Conference deadlines are fast approaching. I wanted to write a brief post about something that I’ve learned from attending conferences over the years, but also from being involved with conference planning as part of the APAGS Convention Committee and the Feminist Research Group. Like many students, I let conference after conference pass by because “I didn’t have anything to present.” Well, I was wrong. And here’s three reasons why:
First, you don’t always have to have a finished dissertation or project or polished piece of work to consider presenting at a conference. Not every conference presentation has to be an earth-shattering piece of research and often the most valuable talks and panels are nothing of the sort. The work you’ve produced in school (e.g., term papers) and the experiences you’ve had (e.g., teaching, practica/ internships, applying for post-docs) have all taught you something, whether it was about a new topic or about what it’s like to be a grad student. Even (and especially!) the things we struggle with as students can be fuel for informative presentations. Presenting on non-research topics is often a matter of reflecting on what you learned and why it’s of value or interest to others. This may be a matter of fit – finding the right conference or division to present with. For example, if you’re a clinical student but the topic involves psychological theory or history, consider applying to these divisions. They often get fewer proposals and there’s a better chance that what you’re speaking about will reach the right audience. Larger organizations often have student sections that you can apply to present with (e.g., APAGS in APA). Though you can typically present on any topic (if you’re a student), these divisions can be a good fit if you want to discuss issues pertinent to the student experience. Also, keep an eye out for smaller, more specialized conferences (e.g., teaching and learning conferences) because they can be some of the best places to meet people and be exposed to current research in your area.
Second, you can reach out to others (via division listservs, department e-mails, friends) to put together panels or come up with programs to present. Yes, this can be intimidating and the process mysterious. If you’re not sure what the procedure is for a division or group, ask a colleague or send an e-mail to the contact person/representative. Often it’s as simple as asking them to forward your proposal to the members to gauge interest. If you have a great idea, consider organizing or chairing a panel discussion. Providing a framework for the discussion, linking each talk, and moderating the session is a different set of skills than simply presenting a paper. Chairing a panel at a conference is a great way to practice this in a relatively low stakes environment. If organizing isn’t your thing, you could also discuss or debate different perspectives on an issue, present several research projects in a similar area (and someone else is Chair), or conduct a workshop on a research method that you’ve used. You might also consider reaching out to community organizations to put together unique panels highlighting what research and practice looks like in the real world! The possibilities are endless. Reaching out to strangers can be a daunting, but it’s a great way to make contacts from other institutions and fields. This may not be for everyone and group work can certainly be challenging, but getting out of your comfort zone can be totally worth it 🙂
Third, it never hurts to try!
Here’s a (non-exhaustive) list of some upcoming deadlines:
APA (American Psychological Association):
- CE Workshop Proposals: Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, 5 p.m. ET.
- Division Proposals: Friday, Dec. 1, 2017, 5 p.m. ET.
- Film Festival: Friday, Dec. 1 through Friday, Dec. 22, 2017, 5 p.m. ET.
- Associated Psychological Organization Requests: Monday, Jan. 22, 2018
APS (Association for Psychological Science):
- Symposium submissions: November 15, 2017, 11:59 PM (latest time on earth)
- Poster submissions: January 31, 2018, 11:59 PM (latest time on earth)
ICAP (International Congress of Applied Psychology):
- All submissions: December 1, 2017
CPA (Canadian Psychological Association):
- All submissions: December 1, 2017