So today, I wanted to talk to you about what makes CSDH/SCHN and Congress special, and how to make the most of the event should you be so lucky as to be able to attend next year.
First: Congress is huge (over 10,000 participants in Toronto in 2017) but the CSDH/SCHN conference itself is quite small. The number of sessions taking place at any given time, this year, varied between one and three. Therefore, if someone you really want to meet is at the event at all, you *will* get a chance to talk to them, probably more than once. This is good, especially for the terminally shy like me, because it means that you can pace yourself instead of jumping on every networking opportunity as soon as it presents itself. For example, on the first day, the stars of your field are probably busy catching up with friends they have known for years. Let them. Talk to fellow grad students, approach speakers after their talks, or just get comfortable with your surroundings. On the second day, the catching up will be over and the big names will have more time for you. Day 2, in other words, is prime networking time. Don’t wait until the last day of the event, though, because not everyone sticks around that long.
Second: make a plan. Flag down the sessions that you want to see, including the invaluable career-oriented events open to all Congress participants and the keynotes by public figures, and make sure that it is physically possible for you to be in the right building at the right time. In Toronto, the career corner was located at the back of the fourth floor of the old Maple Leaf Gardens, a good 15-20 minute walk from the business school where the lunchtime keynotes were taking place — which meant a bit of a scramble when the schedule got tight. (Wear comfy shoes.)
Third: remember that Congress, unlike most business conventions, takes place on a University campus, filled with University buildings. You are familiar with those: they have all been designed by mad people. You *will* get lost. If you have the chance, arrive a day early and, at the very least, familiarize yourself with the campus’ layout. If you can locate the rooms where key events will be taking place, even better. I had a couple of quick conversations with busy professors as I was guiding them to rooms where they were about to chair sessions; time well spent, indeed.
And finally: people at CSDH/SCHN are *nice*. Unusually so. Take advantage of it. Go to the grad mentorship events and social mixers, even if you’re tired. Keep in touch via Twitter afterwards. And start making plans to attend again next year. I know I will.