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Getting the Most Out of the Annual Meeting


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Whether you are an annual meeting veteran, or you are attending for the first time, proper planning is key to a successful experience. From lectures and poster sessions to professional development workshops and the NeuroJobs Career Center, this webinar and live chat will showcase the different types of learning and networking opportunities at the meeting.

This webinar on November 2 from 3-4 p.m. EDT will discuss tips on:

  • Understanding different types of events
  • Taking advantage of professional development and networking opportunities
  • Planning your schedule in advance

If you feel more comfortable asking your questions anonymously during the live chat from 4-4:30 p.m. EDT following the webinar, you may do so by clicking your account’s round avatar icon in the upper right hand corner and selecting the “Enter Anonymous Mode” iconin the drop-down menu.

During the live chat, you are also welcome to direct your questions to specific speakers by tagging their usernames: @Elisabeth_VanBockstaele @ajstavnezer @Biancajmarlin.

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Elisabeth_VanBockstaele

I would like to encourage all newcomers to the annual meeting to participate in the webinar “Getting the Most Out of the Annual Meeting”. This webinar is designed to introduce you to the most effective strategies for getting all you can out of the conference. You will have an opportunity to learn about how the meeting is organized, advice on how to best prepare in advance of the meeting, useful tips for helping build your professional network and strategies for advancing your career. I have attended the meeting for over 25 years and there is always something new to discover at the annual meeting. I extend an invitation to veteran attendees to join us for the webinar as well! We look forward to your participation in the webinar and most of all we hope you enjoy the annual meeting!

Elisabeth Van Bockstaele

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ajstavnezer

I hope you will join us for this webinar; I know I could have used it when I first attended. I spent my first meeting attending as many talks and viewing as many posters as the day would allow, and I left every evening exhausted both mentally and physically – I had tried to process so much new information each day that I had no idea what I had actually learned. A dozen or so conferences later, I have a better plan and I would love to share it with you so that your first experience, whether as an undergrad, graduate student or post-doctoral fellow, can be productive and invigorating. There is an unending list of amazing neuroscience to behold at the annual meeting, but by thinking about why you are attending and taking time to plan your attendance in advance, you will have a much more productive and enjoyable conference.
Amy Jo Stavnezer

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stefanie.klampfl

I have attended the meeting twice so far and left both of them a little bit unsatisfied at the end. I felt that I could have got more out of it. So I am looking forward to the webinar and see what kind of experiences and advice you can share with us!

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  • 3 weeks later...

What are some strategies to best prioritize my time? As a graduate student would my time be better utilized attending lectures, poster sessions or career development workshops?

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ajstavnezer

It depends on what you want to accomplish. Do you want to have a deep conversation about a method, the data or have a conversation with a possible future mentor? Then I would go with a poster - there is less time pressure and an opportunity to share experiences. If you are at the end of your graduate career and interested in exploring new opportunities, then career development might be the way to turn. You will be able to explore and have conversations with people that can provide additional insight into career paths.

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Elisabeth_VanBockstaele

It’s a great opportunity to spend time at exhibitor booths to inquire about equipment, special promotions they may be offering and connect with sales representatives that you can then connect with during the year. They are usually really helpful and will spend as much time as you need with them. It’s also a great opportunity to meet face to face with program officers at the NIH booth and other funding agencies.

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ajstavnezer

Be prepared! Do your homework, be familiar with your experiment, your data and why you did what you did. You might consider practicing – get your friends to ask you questions, and be sure to work through the poster with labmates also. Be professional! Dress professionally (comfortable shoes though!), use big words - this is your chance to geek out - do it right!

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Biancajmarlin

This is a time for conversation about your work. Be open to questions and even criticism. This is how out science grows! I’d recommend having paper and pencil handy. Questions you may get at your poster are likely to come up again. Jot down the questions (after the conversation). This way you can keep track of what you need to know/ research once you get back!

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Elisabeth_VanBockstaele

When I was new to the meeting, I really enjoyed going to see some of the “big” lectures to learn about diverse facets of neuroscience even if it was out of my field of study. These lectures are designed to be understood by a diverse audience so I always learned something new.

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Elisabeth_VanBockstaele

When you visit posters it’s a great opportunity to meet faculty who are standing by the posters. Often a student or postdoc might be presenting the poster, but the faculty mentor is nearby. You can ask the presenter, “would you mind introducing me to your advisor?” and then start a conversation with the faculty member. Remember to be prepared with what you want to say, your “elevator speech” and your contact information if you are looking for a postdoc for example. Faculty at posters are usually very generous with their time and happy to talk with visitors to their posters!

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Biancajmarlin

Plan early! If you can set up coffee dates and poster meetings with individuals beforehand, you can make a schedule that works for you. Be open to flexibility, leaving some time open for impromptu meet-ups! As hard as it is to saw no to your lab mates for lunch, it may be best to use that time as a back up for a “same day” meeting with someone you have just met.

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What would you recommend for a graduate student at the initial stage of the graduate education period, especially one that is an international student and interested in opportunities in the US, probably conducting the thesis research in the US or maybe getting to know prominent and outstanding scientists in the field for current and future opportunities? You touched on this subject in the webinar but your opinion is very valuable and can be very helpful for me. Thank you.

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ajstavnezer

I agree with this – several years ago the Society had the Dali Lama as the Dialogues with Society speaker - I still tell people that I saw him! There are amazing presentations to just enjoy.

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I have one more question. Would you recommend attending sessions/trying to see posters or being present at discussions in unfamiliar topics or subspecialties/areas of neuroscience that might be within the interest of the individual but in which he/she has limited experience or knowledge? Would that be a good way to get the most out of the annual meeting or will it not be productive and a good investment of time at the meeting. Thank you.

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Biancajmarlin

The NeuroJob Career Center is an excellent resource for employer/employee connections. Even if the company isn’t present at SfN, if your information is uploaded to the system, you can still be paired with your future career!

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Elisabeth_VanBockstaele

Great question! Since you are an international student, you may want to network as much as possible with labs in which you may wish to work at a later date. Spend time creating a list of labs that you really like and then go spend time at their posters to discuss the research but also discuss whether the lab will be hiring in the next 2-3 years and that you would be interested in keeping in touch. Then at next year’s meeting you can reconnect. Starting a list of potential labs you would want to work in is a great start when you are a junior graduate student. Preparation is always key as timing is important when you are international.

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ajstavnezer

That is a problem, and there is so much good science to see that it might just happen. First, I would check to see if the same person or lab has a poster on a topic similar to a symposium or mini-symposium. That way, you might not have to worry about making it to that limited time talk, but instead could inquire about that research at another time. You could also check NeurOnline or inquire at the SfN booth as to which presentations will be video recorded and then become available online at a later time.

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Elisabeth_VanBockstaele

The benefit of attending the conference in my opinion is the network you begin to build. So prioritizing opportunities for actually talking and meeting with people in your area of interest is important. This can help for your future career development but also you can connect with these individuals during the year outside of the meeting. Going to talks and nanosymposia in unfamilar areas might provide a different perspective but you may miss opportunities for delving deeper into your area of interest by interacting directly with people that work in that area. Since there is so much to see, I would favor being more focused that diffuse.

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Biancajmarlin

Attending poster sessions are a great way to expand your scientific knowledge. Not only will you have the opportunity to (most likely) speak to the scientist who performed the experiments, but unlike mini symposiums, you can ask more than one question! If time permits, poster sessions can be an opportunity to ask elementary questions about techniques and data.

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As it will be teeming with tremendous scientists and prominent researchers all over, i think i might feel really intimidated as some of the people whose research i am interested in are really influential people in the community. Will researchers like that overlook my lack of experience or is it natural or probably right to be rather hesitant?

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Biancajmarlin

We have all been where you are, and some of us are still there! All prominent researchers have at one point been an undergraduate student, graduate scholar, postdoc and new faculty. As a junior postdoc, I’ve come across both individuals who remember they were once in my shoes, and ones who expect me to know more. Both are OK! But hesitation does help us to learn more and grow in our perspective fields. You may not know everything, but you definite do know somethings, maybe better than many others! If you expressing that you are eager to learn more, I would be hard for even the most senior scientist to see that as a fault.

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