Conference Experience at University of Michigan – Journal 4
This week, I was out for the Borchardt Water/Wastewater Conference at University of Michigan and, sadly, missed one class. Still, I learned quite a lot from listening to other people’s oral presentations, explaining my own poster, and chatting with people with diversified backgrounds. Since most of the oral presenters are famous professors or senior PhDs, they are very experienced and deliver some well-organized talks. From what I observe, PPT slides should be carefully made with appropriate visual aids. Try to use figures and tables more often than tedious words. One important thing I notice is that the font size is really important in case the audience in the back cannot see the letters clearly. Always define those key technical terms upon the first introduction, and emphasize their meaning throughout the whole presentation to enhance people’s understanding. Last but not least, the audience can get bored during a 30-min presentation, and the presenter should be energetic all the time to grasp everyone’s attention. Using some funny examples or some related jokes can help, but do not use them too frequently.
Between the oral presentations, we have several 1-h breaks to get refreshments and mingle with each other. Posters are set up in the main lobby, and all the people can have sufficient time skimming the content. Luckily, I am selected as one of the poster presenters. Since this conference had more than 40 posters per day, you need a good strategy to stand out among them. For me, I present a well-organized schematic figure of my device in the middle of the poster. When people look at my poster, they will first notice this giant schematic and understand my device and target goal within 30 seconds. Once people get interested in your poster, they will look for more detailed information in the context, and even ask some interesting questions during later conversation. Several master students from Wayne State University (located in Detroit) really like my research (though they do not have a background in wastewater treatment), and we have a wonderful discussion about my further research plan.
Networking is also an important part of the conference. This conference offers a great opportunity to talk to famous professors and students from various universities. However, talking to a professor requires some different techniques or strategies than chatting with a fellow graduate student. Since lots of people need to talk with some famous professors, it is vital to go straight to your topic after proper self-introduction. You can spend more time on your personal life or social events when mingling with a graduate student. Nonetheless, making eye contact is really crucial for both scenarios since people will know whether you understand their idea or not. Another useful tip, as I believe, is to spend more time in listening than speaking, and before you speak, adjust your content based on what you have heard. This will render efficient communication and make each other feel more comfortable.