Six Tips to Help You Get the Most Out of the 2014 Advancing Ethical Research Conference

by Meghan Timmel, Communications Coordinator

I recently heard PRIM&R’s annual Advancing Ethical Research (AER) Conference described by a member as the “three days a year where I don’t have to explain what I do for a living.” This sentiment is echoed by many in attendance at our annual conference, which provides all those involved with research ethics and human subject protections a chance to meet, reconnect, and work with others who share their daily experiences, struggles, and questions. It’s helpful. It’s re-energizing. And—perhaps most important—it’s reaffirming.

The conference can be an especially valuable experience for first-time attendees, whether new to the field, to PRIM&R, or just to AER. To help out first-time attendees and others who might find professional conferences a bit intimidating, I’d like to share a few tips to help ensure that your experience at this year’s conference—AER14—is a success:

Plan Ahead. Consider: What do I want to bring back to my office from AER14? You might have more than one goal, but let those goals—from making more contacts to getting face-to-face time with the feds—drive your conference planning. Then, review the conference schedule ahead of time and prioritize those sessions and events that you most want to attend.

Don’t be shy! Ask questions in your sessions. Approach others at networking events. Conference faculty members can offer valuable insight, and AER is full of people who—like you—want to connect with and learn from others in the field. If you’re an introvert, and this fills you with panic, you’re not alone. Take a look at one strategy that can help get you more comfortable with networking successfully. And, with this in mind…

Practice your elevator speech. You will introduce yourself to new people over and over and over again at AER14. Preparing a brief, polished, “Who am I?” statement will make this process so much easier. Not sure where to start? Here are some helpful tips.

Create a clear plan for tackling the exhibit hall. AER14’s Conference Connection will be home to meals, breaks, poster presentations, and exhibitors and supporters. With so much going on in one place, navigating The Conference Connection can be an overwhelming experience, but there’s a great deal of value to be gained by connecting with our exhibitors and supporters and exploring the poster presentations. Avoid any stress by reading the exhibitor and poster presentation lists beforehand and making a list of the companies you want to speak with and the posters you want to see. And don’t forget your map! We will be posting maps online in advance of the meeting, and you will also find them in the conference guide you receive onsite.

Pack wisely. As important as your conference schedule and networking strategy are, the little things can make a huge difference in your conference experience. In particular, don’t forget comfortable shoes and business cards as you pack for AER14.

Follow up! When you exchange business cards, make a few notes about your new contact on the back of their card. Those notes will come in handy when you follow up with all the new contacts you have made after the conference. Connect with the individuals and companies you met, whether via email, phone, or even LinkedIn. Strengthening those connections will help make your next AER Conference even better.

Do you have other tips for AER14 attendees? Questions about the conference? Let us know in the comments!

Still haven’t signed up for AER14? Register today. The regular registration rate ends on November 20