Sunday, 19 June 2011

ICS PhD Conference 2011: Thoughts on Organising Conferences...

This past Thursday and Friday, my colleagues & I pulled it off--we held a conference and people actually came, and it mostly went according to plan! It's such a relief to have it all over with, and such a source of pride that it actually went well...
After the conference was over, I realised that this was my first conference. Not just the first conference I'd ever organised, but the first conference I'd ever even attended!
I'd been to FBLA conferences in high school, but that doesn't exactly count. We were 15 year-olds in blazers, playing conference. Our keynote were always "motivational speakers", and we all rolled our eyes as they told us to follow our dreams (we joked about what the motivational speakers once dreamed of becoming).
This conference was a real conference. Our speakers were actual established, published, real academics with something interesting to contribute. Our attendees were grown-ups, too, and they had some great insights and contributions. When I was running around sorting things out during coffee breaks, I heard this lively buzz of people talking and that sound told me it was going well. People were showing up and mingling and having a good time.
The sound of success...

ICS has this tradition of having its first-year PhD students organise the PhD Conference. I thought it was simply "grunt work" that they made us take care of--like having to prove yourself as an apprentice academic. I went along with it because I figured it would be good experience, look good on the CV, etc. Now that it's all over, I realise that there are other reasons we first-years have to (get to) do it. 1) The PhD Conference is just about the only way to get first-years involved in conferences at this stage in their academic career--we can't present anything yet, so it's a nice way to feel involved. 2) It's a small enough conference for us inexperienced planners to handle. We can manage to pull it off, and that's going to boost our confidence. 3) That confidence boost will make us feel up for presenting at conferences next year (raising the overall profile of ICS and adding to next year's conference) 4) Unlike the more advanced PhD students, we'll still be around to help next year's conference planning committee 5) Yes, it will look good on the CV...especially since first-years don't have much else to put on the CV.

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