This text has been translated from a German original written by Dr. Eliza Leusmann (published in Nachrichten aus der Chemie (April 2018, p. 446)). The drawings are from Maike Hettinger.
Answer these eight questions in order to prove once more, ‘We´re all individuals- me not!’
1) When do you sign up for a conference?
- Whenever my boss tells me to.
- … the early bird …
- … can bugger off!
- Whenever my secretary reminds me to do so.
- When rumours that the colleagues will attend go around the institute.
- Oops, until when was the registration deadline?
2) Where are you during the talks?
- Exactly where I belong- on stage!
- I sit in the front third on the left side, centre of row.
- Centre-centre, where everyone can see me well.
- I wait with my friends in the reception hall. There will be coffee soon, right?
- I sit at the back, so people don´t take as much notice if I snore.
I don´t care as long as no one bothers me while I´m typing.
3) What do you wear during the conference?
- Whatever my wife picked for me.
- The up-market red blazer, as always. That will be recognised and remembered.
- Ahm, the stuff from yesterday is still fine, I guess.
- Jacket and shirt, ironed.
- Hoodie and jeans, what else?
- My conference pants. Cord trousers, that keep me warm, super-comfy.
4) What do you present to the other participants?
- My poster.
- My latest results.
- How to network.
- Almost the same as on the last conference, I am just updating it.
Excellent tips. I could give loads of them.
5) The conference dinner…
- … gave me the time to talk with my neighbour at the table about overlaps between our projects.
- … wasn´t important enough for me to stick around.
- … was quite ok, but the wine was better in the good old days.
- … was good fun, after all it was the same bunch of people as last time around.
- … was awkward, why did no one want to sit next to me?
- … was expensive, but the food was at least a lot better than in the uni cafeteria.
6) As hotel, you picked:
- A nice but not too expensive one.
- None, I will travel on straight away.
- The one the others picked as well.
- The luxurious one, close to the conference.
- The one I am already using since ages.
- What are you talking about? I thought there is only the youth hostel?
7) The best thing about the conference?
- That it will be over at some point.
- Beer and snacks.
- Cooperation partners and new information.
- Hard to say, it was like always.
- Excellent tips. I could give loads of them.
- The presentation for next week is almost ready because I´ll simply use the same one again!
8) How many conferences do you attend per year?
- As many as possible without having to limit my research for it.
- All for which I get admitted to.
- All I am supposed to attend.
- All my friend Anaya will attend as well.
- As many as necessary.
- All, which are in stunning locations.
Add all the letters Q, q, D, P, q, b. Which did you use most often? This will tell you which conference type you are.
Conferences, well, conferences. Nice to see other PhD students and get to know them. It´s just bad luck that they can´t get inspiration for their own topic, because all who work in the same field have to present their posters at the same time. Will you dare to approach Prof. X for a postdoc position? At least you could have a chat with a couple of her PhD students yesterday. And the leader of your youth hostel did not give you a fine- at first he couldn´t be convinced that beer and pretzels are part of the near-mandatory social interactions at conferences… but at least he softened after you helped to clean up the mess.
B Conference pro
Conferences, conferences? Luckily you have learned to pretend to be confident, although you are nervous. Or you are simply so convinced about yourself that the whole thing doesn´t bother you anymore. The sentence, “That´s an interesting aspect. However, it will take too much time to explain in depth, but I am happy to discuss it with you during the break” received so much practice in front of the mirror until you could even convince your mum that you know how her best dish can be refined. You use conferences in order to reach new collaborators and other researchers. And, by the way, you also want to know who else applied for the million-Euro grant. Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer- where else could you practice that as well as at a conference?
C Conference grouch
Conferences… somehow that´s necessary. You know that. However, knowing and liking are two different things. Self-presentation and networking rank among your weakest skills. Luckily, there are always a few old study mates, who made it into a professorship as well. It´s wonderful to just hook up with them. And they can give orientation, because they´re also not quite sure if they should attend the next talk or be somewhere completely different. If you´re in the middle of your group of friends, no one really takes notice of you. Getting new contacts is neither possible (after all, you´re constantly surrounded by ‘your’ people) nor necessary (after all you already know all the people you need and, by the way, didn´t Anaya want to collaborate with you?). At the end of the conference, it´s simply nice to have met your old friends once more.
Conferences. Fair enough, those things, but your time management! You have soooo much to do, basically always, and such a conference is a real time eater. You even have to give a presentation! So, still enough time to prepare it during the morning sessions. You can sink into your seat and annoy the people around you with the clicking sound of your keyboard- after all you didn´t have time to prepare beforehand! And there is also an email with the latest draft of your paper/ grant proposal/ whatever. Good that you can fly on straight after your talk. Basically a pure waste of time, these conferences.
Conferences. Conferences! THE opportunity to show off what you can. Magnanimously, you stepped back from giving a talk in order to support the younger generation. However, some relevant facts from the back of your head are certainly helpful. That´s why your hand is always the first one to be raised when it´s time for Q&A. And at least three quarters of your questions contain, “We already showed that [random number between 1 and 180] months ago”, of course served with a variety of different formulations. You love to refer to the work of Miller/ Smith/ Jones from the 1950s. Your colleagues love you for your omniscience. Strange that no one wants to collaborate with you…
Conferences? Basically, you don´t need them. You´re already in the field for ages, your latest research is already in your shelves since years. In case you´d stumble across something noteworthy in a journal, you´ll contact the author directly and immediately anyway. You´re already very important for very long, you only visit conferences to show that you still exist. Your colleagues know you so well already that they have plugged in a heating blanket on seat 8K before th