Top tips for attending conferences as an ECOP

Traveling alone can be a daunting prospect, let alone attending your first event as an ECOP in a foreign country.

Conferences, meetings and symposiums are all typical in the life of any Ocean Professional, but if you’re more used to being in a lab or underwater, it might take some time to adapt to being in a room full of people and not just any people either; most likely experts in their field and people you look up to.

When working within the Ocean sector, attending an event is one thing, but participating in one, is an important milestone in your career.  Whether its presenting your phd poster, speaking about your work or even delivering a keynote, it can be a fantastic opportunity but one that might feel like a big step out of your comfort zone for the first time.

We’ve have a few years off traveling due to the pandemic, and in that time online capabilities have greatly improved.  Yet, Symposium season is about to kick off once again, and there are many important possibilities for learning and connecting that take place at in person events, especially in the context of the UN Decade of Ocean Science, where the global framework and strict timeframe means we are all working towards a shared vision, together.

This year’s UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon was a great opportunity to offer some ECOP mixers, and the ECOP Programme choose to make them as informal, relaxed and as fun as possible.

What’s more fun than surfing?! The ECOP surfing mixer was hosted by Seatrees and Protect Blue during the UNOC in Lisbon

There are, however, much more serious parts to conferences, ones that involve meeting peers, networking, instigating partnerships, pitching your ideas, talking (on stage) and having the capacity to meet many new people in a short amount of time.

We spoke to ECOP Programme Global Coordinator Evgeniia, to see if she had any advice for those of you that might be heading to your first conference (ever, or what might feel like in forever); here are her top five tips for conference success!

1. Be prepared

“Be clear before the conference on what you want to get out of this event, whom to approach and what sessions to attend. Get to know the event schedule/programme well and decide which ones you want to attend. Set reasonable goals so that you don’t get overwhelmed”.

2. Plan key meetings in advance

“If you already know whom you can meet at the conference, reach out to them in advance and set up a meeting – conferences tend to be very busy and the free time gets packed with meetings very fast.”

3. Take conference materials (print or digital)

“Consider preparing a business card if you think it’s needed, together with any promotional materials of your project or work.”

4. Expect to be busy

“If you are to give a presentation, it’s better to prepare the slides while you are at home, as well as train in advance to keep track of the time and speed of your speech. Evenings at conferences tend to be very busy with dinners and networking, so you won’t have much time to prepare for the presentation.”

5. Get ready to mingle

“You will want to expand your networking – so be friendly, curious and engaging in conversations. If you are on the shy/reserved side, and conversation topics might not come easy for you, try to think in advance on what questions you might ask to approach someone. A standing buffet is a great opportunity to meet other conference participants and discuss potential mutual interests and ways of cooperation.”

Evgeniia, Erin Satterthwaite and Harriet Harden-Davies meeting Vladimir Ryabinin (Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO)

As Evgeniia mentioned, its imperative to know what sessions you will be attending, and ECOP events are a great way to meet other ECOPs and develop your inter-personal and relating skills in a conference setting.  Thankfully more and more sessions are being targeted towards ECOPs, and are taking in to account that many attendees are early on in their career.

For instance, The Open Science Conference on Eastern Boundary Upwelling Systems (EBUS): Past, Present and Future & Second International Conference on the Humboldt Current System is about to begin in Lima, Peru (19 – 23 September).  Their Early Career Scientist event on 20 September, is being promoted to younger/emerging generations of researchers to provide opportunities for networking.  They are calling for those in the early career scientist category (i.e., student, PhD candidate, or practicing scientist who received their certificate – e.g., BSc, MSc, PhD – within the past five years) to fill in the following form.  You can also join the High CO2 World EOCP Attendees Team at the Ocean Acidification Information Exchange, who will be organising networking, travel, and community building opportunities amongst students and postdocs during the EBUS event: https://www.oainfoexchange.org/teams/High-CO2-World-EOCP-Attendees 

The PICES Sustainability of Marine Ecosystems (through Global Knowledge Networks during the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainability) is taking place 23 September – 2 October, in Busan, Korea.  During this event, the ECOP Programme will also present: Establishing a North Pacific ECOP node of the global ECOP program to increase inter-regional early career engagement and partnerships during the Ocean Decade.  We encourage attendees to join and participate in Workshop 4, which will have Raphael Roman (Japan), corresponding, Erin Satterthwaite (USA) and Hannah Lachance (USA) convening with Global Coordinator Evgeniia Kostianaia an Invited Speaker.  For ore information visit:  https://meetings.pices.int/meetings/annual/2022/pices/program#W4 

Finally, if you’re heading to an event and want to meet ECOPs in a specific region, The Global Stakeholder Forum is a fantastic resource.  Simply sign in and head to the Directory, zoom into (or search) the map for the region you are looking for ECOPs in, and see who comes up – whoever’s a registered ECOP will have the Early Career Ocean Professional Group on their profile, so you can connect via email.

ECOPs meeting #IRL at the UNOC in Lisbon, back in June

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