By Laura Harrison |

Every spring, legions of pale, marking-weary academics step blinking into the sunshine and congregate in the magical tradition that is a conference.  Due to the nature of the academic year, there is a disproportionate number of conferences that take place in the warmer months.  Suddenly all of those CfPs that you spent the autumn and winter submitting have culminated in nine conferences in three months.  I’m here to help you survive the onslaught.

Perfect outlining your thesis in two sentences

  • Hearing ‘So, what do you work on?’ pre-coffee is a lot less stressful if you can say this spiel in your sleep.

Have some go-to outfits

  • No one will remember (nor care) what you wore to the last conference. Have a few outfits at hand that you know work and rotate through them.

Eat breakfast

  • The extra thirty minutes of shut-eye seems like a great idea until you are in the middle of a panel at 10:30, contemplating eating your own arm out of sheer desperation.
Why would you WANT to skip this?

Why would you WANT to skip this?

Alcohol in moderation (or, Don’t try to keep up)

  • Senior academics have been drinking since before you were born. They can, and will, drink you under the table, then be chipper and ready to go at breakfast the next morning while you are gingerly sipping a glass of water and hiding behind your sunglasses.

Remember Twitter etiquette

  • Do introduce yourself to someone you know from Twitter. Don’t quote their tweets back to them.  Related: keep fangirling to minimum, at least in public.

Practice your ‘very interested but secretly daydreaming’ face in the mirror

  • This is the Holy Grail. If you can master this face then you are set for conferences for the rest of your life.  It is also one of those transferable skills we humanities PhDs like to fill our CVs with – boring meetings, dinner with inlaws – you’re the master!
This guy is actually thinking about Game of Thrones fan theories

This guy is actually thinking about Game of Thrones fan theories

Stay hydrated

  • I’m talking about water here people. It is a marathon, not a sprint.

Read the room

  • If your jokes about plague pits are dropping like rocks, it is time to let them go.

Watch your caffeine consumption

  • Coffee seems like a great plan when you are exhausted and feel questionably optimistic about the topic of the next panel, but shaking in your chair after you pound three cups of coffee in ten minutes is not the way to get through it. One and done.

Steal the biscuits

  • *Once everyone has had a free and fair shot at the biscuits*, move in. They are the best part of conferences.  They also make excellent drunk snacks later, should you ignore my advice about not trying to keep up.

Make conference friends

  • Particularly if you see someone looking a bit lonely and out of place in the corner.  Chances are you will run into these people at conference after conference, and it is a lot more fun if it feels like a reunion!

Laura Harrison is the Editor-in-Chief of Pubs and Pubs.  She is in the second year of her PhD at the University of Edinburgh, studying commemorations of the Scottish Wars of Independence.  You can find her on Twitter, or at a conference near you this summer!

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