A “First-Timer’s” survival guide.
1. Make a plan
You will get the most of the conference if you do some preparation work in advance of the meeting. Spend some time thinking about the most important sessions and talks that you would like to see. The meeting programme is available online. You will be able to read all the abstracts and make your own itinerary with the online programme planner available by mid of August 2018. It is far better to do this before you get to Milan. Maximise the use of your time on site! Familiarise yourself with the session types: different types are designed for a different audience. Avoid being disappointed by a session that will be too basic or too specialised for your interests, despite an interesting title.
2. Pace Yourself
The meeting has a packed schedule. You will probably find something interesting and useful from 8:30 until 19.30 hrs each day – but we would not necessarily recommend to do so! You will get saturated pretty quickly and by Tuesday or Wednesday, your ability to absorb useful information will be severely diminished. Again, prioritise what is the most important.
3. Parallel Events
When you attend a session (educational or scientific), you might find that not all of the session is relevant or interesting to you, or you might have spotted a talk in another parallel session room that you’d like to see. It is completely okay to leave one session and join another (but etiquette dictates that you wait for the end of a talk to leave / join the audience).
Make the most of the opportunity to network. Most people (junior or senior) are delighted to meet new faces and to chat about their work – so don’t be afraid to approach those big names and introduce yourself, and just start chatting!
5. Ask Questions
Don’t be shy about asking questions at the microphone! This is especially true in the educational programmes. Everyone in the audience is there to learn – and so if you have a question, there’s every chance that others will have the same question. Note that, especially in large halls, it is sometimes difficult for the chairperson to see you in the dark, especially if you are standing in the back. Do not hesitate to address the chairperson in case she or he does not see you.
6. Get There Early!
This is a principle that will serve you well on many fronts. We have literally thousands of people attending the meeting, and yet some people are surprised to find lines at the registration desk on Sunday afternoon. You will not want to miss the opening plenary this year – so get there early (registration opens on Sunday morning) – and is open all day Sunday to Wednesday. It is similar for the queues for food at the opening reception (Sunday evening) and networking event (Tuesday evening). Just think, with 3000+ people, it is IMPOSSIBLE for everyone to get served immediately.
7. Stay cool and relax!
Sounds cheesy…. But the meeting is extremely busy, and you could try and push yourself to run between every single talk that you want to see, to try and see more than 2,000 posters, to go to every session, workshop and so on….. but you’ll be exhausted! It is far better to have come away with some new friends, have chatted with a ‘big name’ in your field, and have two or three ‘nuggets’ of information that will shape your research.
8. Business Cards
Although these are becoming a dying breed, we noted that having business cards ready to exchange was helpful, especially when another meeting attendee passes you theirs, but it is a matter of personal preference.