Hating this conference so much

(17 Posts)
wonkywheels Sat 06-Jul-19 09:46:57

Hi all. I am at a massive conference and it’s really making me question once again whether i belong in this world. The stream i’m in is so cliquey, the convenors are all the big bods in this niche area, really the gatekeepers in a way. I find them so unfriendly, they seem to move around the conference as a group, it feels so exclusive. I gave a paper and my sense is they thought it was shit, but no real idea really as they have been enigmatic! When i arrive each day i smile and say hello but they hardly even acknowledge me. I’m not high profile or successful and i’ve had a couple of brutal journal paper rejections lately. Essentially it feels awful to be here. I am quite embarrassed to sound so negative but does anybody else feel like this at conferences? Is it a sign!?!

OP’s posts: |
GCAcademic Sat 06-Jul-19 16:18:15

I don't go to big conferences, and your post sums up exactly why. I only go to fairly tightly-focused symposia and workshops.

GCAcademic Sat 06-Jul-19 16:19:23

Sorry, posted too soon. I mean to ask whether avoiding this kind of large-scale event is possible for you in the future?

BackforGood Sat 06-Jul-19 16:41:25

Have you gone there alone ? Are you not with other people from your group ?
What you perceive as 'a clique' is probably people who have been working alongside each other for many years, needing to collaborate, and , yes, maybe even enjoying catching up with people they only get to see at a conference. I would expect the Groups Leaders to be sportively introducing their teams / colleagues / post-docs etc to others though.

MedSchoolRat Sat 06-Jul-19 19:01:43

What did you hope to gain?
Was it networking or intellectual stimulation or ticking a box?
Is there something funner you could imagine doing, work wise?

Do you have imposter syndrome & want them to validate your presence?

I am half-out of academia right now & honestly, public sector gatherings just have long boring not very friendly moments. It's what happens. Work can be dull, but don't stick with this work if you think there's something clearly better to be doing.

Alaimo Mon 08-Jul-19 08:09:56

Not to excuse the poor behaviour of senior academics, but how essential is it that you engage with the big bods? I have been in great conference sessions with other early and mid career researchers, some of whom I now collaborate with fairly regularly. I have found many of these interactions really stimulating and supportive, both academically/intellectually and on a personal level. Strategically, I should maybe be networking with senior academics (although the EC/MC academics of today will of course be the big bods of tomorrow), but I find that focusing my energy on engaging with like-minded and, above all, nice people, makes attending conferences a lot more enjoyable.

wonkywheels Mon 08-Jul-19 10:38:58

Hi all, so I have to apologise for my rather whiney and needy message! Some you have given me some robust advice here and I do recognise I need to woman-up a bit and just get on with conferences. I think in future I do need to stick to smaller gatherings and also just suck-up the large ones a little bit on the occasions that I do go. I think I just feel a really crippling sense of imposter syndrome which I feel is nevertheless justified. I probably really need to work out how to deal with that whether it's staying in the sector or moving on. Thanks for responding everybody.

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SarahAndQuack Mon 08-Jul-19 12:02:40

Just wanted to say - this is exactly how I felt at my first couple of conferences and certainly at big ones. I bloody hated them. Now I've found my niche, worked out which conferences suit me, and I love them. Conferences are bloody horrible if you're on your own and fairly junior. You need conference buddies.

wonkywheels Mon 08-Jul-19 14:23:32

Yes, conference buddies would help a lot! Thing is I am not junior in terms of age or time in the sector but I am junior in terms of publications out there and other markers of esteem. That increases my sense of shame as I feel by my stage I SHOULD have conference buddies and the fact that I don't is doubly embarrassing. If I was genuinely new to it all then that would be better in some ways. I did actually know quite a few people at this conference but nobody well enough to admit that I had nobody to go to dinner with for example and could I join them. (I think it reminded me of being lonely in the playground at school and trying to disguise the fact that nobody wanted to play with me!) Anyway, thank you again for all those who replied, I am going to try to be a bit more resilient in future and less of a weed about it all.

OP’s posts: |
SarahAndQuack Mon 08-Jul-19 14:44:25

Oh, I avoid conference dinners! I struggle to filter noise, and it's always too loud.

I think you're making life harder than necessary if you do all of these things. Great if you like them, but if not, it doesn't matter!

DorothyCross Mon 08-Jul-19 14:56:14

I skip the dinners unless I'm organising the conference. Honestly, OP, I think you need to think in advance about what you want from them. I gave a paper at one that was rather out of my field recently, hence I knew almost no one, but I had a very targeted sense of exactly what I wanted from it -- commission someone to do a book in a series I edit, chase a recalcitrant contributor to a journal special issue, and (the real reason I was there) get some specific feedback on a paper based on a new project. Once I got all those done, I relaxed about it all.

wonkywheels Mon 08-Jul-19 15:25:22

@dorothycross I agree, I do think I need to have a better sense of my objectives, rather than just showing up because I feel I should. That is a useful way of thinking about it. On reflection, I did have objectives and I guess I did achieve those objectives - I was in a stream in an area I have not published in but would very much like to. I wanted to understand what was going on in that field and it did help me to do so. I also wanted feedback on my paper but I find that in big conferences like this, it's very rare to get any meaningful comments. One very big name did make a concrete suggestion that was potentially helpful. Another person who I admire enormously professionally made a comment but she is objectively terrifying so while I could/should have asked her afterwards to expand on that comment, in the end I bottled it. On the whole the comments on my paper were rather neutral while other papers were raved about which felt a bit depressing. But ... some feedback is better than none.

OP’s posts: |
DorothyCross Mon 08-Jul-19 15:29:41

Email Professor Terrifying and ask her to expand? Honestly, if you did pretty much what you needed to do, I'd count that as a win.

wonkywheels Mon 08-Jul-19 16:01:08

Yes, I should do that @DorothyCross - what's the worst that could happen?!

OP’s posts: |
Lindtnotlint Mon 08-Jul-19 16:06:04

She might...O God.... REPLY!!!!!!


Being at any kind of conference or professional “do” when you aren’t in the clique is pretty shit. I survive by drinking too much too fast which probably doesn’t work at this kind of thing.

wonkywheels Mon 08-Jul-19 16:16:27

Oh god @lindtnotlint that used to be a viable strategy but wicked hangovers in my dotage have put an end to such days.

If she replies ... my inbox might explode. grin

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Nearlyalmost50 Tue 09-Jul-19 10:41:56

I have often felt a bit out of place at large conferences, and find it hard to approach senior people, although having been kicking around a while, this is less the case now I'm an older bod too (sympathise about feeling older whilst having a younger profile, I also came late into academia and have felt this, but I don't think it matters if your work is solid).

These days I hardly ever get uninterrupted time to write or to be by myself, so if i get the chance to go to a conference, I might attend one drinks/dinner, but the rest of the time I eat out by myself, take my laptop, sit in my room and buy nice food, take time to have a coffee, and if i get chatting to someone, great, but if i don't I see this as valuable time to think which is so rare when teaching so much. This takes a lot of the pressure off the need to socialize or impress. I've also never actually made a collaborator from a conference, i tend to approach people directly by email, or ask for a one- to one meeting another time and see what transpires. Take what you can from it and it sounds like you are also wondering if this is for you- but don't let your feelings at a conference drive your doubts about your career as they are rather odd occasions and you don't have to excel at them or impress everyone at them to be good at your job.

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