Tips for Applying to Your First Academic Conference

Punita RiceAcademia

Tips for applying for your first academic conference

Applying for, preparing for, and even attending an academic conference can be tricky. There can be a cloud of mystery surrounding how it all works. This is my attempt to demystify the process a bit; these are tips for applying to your first academic conference.

I’ll be presenting a poster session at an academic conference next week. In case you’re about to present at your first academic conference, I hope this post might help reduce some of the fog that shrouds these kinds of events.

Tips for applying to present at your first academic conference

Maybe you’re working on a research project or you just finished one, or maybe you just finished a graduate program — in any case, you’ve found an academic conference you want to attend and share findings at. Yay! But the process of applying to present and share your research can be weird. To help reduce the weirdness just a bit, I’d like to offer a few tips that might be helpful as you apply and submit your application to present at your first academic conference.

(By the way – these tips are built on the premise that you want to share your findings, and not that you’re applying to attend or volunteer help at a conference.)

Tip #1: Read the call for submissions carefully.

I’m assuming here that you want to share findings or your work in some capacity at this event. So in this case, I’d recommend reading the call for submissions very carefully. In my case, our call for submissions had specific guidelines for what they wanted in their submissions (word count, formatting). They asked for an abstract, but I couldn’t have just copy-pasted an existing version of my research study’s abstract, because they had particular questions they wanted addressed in it. So the first tip would be to make sure you read the guidelines in the call for submissions carefully.

Tip #2: Have someone read over your proposal.

Before you submit, consider having a second person look over your proposal. If your writing is atrocious, consider having a third and fourth person look it over too.

Tip #3: Submit your proposal or application.

Once you’re sure you’ve created a proposal that aligns with what they want and how they want it, go ahead and submit your application and/or proposal. For me, the process of applying was pretty straightforward; I put together a 500 word abstract that outlined some of the key findings of my work and submitted it to a peer-reviewed panel.

Tip #4: Be prepared to wait.

Depending on the projected timeline for submissions and acceptance, you could be waiting a long time. I was lucky because the turnaround time for the event I just attended was really short — the call for submissions just went out  a few months ago, and I waited less than two weeks to receive a response. But this isn’t even close to typical. I’ve already been waiting a month to hear back from another conference I applied to (which isn’t even being held until next year), and I’ve been waiting over six months to hear back about a journal submission. Six months = a long time, and is on the slightly longer end of what’s typical, but it’s not uncommon. In an ideal world though, your patience will be rewarded and you’ll get notice that you were accepted to the event. Break out the rosé.

Next, read about what to do once you’ve been accepted, or go back and read how to apply.