Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Conference Survival Guide

SoCPar 2010, Paris
I enjoy attending conferences. I never attended a conference when I did not have something to present. This is usually because of the funding, as it is unlikely for me to get funded to a conference when I am not presenting my work. So far, WWW2011 is the only conference that I attended without having a paper to present. Conferences help me fine tune my research, make new friends and build a network. I still vividly recall my first conference, SoCPaR 2010. I was presenting our paper, and luckily for me, I had 3 of my best friends with me. I was not alone. We all were co-authors of the paper, a team effort during our BSc times. I recall presenting the paper confidently and discussing with other researchers. Prof. Ajith Abraham of MIRLABS, who was organizing the conference remarked that he remembered us, a 4-member team arriving in Paris all the way from Sri Lanka to present our paper. It was a nice experience to travel to Paris, my first overseas trip. It was a cold winter, full of snow. The conference was held in Université de Cergy-Pontoise. I met two researchers from the same university in latter conferences, bringing back memories from 2010. 

Be prepared for the delayed luggage
Interestingly, the second conference I presented my paper was again in Paris in 2014. This time, it was MASCOTS, and this was the first paper of my MSc, and also the first paper as the first author. The other conference as part of my MSc research was UCC'14 in London. I met my friend there after a long time, and we had some good chat!

I love visiting different countries and various cities. Attending conferences also offers this opportunity. Moreover, the conferences immediately give you some partners to travel with. You meet some random researchers and make friends with them - because of the shared research interest (or purely because you are from the same university, country, or have something in common other than the research interest). For the rest of the conference, you can explore the city with them.

I try my best to attend all the sessions at the conferences. However, sometimes it is inevitable that I miss one session. Especially the earliest one on the day following my presentation. This is because sometimes I feel tired after the long presentation and its preparations and oversleep the following day. I also enjoy the coffee breaks, lunch times, and the gala dinner. The ideal time to make friends. You are lucky if your presentation comes on the first day. You can relax and enjoy the remaining talks/sessions without having to check your presentation once in a while.

I have attended several conferences during my Ph.D. As a result, I have traveled to several cities: Tempe, AZ, USA (IC2E'15); Berlin, Germany (IC2E'16); San Francisco, CA, USA (AMIA'16 and ICWS'16); Rhodes, Greece (CoopIS'16); Valencia, Spain (SDS'17); Munich, Germany (VLDB'17); Barcelona, Spain (SDS'18); and Zurich, Switzerland (Networking'18). Sometimes, I have one or two additional days following a conference. I use these days to travel to a near-by country or a city. Conferences always leave me with good memories - no exceptions so far. They give me more knowledge, and also other experiences with travels. I thank all the conference organizers and volunteers who make sure that we all have good experience attending the conference.

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