Why Attend an Academic Conference?
Attending academic conferences is one of the most important things you can do as a graduate student for the following reasons:
- Conference attendance could lead to publication of your work.
- It allows you to engage with others in your discipline, and it is an opportunity to connect with potential collaborators who have similar interests.
- It can help demonstrate on your CV how you contribute to your discipline.
- You might obtain feedback on your work.
- You will have the chance to improve your public speaking skills and build self-confidence.
That said, getting to even one conference can seem quite daunting. You may find the steps below helpful as you choose and prepare for academic conferences.
When Choosing Academic Conferences, Start Small and Gradually Reach Higher
Start with presenting in your department. Then attend regional or national conferences specifically aimed at graduate students.
- Begin with specialized conferences. These are smaller and easier to navigate.
- Next, go to the big regional conferences: for example, Southern Economics Association or Midwest Political Science Association.
- Finally, try to present at your main professional conference, such as the American Economics Association. Conferences are usually advertised on the website of your professional association.
Your advisor will likely have good insight on where and when you should present. Look for conferences with themes that are relevant to what you are studying.
Establish a Timeline as You Choose and Prepare for Academic Conferences
You should be sending out paper proposals by the beginning of the spring semester of your second year. In your third year, you should try to have a finished paper and be traveling to local conferences. Ideally, you should be presenting at your major professional association by the time you are ready to begin navigating the job market.
Establishing your timeline helps to ensure that you meet your goals. It also assures you that you are on track to meet them as you choose and prepare for academic conferences. I certainly found it helpful during my time in graduate school.