Have you ever read a research article and thought, “I wish I could meet these authors one day” or “I wish I could be like them”? One way of reaching that dream is by attending research conferences.

With research conferences, students are not only provided with the opportunity to meet with prominent researchers in the field, but also the prospect of learning about information they truly value.

Whether you’re a research conference pro or are contemplating attending your first conference, this article will offer tips on how to prepare and how to get the most out of your conference.

How to Prepare for Psychology Research Conferences   

Research conferences are great for your resume. Right? At least that’s what we always hear as psychology graduate students.

But there is so much more to be gained from research conferences, including:

  • Professional development
  • Enhancing important competencies
  • Networking
  • Learning from prominent experts in the field

You can find research conferences that are suitable to your research interests and/or geographic location through a variety of online, social media, or local school resources. The APA website provides a calendar of events which includes APA conferences. You can also search for conferences by location or based on specific interests such as Social Psychology.

When you finally take the step to attend a psychology research conference, there are some things to keep in mind.

1. Bring business cards.

These days, we are used to networking through social media sites; however, at research conferences, you have the opportunity to meet others in person. One way that others can remember you after the conference is by your business card. Make sure to pass out your business cards to professionals who take interest in your research project or whom you are interested in based on their research and clinical focus.

2. Find conferences that are interesting to you.

Whether you plan on presenting a research project or simply want to attend a conference to build your own knowledge, it’s important to choose conferences that are of interest to you. There are dozens of conferences occurring at any time, and you can find conferences on topics such as trauma, forensics, child/adolescent psychology, etc.

3. Consider costs like hotels, travel, and food – and keep your receipts!

As a student, you have several benefits when it comes to attending conferences. Some schools have partial or complete financial compensation to help cover your expenses at conferences as long as you show them your receipts. Additionally, discounts are generally available for students when registering for conferences. Oftentimes, if you are willing to volunteer your time, you might be able to completely have the cost of your application covered.

How to Get the Most Out of a Psychology Research Conference

You’ve now found a research conference and you’re anticipating what to expect since they are all very different. There are many positive things to gain from attending or presenting at research conferences, including the following:

1. Enhancing your knowledge in a specific area.

Take a notepad or laptop with you that you’re willing to carry around for several hours and take plenty of notes! If you’re attending the conference with a friend or colleague, there may be several different events that you both are interested in attending during the same time slot. Consider splitting up to attend separate events and then exchanging notes later.

2. Meeting the researchers.

As students, we spend so much of our time reading research articles and oftentimes learning about researchers throughout their written work. But if you’ve ever had questions about these articles or simply wanted to let them know how much you enjoyed their work, you might be able to find some of these authors speaking at conferences. If you know a particular author is going to be in attendance, have a few brief questions ready to ask and remember to be professional and respectful of their time.

3. Reaping the benefits of poster presentations and panels.

The best way to be an active participant at a research conference is to do a poster presentation. A poster presentation is a great way to get your feet wet and help you create your own niche as a researcher or clinician in the field. Consider presenting a piece of your dissertation or coming up with a topic that a faculty member at your school is willing to mentor. There are also panels and talks, which are longer forms of presenting and require more in-depth research.

In Conclusion

Regardless of where you are starting or what your goals are, research conferences are excellent ways to meet researchers and colleagues who maintain similar interests, develop your own professional knowledge on a given topic, and allow your own research to be shared among professionals and students in the community.

Annie Varvaryan, PsyD