Early summer is scientific symposium time. We climb onto airplanes with our Powerpoint files and rolled-up posters, travel all over, and compare notes on our research progress.
I love these meetings for the geeky excitement, and look forward to connecting with old friends. However, none of us look forward to the vendor exhibits that are always located between the entrance and the presentation, the late nights and early mornings, the inevitable travel messes. This year, I planned to have a less hectic travel experience. Here is what I tried.
- Make plans in advance. Get flights, hotel and meeting registration done early. This saves money on flights and early registration. Results: I planned for this month’s trips two months in advance, and still had to stay in a remote hotel. This worked out pretty well, since I am used to walking every morning and evening with my dog. Next year, I might do this on purpose. I had to limit what was in my bag to the bare minimum, since I had to carry it around with my all day.
- I had great seats on the flights, but this last trip, the airline had to replace the plane (twice!). I guess there are no guarantees, but I did learn one thing. If you are delayed significantly, and the airline is at fault, you can ask for compensation. In my case, the airline was not able to find me another flight, and we passengers were sent running around the airport, eventually leaving after the third plane was fixed. When I called and asked, the airline offered me a choice of cash or frequent flier miles. You can find information about this here.
- Get a direct flight, if possible. Results: I might still be in transit if I had a connection to make.
- When you get to the meeting, you do not have to participate in every event. You can get a coffee with a friend or go for a walk. Results: Spending some time outdoors saved a lot of stress at more than one event this month.
- You do not have to accept the free items that the commercial exhibits give away, unless the item is something you would have bought. Results: I did pick up a dog toy…
- It’s OK to get enough sleep, eat healthy food, avoid the morning pastries. Results: I was about 50% successful at all of these. The big breakthrough was finding a fruit stand during my morning walk.
- The hardest part for me is to avoid actively managing my lab during the day while keeping up with the conference. Results: I discovered that either I normally spend a lot of time troubleshooting, or my lab has extraordinary numbers of problems while I am away.
Aside from seeing exciting advances, I love one other thing about scientific meetings. While I am listening to the talks, I know I am only required to do one thing: Learn. This is the best part.
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