International conferences can be, to quote Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, like both “the best of times” and “the worst of times”. You’re performing on the world’s stage, your audience will be often from all over the globe and it is an excellent time to make your mark.
Yet, the pressure is never greater, you will be surrounded by potential future colleagues and you want to make a good impression. However, remember it is not an exam, your performance at the conference won’t define your career but it can set it off to a good start.
First, pitching an abstract to the conference in question requires you to identify what they are looking for. If it is an international conference, there will most likely be a central theme. Paying attention to this is crucial as many papers are often rejected, not because they are poorly written, but because they are not relevant to the conference. Also, make sure you stick to the word limit, this is a necessity as well as a courtesy.
Secondly, you will want focus on any deadlines and dates for feedback. Organising conferences on a national, let alone an international level, is a mammoth undertaking so it is worth being patient. Once you hear back and your paper is, hopefully, accepted it is time to prepare your paper. Keep an eye on communications from the conference as things can change quickly.
The conference paper might feel like a task but it is really an opportunity. You’re getting the chance to show a global audience your expertise in your subject. Having several secure versions of the paper is a must. Now this applies to any conference but with an international conference you have to be prepared.
It is also worth learning some of the common expressions of the language of the country you’re travelling to. Knowing basic conversational language will mean that, should you have a memory stick meltdown or another academic problem to do with resources, you can navigate around this.
Once you’re at the conference itself it is a prime time for networking. You will have scholars from a diverse set of backgrounds present which means you might be able to get advice on any projects you’re working on.
During the delivery of your conference paper try to be calm and relaxed. It is a cliché but people have come to your presentation because they are interested in what you have to say so stay calm. One of the key aspects of the Research Excellence Framework within higher education is international impact.
After the conference there will be an opportunity for questions. This is particularly useful as your audience might have thought about aspects of research you had not considered. This is very good in terms of becoming a reflexive learner.
As part of my discipline of the history of education I have had the opportunity to attend the International Standing Conference for the History of Education of 2019 at the University of Porto in Portugal to deliver my conference paper. This will be important both in terms of my content but also the feedback as others can give advice on how to improve my research.