You are fortunate to be attending a professional convention. Here are some ways to make the most out of the experience:
1. Attend the convention sessions.
This may seem obvious, but many students go through a great deal of sacrifice to attend a convention only to find that, once they are there, the lure of the city (sightseeing, shopping, visiting with friends) outweighs the desire to attend convention sessions, especially on beautiful spring days or in new cities. However, you are actually there to benefit from the convention itself, and I would urge you to attend as many sessions as possible. You will learn a great deal from them. In addition, poster sessions in particular offer an excellent chance to network and meet new people including students and faculty from other schools. Try to arrive one day early or leave one day late if you want to have time to see the sights. During the convention, avoid pulling all-nighters so that you can be up bright and early for the morning sessions.
2. Dress and act in a professional manner.
Think of a convention as a type of job interview. Wear the clothes you would normally wear in a business setting (for women—dress or pants suit; for men—long pants and tie). Do not wear flip-flops, sneakers, or the type of high fashion shoes you might wear to go out. Bring along extra copies of your resumé or CV in case you run into any potential graduate school faculty or employers. When you are in the convention hotel, behave in a mature manner because you never know who you will run into while wandering the corridors or riding the elevators. Display your nametag prominently so people can see who you are and the school you attend.
3. Get to the registration desk early.
There can be long lines at the registration desk; you will have more time to attend the actual convention sessions if you get there early. Because your nametag is needed to attend these sessions, it’s especially important for you to have it.
4. Arrive early for sessions you plan to attend and
do not leave early.
Nothing is more frustrating than to arrive late or just before a session starts only to find that there are no available seats. If you arrive even 5 minutes early, you are probably not guaranteed a good seat, but at least one that will allow you to be comfortable for the entire session. In general, you should not leave a session early, but if you know that you have to do so, sit close to the door so you can exit in an unobtrusive manner.
5. Don't talk or text during paper sessions and symposia.
Presenters find it very rude to have to deal with people in the audience who behave in a disruptive manner. Its fine to laugh at jokes made by presenters if they’re funny, but restrict your participation to that which is appropriate for the occasion.
6. Try to meet new people but don't be too pushy.
Even though you might find it intimidating, you should try to talk to other people at the convention, especially faculty whose work you have read and find very interesting. You would be surprised that even the most well-known psychologists enjoy meeting students who are interested in their work. However, avoid approaching faculty who you’re hoping will admit you to graduate school. If the conversation gets around to the topic, it’s fine to mention your future plans, but faculty don’t like to be pressured about graduate school acceptance in this setting.
This article was prepared by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD, University of Massachusetts Amherst (Psi Chi Eastern Region Vice-President, 2006–07) and mailed in the Psi Chi Eastern Region's Spring 2007 mailing. It was updated in January 2015.
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