So this week I went to my first Symposium, i.e. all day conference, in London at UCL. It was called Challenger Unbound. Symposiums/conferences are something we PhD students have to attend in order to network and, of course, learn about topics relevant to our research. On Monday, 15 speakers from all over the country, the US and Hong Kong, came to speak on Professor Challenger (the main character from The Lost World, Poison Belt, The Land of Mist, etc.)
It was a really interesting day, though very intense, starting at 9am and ending well after 7pm. I got to speak to lots of people who have already spent years researching Doyle, Challenger and Holmes; they gave me lots of ideas to be getting on with and I have a possible new direction for my thesis, which is exciting!
However, as a first-timer, there are things you need to learn. And these were my top 10:
1. Arriving on time is good. Arriving early is awkward
Playing on your phone is an acceptable alternative. At some point, someone will walk past you and go in – follow them.
2. When you’re given your information pack, be enthusiastic
It will tell you where the toilets are and when you will get coffee. This is VERY important, so be happy about it!
3. If someone makes eye contact, talk to them
Especially when you’ve turned up to an event alone. People are nice, and probably alone too. Make friends!
4. If you haven’t read the book, pretend you have
Pretense is everything. Just don’t get caught out.
5. When speaking to a lecturer afterwards, compliment their paper
They’ve spent a long time on this paper and they want to know you listened. It’s an easy request.
6. If you have a food allergy/intolerance, tell the organiser or go hungry
If, like me, you have an intolerance and forget to tell anyone (or don’t realise lunch is provided), it’s awkward. Bring your own food if necessary, otherwise by the end, everything looks edible. Even your notepad.
7. If the coffee is free – drink it
BUT don’t overdo it
Caffeine shakes make note writing harder.
8. If you disagree, be polite
(Ok, more polite than that) but sometimes people have weird ideas and you just have to remember debates all are part of the fun. One day, you might just be the weirdo.
9. You all love books; show your inner geek
No one will love books as much as you, but most people in the room have read more than you. Accept this and enjoy the geekiness.
10. Just because it’s a long day, does NOT make it ok to fall asleep
Sometimes the room is really warm and the speaker has such a soothing voice and they’re explaining concepts you don’t understand….naps happen. So either learn to sleep with your eyes open or refer to point 7.
These are the social concepts of conferences I learnt from Challenger Unbound. A day well spent when you think I’ve learnt all this AND have learnt a lot of new and complicated ideas about Professor Challenger, colonialism, spiritualism, ACD and even Holmes. I even got to watch the 1925 The Lost World silent film! But more on that another day.