When attending a statistics conference

Some simple common sense tips to maximize your learning experience at a statistical conference. If you've attended a few conferences, these are likely tricks you've figured out on your own. If you're attending a conference for the first time, this may save you from having to learn this on your own.

Tips for maximizing your learning:
  • Take an hour or two to read through all the session titles before getting there. It's tedious, but it turns out to be hard to pick the sessions that are best for you on the fly.
  • If you have any favorite authors, many conferences have the option to search for their names on the online program. It can be easy to miss a person you want to hear because the session title doesn't strike a chord with you.
  • Highlight all the sessions that sound interesting to you. Look for scheduling conflicts. At a big conference, check to see if back to back sessions are in buildings 15 minutes apart. Including walking time can reveal hidden scheduling conflicts.
  • Where you have scheduling conflicts for sessions you are interested in, invited sessions are better than contributed sessions on average (though the distributions do overlap). Panels are hit or miss since they're improvised, but they can be really interesting and even exciting. A good panel is like having dinner conversation with a bunch of really smart, experienced statisticians.
  • While it's questionable etiquette to walk in and out of ongoing talks (depending on room size, if you can do so quietly, etc.), however it is almost always fine to go in and out between talks. Conferences vary on how well they stick to the scheduled times for the individual talks within a session.
  • Most people will find the majority of talks they attend to be a swing and a miss. There are lots of ways for a talk to strike out. The speaker could be doing a poor job (giving a good statistics talk is really hard). Or they could be doing a good job but are presenting only for those who have a lot of background knowledge already. Or you could be fried from having just listened to a dozen talks or from the big lunch you just had. Whatever the reason, when a talk isn't resonating with you, don't feel bad about tuning out. You want to save your energy for when you luck into one of the talks that's really working for you. And those talks that are a hit with you make it totally worth it. It's hard to guess which talks will be the hits, so getting in lots of swings is essential.
  • There will be too much information coming too fast to remember it all. Plus, the environment may be inspiring your own ideas right in the middle of other people's talks. It's helpful to have a notepad handy to capture ideas, references, speaker names, and anything you will want to follow-up on later. Without it, it'll be very hard to remember everything you want to remember after the talks are done.
Topic revision: r1 - 02 Aug 2013, RobertGreevy

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