Getting the Most Out of Your Conference Experience

Conferences are a key part of academic research and are a great way to stay up to date with new research and trends, connect with likeminded people and experience a new city. But they do represent a significant investment – especially for early career researchers – in funding and in time away from research. So how do you make sure you get the most bang for your buck? Here are some ideas to help you make the most out of your next conference experience.

Choosing the right conference

Selecting a conference to attend can be a challenge. When funding is limited, you may only get to attend one conference a year (or less!). If that’s the case you’ll want to make sure you choose the conference wisely to get the maximum impact for your investment. Think about what you’d like to achieve by attending a conference and how the specific event aligns with your goals.

  • What are your interests and where does your work fit best? Consider the scale and scope of the conference and whether the conference in question is centred around general plant biology or something more niche and specialised. Take a look at the Global Plant Science Events Calendar ( to see what’s coming up.
  • Who do you want to meet? Another consideration to deciding the scope of the conference is the people you would meet there. Going to specialised conferences may increase the likelihood of meeting people that would take interest in your work but perhaps a more general audience may offer fresh perspectives you need to level up your research.
  • Target your audience. If you’ll be presenting, tailor your poster or talk to your audience. Make sure your work shines by targeting your content to an appropriate level for your audience. Share your story with clarity by crafting a narrative of your work and using appropriate levels of jargon.

Managing fatigue

Conferences are exciting places filled with new people and exciting research. To make sure you get the most out of your experience, a little planning goes a long way to make sure you see the things you want and don’t leave exhausted.

  • Allow yourself time to settle. Where possible, schedule travel so you’re not rushed and scope out some venues around the conference for local bites and your caffeine fix if the conference reception (if there is one) is not up your alley. For overseas conferences, this may be especially important to minimize jet lag and make sure you’re in the best form in time for the event.
  • Use the conference program to prioritize the sessions, talks and events you want to attend. Conferences can be chaotic places – there’s always something going on and time clashes are inevitable (take note of the concurrent sessions!). Think about your goals when deciding your schedule and plan your day accordingly.
  • Refrain from being overly ambitious. It’s simply not possible to attend everything. Be strategic in your planning and block out manageable time slots with regular breaks in between. Breaks are a good time for you to catch up and digest what was just presented. Remember, it is not the end of the world if you do miss something!
  • Recognize signs of fatigue and burnout. You are the best judge of yourself. Powering through a conference can be physically and mentally exhausting and it’s important you enjoy your conference experience in a safe and responsible manner.


Conferences are wonderful places to network and building a strong professional network can be incredibly beneficial for your career. But many people find networking a challenge –  it can sometimes feel awkward and transactional. Here are some ideas to make the process easier at a conference.

  • Be open to conversations, wherever they occur. Joining at the end of a queue, or waiting for a coffee are great ways to have short, informal conversations with other attendees. You never know where they might lead!
  • Have your elevator pitch ready. Practice a short summary about your professional background and research interests to have handy whenever someone asks (There are many online tools to help you do this).
  • Attend networking events. Take a look at the conference program and you’ll likely find a number of events set up to facilitate networking – including the orientation events, awards breakfasts and poster sessions. Take note and make sure to attend some of these.
  • Try not to be disheartened if someone isn’t open to your conversation. Experiencing rejection when someone cuts your conversation short or seems disinterested in your work can be difficult. But you never know what others may be going through and it’s likely not personal. If this happens, take a moment, remember it’s not you and get back to enjoying the conference!
  • Follow up. If you find someone you connect with, make sure to swap details, e.g. professional social media or email. Make sure to check in after the conference as well – ask about that research position, send them a paper they might like, or ask if they’ll be at the next conference!

Making sure you get the most out of a conference means taking some time to reflect on your career goals and spending some time making a strategy. We believe it is never too early to attend a conference, given the right opportunity as the conference experience has a little something for everyone, regardless of your career stage. The reasons to attend conferences are varied and plentiful, and we encourage interested individuals to speak to their supervisors or the organizing committee early to inquire about the event. We hope these suggestions here can help you achieve a positive and productive conference experience.



About the Authors

Alicia Quinn is a currently working on her PhD in plant molecular biology at Monash University, Australia, and a 2024 Plantae Fellow. Her project aims to understand the regulation of a toxic compound produced in Sorghum.  You can find her on X: @AliciaQuinnSci.

Marvin Jin is  is a plant developmental biologist currently pursuing his PhD degree at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, and a 2024 Plantae Fellow. His research focus revolves around dissecting genetic and physiological mechanisms of how a plant peptide hormone controls root system architecture. You can find him on X: @MarvinJYS.