The busiest and most productive people in our discipline make time to attend the APS Annual Meeting year after year. This brief guide is directed towards early career professionals, some of whom may be attending their first annual meeting. The purpose is to pass on wisdom acquired through experience on how best to navigate the Annual Meeting, and take full advantage of the many opportunities for engagement and networking.
Navigation. This is the straightforward part. How do you find your way around? If you own a smartphone, download the meeting app. But smartphone or not, to navigate efficiently requires a bit of homework. Study the program beforehand and use the meeting app or the online program to search and sort the myriad of symposia, workshops, and posters to map out a plan of what you want to see, and to meet the authors with whom you want to engage. Interested in powdery mildews? Search the program for those key words or relevant genera and you'll get a hit on every abstract that includes that term.
The Annual Meeting is big and busy. Participants stay at several hotels near a central convention center. Most of the meeting events may be at the convention center, but there are usually talks and events that are also at the central hotel linked to the convention center. Familiarize yourself with maps, layouts, distances, and times required to hoof it from one venue to another. Talks start and end on time, so plan accordingly. The biggest gathering places always seem to be the auditorium where the posters are located, and the hallways near the registration desk. Those are places where you will never be alone, and where you will find APS staff, APS Foundation, and APS Council members waiting to help you.
Engagement and Networking. These two aspects are so closely interrelated that they are inseparable. Early-career professionals should focus on developing an effective professional network. Engagement with APS is the path to that goal. An effective professional network is not just about making acquaintances and contacts. It’s more dynamic and, most importantly, it’s a two-way street. It requires a sustained effort on your part, and an attitude that you are OK with giving more than you receive. When people see that quality, they'll not only recognize a spirit of volunteerism that is a hallmark of our Society, but often will respond in kind and do the same thing in longer-term professional relationships that develop.
Need specific suggestions to get you started? Say no more, but don't feel restricted to just the following:
Don’t restrict your networking efforts to the rock stars of your discipline. Look all around you. Look for people who can help you, but also for people who would benefit from your help or particular skill set. An effective professional network can include senior and junior scientists, grad students, undergraduates and postdocs. Think about the possibilities of work at other institutions, and consider being a host for visiting scholars of all types; including government, university, and private sector scientists.
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