I’ve been out a lot at conferences the past few months, and have a few observations on etiquette that I wanted to share. Or inflict. Or make into a Law that All Must Obey. Your pick 😉
No. 1. Do not put your phone on vibrate. Everyone can still hear it. No-one is fooled that maybe someone just really really needs lunch, or thinks there is a small localised earthquake under one of the tables. Turn it off or put it completely on silent.
No. 2. Keep to time. I’ve been at several conferences where the previous speaker runs over and consequently I have less time to speak or I need to babble through at rocket speed. Please show consideration to your next speakers and stick to the time limit. Also do respect the chair – if they hold up the sign saying “STOP NOW” then it’s rude to just carry on, or indeed to say “oh I just have one more slide.” I remember one researcher saying that and proceeding to read out the entire next slide – a 3 stanza Rumi poem.
No. 3. Look at the posters. Now, I hate doing posters, but precisely because no-one looks at them. You end up having a very detailed conversation with… the person on the next poster board. These people have battled PowerPoint. They have lugged an AO piece of plastic over 100 miles and it got a seat on the train when they didn’t. Do at least browse them and chat to the presenter if they’re lurking at the side looking bored.
No. 4. Do not open packets of sweets during the plenary session. I refuse to explain this one. If you proceed to play loudly with the empty packet, then may your name tag be misspelled, your conference dinner ticket misplaced and your boss’s worst enemy be in the audience with a spoon.
No. 5. If your ‘question’ is longer than a presentation itself, it is not a question. If it’s longer than a plenary session itself, then Just No.
And finally, no post about academic conferences would be complete of course without this Guide to Asking Questions at a Conference, which reminds me of advice I received from a lecturer once – “You should never miss an opportunity to shut up.”