37. 5 reasons to consider attending a conference as a masters student

In this post, committee members who attended conferences whilst completing their masters degree reflect on their experiences…

  1. Networking – days at conferences aren’t just full of talks, they’re also timetabled to include a lot of time to network and meet interesting people who work in a similar area to you. There’s no better way to feel part of a research community than discussing your work with other students who are all in the same boat, or get some top tips from academics conducting similar research to your own. Networking opportunities often extend into the evenings of multi-day conferences too, with research groups and committees organising meals or drinks to offer people a chance to get to know one another in a more informal setting.
  2. Confidence – presenting at a conference is the perfect opportunity to build your confidence. Giving presentations at postgraduate level can be a bit of a step up from your experiences during your undergraduate degree but giving a presentation is a sure fire way to help develop essential presenting skills and confidence for the future! The support you receive from peers and academic staff throughout the writing process and during the presentation itself is also a real boost as it confirms you’re heading in the right direction!
  3. A CV boost – giving a talk at a conference shows your dedication to your studies outside of the mandatory elements of your degree. Putting the hours into prepping a presentation of your work and then committing to attending a conference will show you’re keen to contribute to your chosen research area. Showing a willingness to get involved at this level is particularly important if you’re applying for PhDs – having a conference presentation on your CV will help you stand out in a competitive process!
  4. New ideas / familiarity with your subject – attending a variety of talks can give you access to a lot of new ideas or ways of thinking that you can then apply to your own work. It’s worth dropping into a few sessions that sit outside of your main research area, as they’re often thought provoking and very interesting! Equally, attending presentations which are based on a similar topic to what you’re working on is also incredibly valuable, as it gives you a chance to gain familiarity with your topic, and ask questions of people who are working on similar things to get a deeper insight into the work they’re carrying out.
  5. Deciding what to do next – if you’re not sure the PhD/academic life is for you, then attending a conference can give you an insight into what to expect if you do continue onto a PhD, where getting involved in conferences is actively encouraged! If you struggle to engage with the material being presented, you should probably think about whether or not you’d be ready to engage with it at this level for 3 more years! But, if you enjoy your first conferences as a masters student and find presenting your work is something you get a lot out of, then pursuing a PhD could be the right choice for you!

Of course, there are a few things to consider when deciding to attend a conference, not least the costs! However, that’s where RGS research groups and the PGF can give a helping hand. Many working groups offer specific postgraduate bursaries to attend certain events, with some being specific for masters students. It’s always worth checking conference and research group websites to see if there is funding available. Another way to attend conferences free of charge or for a reduced fee is to work on their organising committee. Whilst this can often involve an extra bit of work in the lead up to the conference itself, it’s a valuable experience in itself and means you won’t have to worry as much about the cost of the event!

If you’re thinking of attending your first conference, why not make it the RGS-PGF Midterm at Manchester Metropolitan University, Wednesday 24th to Friday 26th of April 2019. This conference is a great opportunity for all postgraduate students in any discipline of geography, human, physical or environmental, to present their work in a friendly and supportive environment. It is an excellent place to get feedback on your work, network, and practice your presentation skills! To find out more visit the dedicated pages on this website, and for further tips from previous PGF students, check out the top ten tips page for ‘Postgrads attending conferences’!