The Post-Academic Conference Ritual
I was going through my post-conference ritual, a habit I picked up when I worked in the corporate world, and realized this may be a handy guide for folks attending academic conferences. I just got back from the Academy of Human Resource Development’s 2018 International Research Conference in the Americas in Richmond, VA. During the conference, I presented my first ever research poster: Hypotheses in HRD Research: Problems and Solutions.
Digitize the paper
One of the first things I do is scan every relevant piece of paper that I collected during the conference. This could include handouts, flyers, receipts, and notes. My tool of choice is the ScanSnap s1300i. It’s compact enough I can leave it on my desk, robust enough to chew through 12 double-sided pages per minute, and simultaneously scans both sides. It has been instrumental in my quest for paperless workflows. It’s not cheap, but is a prime example of having the right tool for the job. I am delighted every time I use it.
I like to keep a digital copy to the conference agenda. There, I highlight the sessions I attended and any brief thoughts about the presenters, the presentation, and the research. I have found this is handy and helpful to have as I frequently find myself referring back to it.
Throughout the conference, I take notes in a Leuchtturm 1917, dot-grid journal. While I prefer a digital ecosystem, taking analog notes during a conference seems less intrusive to the discussion. During my post-conference ritual, I read through my notes and look for any reminders, action items, or calendar entries. I process this data and add the items to the appropriate lists or calendars. This is also a good time to synthesize the notes. What themes are emerging? What are my major takeaways for the conference?
Reset to zero
I follow a recommendation I picked up from the KonMari method of decluttering and completely empty out both my suitcase and briefcase. By completely empty, I mean it. I take my briefcase and remove literally very single thing inside of it. Especially after a long trip, things have a way of nesting and getting lost in there. Its helpful to eliminate the clutter that builds up, and to find all those business cards and little scraps of paper that I stuffed in there during the trip.
Conferences are fun because they are like a little bubble from the outside world. I get a little behind on my email and task lists, so the post conference time is especially useful to reset my digital inboxes to zero. I completely process my email inboxes, categorize my action items in Omnifocus, and process any digital media that I saved to my computer’s desktop.
Follow up with new connections
Perhaps the greatest benefit of attending conferences is networking. Making connections with colleagues and forging new friendships. The post conference period is a great time to follow up with these folks and subscribe to their social profiles.
Send thank you notes
Nothing replaces the old timey, handwritten thank you note. It is so rare these days that receiving them is extra special and meaningful. Look for opportunities to make those connections and send a hand written thank you note. Perhaps it was a particularly engaging session and you want to show appreciation, or maybe a session host that did a great job of facilitating a lively discussion.
It doesn’t have to be a thank you card. Perhaps you met a doctoral student who had a very promising research project and you want to encourage him or her. Instead of sending a card, you could print out and mail a journal article you think would be helpful along with a short note of encouragement. Imagine how impactful this could be for an up and coming researcher!
Receipts and expense reports
If you are lucky enough to receive some type of reimbursement for your conference expenses, now is the time to complete the paperwork and submission. Hopefully you have retained the necessary receipts and scanned them as part of the digitization process mentioned above. Even better, sign up for e-receipts from the hotel, rental car, and airline you frequently use.
It looks like a lot in a list like this, but the whole process takes only 20 or 30 minutes. I find it is a great time for reflection about the conference and a way to bring closure to the event.