Monday, September 14, 2009

On being "only" a conference delegate

This past weekend, I did something I haven't done for a while - I went to a conference just to learn and to enjoy myself. Normally, given the expectation to share and publish my research findings, I attend academic conferences in my discipline to present my work and to teach. I find academic conferences to be great networking and learning opportunities, to be sure. However, as a professor, I have found it a rare opportunity to attend a conference simply as "a delegate" without having to present or give a keynote speech, or to attend SIG meetings, or Board meetings, or strategic wine and cheeses. ;-)

When I am at a conference to present, my focus and planning is on sharing the results of my research and meeting up with colleagues from across the country (after all, with limited and shrinking travel and grant budgets, it is hard to make a case for just attending a conference for fun). So, when I left my office on Friday, it felt curiously liberating to not have to carry my laptop stuffed with powerpoint slides and a folder full of copied papers to the van.

When I picked up my conference program at Banff 2009 Mensa in the Mountains , all I had to do was select the first talk I would attend rather than hunt down my rooms & meeting spaces, make sure the data projector was set up and count how many chairs I was expected to fill (and worry whether I would have enough copies of my paper). Instead, I enjoyed diverse presentations by researchers, journalists and mountain climbers in the majestic Banff Springs Hotel while my husband and children tried to find the king and queen who must live in this castle. I met people from Europe, the United States and from across Canada. I enjoyed being a conference delegate - only a delegate - it was refreshing! I encountered new ideas, and new perspectives, and engaged in interesting conversations, in a rested and open frame of mind. I look forward to blogging about specific talks in subsequent posts.

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