Authored by Louise Mitchell
I am a PhD student at the University of Salford, doing research on ageing in different green environments across the North-West. In August 2019 I presented at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference, which was my first major conference.
This blog post provides an overview of the conference submission timeframe, a personal account of attending the conference and few tips for other post-grads considering submitting an abstract to present.
Timeline for submitting an abstract to the conference:
- December/January – Research groups circulate calls for session proposals.
- January/February – Convenors circulate calls for abstracts for themed sessions. The RGS also issues an open call for abstracts relating to the core conference theme.
- February/March – Authors are informed by session convenors on whether their abstract has been selected
- May/June – Convenors are informed by RGS on whether their session will be included in the conference programme
- June – Early bird registration for the conference
- August – Conference takes place
The RGS-IBG International Annual Conference website: https://www.rgs.org/research/annual-international-conference/
Attending the conference
I was really nervous, but I wasn’t totally sure what about. However, I now know that I didn’t have to worry as the RGS International Conference is welcoming and caters for all. Luckily, any anxiety was put at ease as soon as I collected my badge and programme from the front desk, as everyone was very welcoming.
I was directed to key areas, such as the garden for lunch and the pop-up exhibition space. Sessions are held in various buildings, which are easy to find using the maps in the programme or on the conference app. I found the garden a great place to informally network as people seemed to easily strike up conversations asking about my research and what I hoped to get from the conference. If you do want time out there were rooms allocated for this, such as the downstairs library which had computers and a chill out area.
During the conference there were various lunch time events, relating to different fields of geography, including networking events and the AGMs of the Research groups. Attending these are great, because they offer opportunities to become more involved in the RGS community. Postgraduates often have social or research related events scheduled for lunchtimes, evenings or as pre-conference workshops. These sessions are useful for building a network which will continue after the conference ends.
My presentation fell on the second day of the conference, which was great as it allowed me to enjoy all three days, building confidence at each session. It is suggested if you are presenting to get to the session room at least 10 minutes before. This gives the session chair the chance to meet the speakers, upload presentations and explain the timings. The session chair was extremely helpful and helped load my presentation and also settled my nerves by introducing me to the other presenters. I was the most inexperienced presenter; however, everyone was very friendly and supportive.
Despite being very nervous, I delivered my presentation which was on my research aims, methodology and some pre-liminary findings. To make my delivery as interesting as possible I kept it concise and included various pictures, graphs and tables to highlight the importance of my research, whilst also summarising in a powerful manner.
I received really positive and supportive comments from the audience, who asked engaging questions and gave useful suggestions on different approaches I could use to collect participant feedback.
Attending and presenting at this conference was a positive experience and one I plan to repeat over the span of my PhD career and into the future. To end this piece, I provide a few tips for attending or presenting at the conference.
A few pointers for post-grads
1.Pick which option is right for you, when going to these conferences.
Personally, I really like presenting, as it provides the opportunity to receive lots of feedback, which can strengthen or clarify research ideas. Check out the different calls for abstracts. Either submit to a relevant themed session or to a post-graduate snapshot session, which usually involves around five presentations, each lasting around 10 minutes.
2. You will be asked a lot: ‘What is your research about? Prepare for this, make sure you can summarise your research in a short paragraph. If you don’t know exactly what your research is going to look at, then say that. People are happy to hear your ideas and offer suggestions on what to include.
3. Attending the RGS Midterm is a great way to prepare for the main conference, but on a smaller scale, with other post-grads and early career researchers. The midterm provides a space to practice presenting, get a sense of the conference environment and connect with researchers in similar fields. It ultimately makes going to the Main RGS a little easier, as you will recognise some people, allowing you to network or have a better understanding of what sessions to attend.
4. Bring a refillable bottle – the RGS is an environmentally conscious organisation and so there are lots of places to fill up.
5. If possible, get there the day before, sign up to a pre-conference event or take time to explore the area. Make a trip out of it!
6. When networking, get people’s contact details. Don’t walk away and hope you will remember email addresses. Similarly, make a note of the presentations you enjoy and the authors’ contact details.
7. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time between sessions. There will be a large selection of presentations that you want to attend, but you won’t have time to see all of them. Make a list and prioritise those you don’t want to miss. You can do this using the RGS conference app.
In short, the RGS conference is a great place to present research ideas during the PhD process. I hope to see you at the next conference, whether that be at the international or Midterm.