Getting the Most Out of the Annual Meeting



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.

Link back to webinar


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


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


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!


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?


What do you recommend in particular for PIs about to start their first lab?


With so many great people to meet how many contacts should I realistically try to make without overwhelming myself?


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.


Do you have any tips for undergraduate or graduate students who are presenting their first poster at SfN?


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.


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!


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!


When do you think is the best moment to interact with the faculties?


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


What are the best opportunities for undergraduates to network with companies that will be hiring in the spring?


What to do when two events you want to go to overlap?