As a transportation and logistics management professor at the University, one of my joys is presenting my research. According to the American Psychological Association, “representing your field of interest allows researchers in other disciplines, policy-makers, and the public to become aware of the innovative research being generated in your particular subfield.”
I remember presenting my research on The Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere Coupled Ocean Atmosphere Response Experiment (TOGA COARE) at the American Meteorological Society Conference in 1995. TOGA COARE was an international collaboration of 20 nations and over 100 scientists that studied the propagation of thunderstorms near the equator.
While my presentation was only 15 minutes, what I gained by presenting my research was invaluable in so many ways. I met like-minded early career scientists, which was my first real opportunity to network with other people.
By attending workshops and plenary meetings, I also encountered many pioneers in the field. I have established long-lasting connections with them; they have mentored me and been lifelong champions in my field of research.
At this conference, I learned about exciting ways to take my future research efforts in new directions and collaborated with others to find new connections with emerging fields. It was an inspiration to see researchers applauded for their efforts through awards and other forms of recognition. In short, conferences were the inspirational nudge I needed to chart the unknown territory of research.
Why Should You Attend a Virtual Conference?
The pandemic has forced academics to rethink how to communicate safely and effectively. In 2020, a record number of conferences were canceled, postponed, or revamped into a hybrid or virtual event.
Some people even question if there is a need to continue holding conferences, given the limitations imposed by COVID-19. I’ve attended multiple conferences over the years for several reasons:
- To stay in contact with like-minded colleagues in my field of research
- To connect with new researchers to learn about advancements in my field
- To present my latest research and obtain real-time feedback from a cadre of experts
- To network and connect with new researchers
- To mentor and encourage the next generation of future contributors to my field of research
- To take a mental break from day-to-day operations and tasks
- To celebrate those pioneers and leaders in the field as they are awarded and celebrated for their contributions
Even during the pandemic, there has been a need to continue meeting with other people. The new normal is to balance periods of isolation with connecting with others to maintain the highest levels of safety and social distancing protocols.
The Benefits of Virtual Conferences
More and more organizations have begun pivoting to virtual or hybrid conferences. This change begs the question: Can a virtual conference provide the same benefits as an in-person event?
According to vFairs, there are a number of reasons why virtual conferences are gaining momentum:
- Taking your conference online improves the attendance rate. Attendees can be from any part of the world as long as they have a device and internet connection. Similarly, conference attendees save money by eliminating their travel costs.
- Virtual conferences save precious time and money. A virtual conference has organizing costs, which include booking a venue, allocating on-hand staff, providing food and beverages, and maintaining effective security. All of these costs can be expensive and consume the energy of conference organizers. A virtual conference rids the conference hosts of all the conference-related issues by providing a cost-effective, online alternative that has 24/7 customer support.
- Keynote speakers are easier to accommodate. At a virtual conference, you can attract high-demand speakers with limited time for in-person conferences. Often, these keynote speakers are happy to jump on a video call to talk about industry trends. This approach is more schedule-friendly to those speakers, and there is no need to pay travel and accommodation expenses.
- Attendees have choices that work better with their work-life balance. Conference attendees can access a virtual conference from their homes and attend only the events that they deem relevant to their personal or professional development. This tactic provides attendees with the flexibility to more easily balance work, home and conference activities.
- Conference content is evergreen. With a virtual conference, you have the ability to record sessions and use them as needed in the future.
- Industry trends and insights are always at your fingertips. With virtual technology, you are able to engage attendees through webinars, chats and community rooms.
- Virtual conferences make for easier networking. In a virtual conference, attendees can engage with industry specialists to create connections. They can also get detailed, personalized insights regarding the conference’s agenda.
- Virtual conferences are environmentally friendly. Virtual conferences reduce your carbon footprint and cause less damage to the environment.
- Health and safety protocols are already in place at virtual conferences. Since attendees participate online, social distancing guidelines are automatically followed.
2021 SESA Conference Is Coming Up on September 23-24
On September 23 and 24, the University, in partnership with the Policy Studies Organization, will host the Space Exploration and Strategic Applications (SESA) Conference. This free virtual conference “brings together influencers, innovators, groundbreakers, and decision-makers within all areas of the space community.”
The SESA Conference will feature general sessions, keynote presentations and interactive workshops. Topics that will be discussed at the conference include policy, collaborative research efforts, military space, civilian space and science education.
Conference attendees will include astronauts, astrobiologists, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, educators, associations and policy makers. One keynote speaker is NASA astronaut Eileen Collins, who will provide insight on the leadership skills needed to break barriers and become a successful pioneer in your field. Another keynote speaker is Dr. Robert Zubin, leader of the Mars Society, who led the construction of two Mars analog research stations.
I look forward to presenting at the SESA Conference with Stevenson Demorcy, CEO of STEAMedDrones. STEAMed Drones is an exciting program that uses flying drones with cameras to teach science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM). The principal objective in developing this unique STEAM-based pipeline is to engender a sense of wonder and respect for science and its endless innovations.
In our presentation, we’ll discuss advancements in drone technology as well as how to create a pipeline of future leaders. The future pipeline includes finding innovative ways to introduce students to drones, aviation, and aerospace and encouraging underrepresented minority populations, women, and those with disabilities to join the STEAM field.
As presenters, we want to continue the high standards of space-related achievement in the United States. The work of Katherine Johnson was essential in helping man achieve orbit, and the Wright brothers built and flew the first successful airplane.
The SESA Conference will bring together some of the best and brightest minds to speak about multiple space, education, and science topics. Don’t forget; register by September 10!