It’s barely two months into my PhD research and I have been to an international conference in France to present a poster on my research. This was the First Global Soil Biodiversity Conference held at the Palais des Congrès in Dijon, for four days between the 2nd and 5th of December. I find conferences really scary, which is part of my motivation to attend as many as possible during my research to increase my confidence in presenting my research and networking. The week before I attended a very helpful course on networking organised by the Imperial College Graduate School so was armed with techniques to get the most out of the conference and to reduce my anxiety.
I arrived in Dijon via Paris, one of my supervisors, Dr Paul Eggleton was also attending and chairing a session so together we managed to navigate the Metro and arrive in Dijon. My first impressions of Dijon were that it was not so different to the UK, only, well, French. There were bicycles to hire just like London’s ‘Boris Bikes’ and a Ferris wheel in the Place de la République that reminded me of the London Eye and made me feel quite at home.
After finding and checking into my hotel I arrived at the conference venue ready to put up my poster for the poster session later that evening. Creating a research poster is not easy, I find it tempting to put too much information on it while the aim is to convey the most important points with as few words as possible, but lots of illustrations. They are also in some ways more stressful than a talk, as the poster session lasts 90 minutes and gives delegates more opportunity to ask questions about your research (they also have the disadvantage of not being able to be finished in a hurry on the train journey there!).
Part of my PhD research involves collating data from other researchers, so as well as presenting results from my Masters course in 2012/13 my poster presented the aims of my PhD project and a gave a ‘call for data’ to make connections with researchers who may able to provide data, and generally give some visibility to my project.
Despite my nerves and travel-weariness I did not do too badly presenting my poster and spoke to some researchers who may have data suitable for my project or who may have study sites to sample. It was a shame that the posters were taken down at the end of the session – usually they are left up for the duration of a conference which gives more opportunity for delegates to the see them, but the number of posters at this particular conference meant they needed to be moved ready for a new session the next day. Using the Internet however I increased exposure by publishing my poster on ResearchGate (a website researchers use to share their work) and tweeting during the rest of the conference, using hashtag #GSB14 (well worth a look if you want to know more about the conference).