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Making the most of attending an online conference

This is a republished post from the University of Nottingham’s internal blog from October 2021. It is shared with the PLOS ECR audience as a part of the ongoing theme of how COVID-19 has affected grad students and ECR around the world.

It was my pleasure to attend the 41st Assembly of European Advanced Materials Congress (EMAC2021), which is one of the biggest conferences that I have ever joined (due to its hybrid participation setup including the onsite/physical, online/live, and on-demand platforms in Stockholm, Sweden).

This event was very essential for me as a young researcher to update myself on path-breaking ideas and to build up prospective connections with both academies and business giants. Moreover, the sub-themes of “Thin Films, Materials Surface & Interfaces” and “Electronic, Magnetic Materials and Nanotechnology” attracted my first glance because they were related to my current research area – the interface analysis of multi-materials additive manufacturing. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic restricted on-site conference participation by academies and companies, the organisers had wisely offered the option of attending as “virtual delegates”. It is an essential condition of my staying in the United Kingdom to participate in global networking, so I was pleased to be able to exchange knowledge and skills with various experts in the International Association of Advanced Materials (IAAM); a prestigious international scientific research organization working in the sphere of material sciences and technologies.

I was also very happy to present part of my PhD research and discuss the potential collaboration with the worldwide research communities and industrial companies in EMAC2021.

For those of you thinking of attending an online conference I would like to share some small tips for both application and participation that you can try to make the most from your conference as below.

Application

  • Target the potential conferences you would like to attend from both internal and external sources.
  • Prepare the abstract and don’t forget to let your supervisors know your willingness because they are reliable consultants.
  • Notice the grants that can help to cover the registration fee, particularly the requirements & deadlines.

For example, I knew there were three different conferences in August 2021 after checking the upcoming events on the website of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

My supervisors advised me to consider the main speakers and the relevant themes that I was interested in before applying for my favourite conference. They also agreed that the Programme Grant “Enabling Next Generation of Additive Manufacturing” (NextGenAM)could help to cover my registration fee for EMAC2021 along with the Researcher Academy Online Conference Fund (RA-OCF)

You should prepare and update your academic record on the Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID). Please don’t worry too much if you still wait for the abstract acceptance when applying for the relevant fund as it was the same when I applied for the RA-OCF in February 2021.

Participation

Pre-conference

  • Recheck the conference information such as detailed schedule or registration fee.
  • Notice specific time slots of your wanted talks and/or posters, and please bear in mind the different time zone.

For my case, the fee of EMAC 2021 was adjusted to increase the number of online and offline attendees, and I needed to remember to change Sweden time to UK time so I might not miss my favourite sessions! I also received several reminders by email a few times before the actual date.

In conference

  • Maximise your involvement in different ways such as writing down some interesting points from the speakers or asking for any opportunities for future collaborative works.
  • Be natural and believe in yourself when presenting your talk or poster.
  • Learn the structures of the concepts and the styles of communications from other presenters.

For example, I persuaded myself to ask at least one question per day either by unmuting or typing. I also learned the excellent key-speakers usually expressed their appreciation for the organisers or shared some fun facts about their work or home.

Post-conference

  • Go deeper for any information you would like to know!
  • Keep in touch for any practical advice and/or future co-operation.

In my opinion, both speakers and participants were impressively supported during EMAC2021, and I sent a thank-you note and asked for their upcoming similar conferences. After that, I received the invitation for further discussion about the activities of the IAAM Youth Council.

As can be seen, the EMAC2021 offered coordination of contemporary research fields and helped to pave the way for multi-inter-trans-disciplinary translational research and innovations for the market.

Without the support from my supervisors, facilitators, and other financial sponsors (Researcher Academy Online Conference Fund and NextGenAM Grant), I could not have attended the high-quality presentations of eminent speakers or discussed my current research work with different professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, it’s your turn to make the most of attending a conference (whether it is online, offline, or hybrid), and I look forward to hearing about your unique experiences – so please feel free to share them with me and other peers!

Photo: “Last-minute” screenshot of the Online LIVE Closing EMAC2021. My oral presentation “Interface characterisation for the next generation of multi-materials additive manufacturing”, and this first oral presentation (when starting my PhD project) was awarded one of the Best Oral Presentations – Online LIVE platform.

Featured image: Photo by author

About the Author
  • Tien Thuy Quach

    Tien Quach from Vietnam had a pharmacy background from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy at Ho Chi Minh City before working as a Technical Assistant at Asia Shine Company and a Lecturer at the Faculty of Pharmacy, Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology. After receiving Distinction degree in MSc Advanced Pharmaceutical Manufacturing at the University of Strathclyde in 2019, she continues her passion in scientific research by doing her PhD project at the School of Pharmacy and Centre for Additive Manufacturing, University of Nottingham. She is willing to motivate the young generation and support the community, and she loves doing research, mentoring, volunteering, and experiencing new things. She would like to participate in different healthcare projects and collaborate with several professionals. Please feel free to contact her if you want to share any relevant works or volunteer opportunities! Twitter: @QuachThuyTien2

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