Post-Conference Thoughts

Last week I attended a national conference and had a great conference experience. This post will speak to things that we junior to mid-career faculty can do better. And, I’ll also have some advice for the advanced graduate students.

1. Walk around ready to engage in small talk with people you don’t know or want to meet. Try to avoid only chatting with your friends and colleagues. While picking up with them is important, you also can serve as a bridge to someone new at that meeting or new to the discipline.

2. Smile and say hello. It sounds simple, but it doesn’t come naturally for everyone. Ask people about their project. Try to be friendly. When Rita Mae Kelly died some years ago, I was quite upset. I didn’t know her well, but I recalled on numerous occasions she approached me and chatted with me for 5-15 minutes asking me about my grad school experience. She went out of her way to make me feel comfortable at the Political Science Meetings. When a session was held for her, I was in the audience crying. I looked forward to her chats. We never exchanged an email, but I was familiar with her work and I have all those memories of our chats that can’t count up to more than 5.

3. Go to the receptions and some of the dinners. It’s good be seen, but also it’s another opportunity for you to meet new people or strengthen old networks. When I walked into the banquet room with 270+ people I made the immediate decision to not look for friends. Instead I walked up to a half filled table and sat down there. As luck would have it, sitting across from me was someone I “met” via Twitter! I ended up having interesting conversations with a retired colleague and an advanced grad student from a UK program.

4. I was glad that I was active on the Twitter tag for the conference. The first morning I had breakfast with an undergrad from another province. We chatted and walked back to the conference site. I was also able to meet some others in real life, who I had previously known on Twitter. Social Media can be useful for the conference. I took notes at the Women’s’ Caucus Luncheon’s Mentoring Session and posted them immediately on Tumbler.

5. I attended lots of wonderful sessions and made a point to speak to one of the presenters. And, I also thanked the chair or discussant for their helpful comments. I paid attention. The panelists in some cases were senior people across the discipline, and in other instances are future colleagues. One of these conversations once led to a publication opportunity.

6. Take business cards. You might meet new people who want to contact you or vice versa. It’s good to have the cards at the ready. I find that I am apt to pass them out more so to advanced graduate students and let them know that I’m just an email or tweet away!

Overall, the conference was a success and from my comments you can glean: be out there!

Before You Send an Email to Your Professor

I haven’t taken a Netiquette 101 course recently, so I think it’s time to give some tips about sending emails to your instructors.

1. Always assume that you should be more formal.

2. Address the person in the email with a hello or even a “dear.” Avoid, “hey. And, use your full name, as your instructor might have many students who share your first name.

Sample~

Dear Instructor: I am emailing to find out information about your Fall class. Do you suggest any prerequisites for the class? I’d also like to talk with you about a paper topic that I have. Do you have any time to meet this Summer?

Thank you,

Student X

Avoid:

Hey, I’m going to enroll in you class. Should I be worried about your feminist bias?

Smitty

3. Never send an email that is incoherent. This is email and not a text to your best-friend. Type out all words, use punctuation, and proper spelling.

4. Never send an email when you are mad. This goes for all emails. Send yourself the email and then wait a few hours or overnight, and then send the email that you won’t later regret.

5. Be honest. Understand that your instructor might say that this conversation needs to take place face to face. Some conversations really need that human interaction.

6. Do not be offended if the instructor corrects your use of their first name or some policy. Most of us will be kind and say–we have a 24 hour policy with emails after work is handed back and it’s in the syllabus or I expect students to call me Prof. Schmitdkins.

7. Read the syllabus before sending the email. Perhaps the syll answers your question or notes that you should take the time to write a coherent email noting who you are and why you are emailing.

Overall, treat email with the same integrity that you would treat an office hour visit. And, yes, I do get lots of emails that start off with “hey” and have been asked about my feminist bias…