Not my people

Mar 09 2011 Published by under [Education&Careers]

One of the funny things about this business is how different groups have such different cultures. No place does that come out more than at some of the smaller, more specific, conferences that bring together a community that knows each other. If you've ever been a regular at one of these meetings, you'll know what I mean.

I'm taking off this week to join one of these meetings, but one in a community I'm just getting into. These are not my people. I'm the outsider, busting into a group that has been citing each other and collaborating for years - bringing my approach to their system and trying to shake things up a little.

As much as I enjoy the small meetings that I try and get to because of the familiarity and discussions that always break out, I also look forward to these opportunities to be the new guy. Some of the most amazingly productive meetings I have ever been to have been those where I had never met any of the other participants before getting there. Sometimes a little fresh blood in some of these meetings makes a huge difference, and sometimes being that fresh blood leads to a hole host of benefits, including collaborations you never see coming.

Looking forward to it.

13 responses so far

  • anonymous says:

    whole not hole

  • Namnezia says:

    Have fun! This happened to me last summer when I got invited to talk at a meeting in a disease-related field that I had never attended. It was a lot of fun and people told me they enjoyed hearing a talk different from the usual stuff. Plus I set up a new potential collaboration.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Grammar and spelling never takes a day off. Thanks for keep the streets safe.

  • People in smallish fields don't realize how stultified they are listening to and reading the same shitte all the time until they are exposed to something genuinely different. Note that this principal applies to study sections as well. The key is to tickle their own interests at the same time as you alter the discourse.

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    I was an invited speaker at a meeting (in my field, I thought) where only two attendees knew who I was; the organizer who invited me and a fellow member of a hobby organization. It was very strange indeed!

  • It's always fun being the fresh blood ... as long as you're not being spilled all over the ground.

  • Sounds like an interesting position to be in. Any advice as to how to mingle in such an environment?

  • proflikesubstance says:

    I don't really see it as different from any other conference for me. I generally make a point to meet new people at any meeting I am at, so I'm not he type who has an issue walking up to a group and starting a conversation. I do think it is critical to learn to do this, however, if it doesn't come naturally. You never know when a collaboration might get started or whether you are talking to someone who will be reviewing a paper or grant in the future.

  • jc says:

    If it's a symposium of invited speakers or a gathering geared toward making new connections across disciplines, then make sure there's a dinner where everyone can interact after the first meeting/day, and make sure that the regulars don't sit together in a pack. Make everyone mingle with someone new while they munch away.

  • Thanks for the input. That is certainly one thing I know I need to work on as I find the idea of walking up to a group of people I don't know quite daunting. I'm hoping to have an opportunity to practice this skill though at an upcoming conference where I won't know many folks as it will be my first time attending a European conference. Any basic advice would be welcome (i.e, like a good opening line that doesn't leave me looking like a doofus!).

  • proflikesubstance says:

    A good option is introducing yourself, what you do and where you come from, then expressing interest in the same for others. It's not a bar, don't lead with some "line".

  • jc says:

    Go to the poster session. You are expected to walk up to people and talk about the research!

  • [...] PLS is apparently a-conferencing and recently gives out advice for meeting new people and thus sparking potential collaborations (always a difficult thing for me to do, especially sans liquid courage). He suggests the following: A good option is introducing yourself, what you do and where you come from, then expressing interest in the same for others. It’s not a bar, don’t lead with some “line”. [...]

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