How to get what you need out of a conference

I am presently sitting on a train chugging across Canada to Montreal, where the AEJMC (the egghead journalism professor society, for those of you who aren’t academics) will have its annual meeting. What makes driving/flying/training to another country worth my time and money?

Academic meetings are usually a combination of hearing about research, hearing about developments in the field, and meeting up with people. Back when I was in graduate school, I got some great advice about how to have a productive conference from my adviser, Dr. Geri Gay. Over the years, I’ve found her advice wise for both professional conferences and academic ones. 

She said over the course of a meeting, you should have 3 goals:

Learn something new. This can be learning about a new technology, a new idea for teaching or working with others, a new technique, or a new piece of evidence for a theory. Conferences are often where ideas are first shaped, and learning something new can keep you ahead of the curve.

Get a new idea for your own work. Consider the new information you are getting in the light of what you are already doing. Come back with something that will let you do what you do better.

Meet one person who can help you. This doesn’t have to be the keynote speaker or the most luminous person there, and maybe it’s better if it isn’t. Use the meeting to begin a relationship with someone who cares about what you and whom you can share ideas or even collaborate in the future. 

Learn more

Are you a speaker? I am presenting on research on the use of social media to convey breaking news. I found this post by Bryan Alexander helpful in putting my thoughts together. 


  1. tvsmartyinadress

    These are great blogs, Dr. Sturg! I often struggle at conferences because some of the presenters seem more interested in seeming smart than being helpful. Perhaps I need to internalize your thoughts to make my attendance more meaningful.

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