own paper for a further session, then do not practice during someone else’s presentation! Also, avoid sitting next to people and discussing the paper. No matter how quiet you think you are, people can hear you.

That covers it. If you can follow the above, then you are on your way to making a good impression at your next conference.

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