TIP-Topics for Students First Time’s the Charm: Tips for Making the Most Out of Your First SIOP Annual Conference
Stefanie Gisler1, Bradley Gray1, Jenna-Lyn Roman2, & Ethan Rothstein1 Baruch College and The Graduate Center, CUNY1, Georgia Institute of Technology2
The majority (over 70% in typical years) of the SIOP annual conference attendees have attended at least one other SIOP conference. Those I-O professionals and students already know the ins and outs of the conference and are likely looking forward to learning about the newest advances in research and practice, as well as reconnecting with friends and colleagues in the near future. However, if this year’s conference in Washington, DC/National Harbor follows the trend from 2018, well over one-quarter of all attendees will be first timers. For them, an annual meeting of this size and scope can prove to be daunting.
We hope to provide useful, timely advice based on our own experiences as first-time attendees as well as from our attendance at SIOP conferences over the past 5 years. This column will be broken down into four main sections: logistics, prepping, during the conference and postconference.
It should be noted that our TIP-Topics predecessors, Thomas Sasso, Jessica Sorenson, and Grace Ewles, wrote a column in January of 2016 with advice about attending the annual conference. Our goal is to gear this piece specifically toward first-time SIOP conference attendees.
Although most conference attendees will have addressed these details of their conference travel by now, for completeness this information merits inclusion. If you are not already a member, join SIOP and then register for the conference through the SIOP website. For students the rate is more affordable than the professional rate, but both are much more affordable than the nonmember rate. Attendees who register early (usually in mid-February) also receive a small discount for doing so.
A great recommendation for first time attendees is the Ambassador Program. This program, which typically reaches capacity on or before the early registration deadline and connects first-time conference attendees (Newcomers) with seasoned conference attendees (Ambassadors). Ambassadors provide their tips and knowledge about the conference to first-time attendees in a variety of ways, including connecting with you at least once prior to the SIOP Annual Conference via e-mail or phone, meeting with you at least once on-site at the conference, and helping you network at the conference by introducing you to his or her colleagues.
Due to the size of the conference, booking lodging well in advance of the conference can be advantageous, particularly if you want to stay in the conference hotel. SIOP makes arrangements for a special room rate, which can be found on the conference website. For those that need to book lodging with less lead time, consider reaching out to others you know who might need a roommate, staying at a nearby hotel, or using an online hospitality service to arrange a place to stay like AirBnB. Finally, figure out and book your transportation to and from the conference.
One last note is to determine in advance if your school or workplace offers any type of conference funding and ascertain what the parameters are to obtaining that funding. It would be a shame to miss out on funding because of some paperwork misstep. Once the logistics are determined, you can fully concentrate on prepping for SIOP.
- Register for the conference
- Book lodging
- Arrange transportation
If you intend on having a fruitful SIOP, this particular phase is likely equally important or more important than the actual conference itself. It takes a fair amount of effort before the conference to make certain your time and monetary investment pay off.
If possible, bring business cards with you to the conference. Doing so can facilitate networking, especially in busy poster sessions if you would like more information from the presenters or to connect with them later. Consider printing your own business cards if your current role does not provide them for you. Also, do not forget to ask for the business cards of the people with whom you network. This can help you connect with your new contacts later on.
Updating your LinkedIn profile can also make it easier for other attendees to network with you. Practicing your elevator pitch (a short description of you and your areas of interest) for networking events and receptions is also key. There is nothing worse than meeting someone and stumbling over information no one should know better than you!
Consider whether you want to refresh your wardrobe prior to the conference. It may have been a while since you have worn dress pants or a blazer and it is probably a good idea to make sure the items you plan to wear make you look and feel confident. During the daytime sessions at SIOP, attendees should wear business casual outfits. During evening receptions and events some attendees opt to wear more casual, yet professional, clothes.
The most important thing to do prior to the conference is determining which sessions you want to attend. First, schedule the sessions in which you are presenting and any prep time you may need prior to that session. If you cannot make a specific session that you wanted to attend, do not worry as there are typically numerous sessions on a given topic at the conference.
There are a number of methods for choosing which sessions to attend. Whova is a conference mobile app that can help you. Some attendees plan all their sessions through it. This app allows you to look up sessions and it gives you information on who is presenting and who is interested in attending the session, which helps gauge the popularity of a session. You can export all the sessions you are planning to attend to your phone calendar, which many attendees find very helpful. Whova also notifies you if the location of a session you are interested in attending changes. You can also contact other SIOP members or broadcast announcements in the app. There is also an online, searchable program available via the SIOP website if you prefer a technology-mediated search option but do not wish to use the app. Another method of session planning is to order a hard copy of the program in advance, have it mailed to your residence, and create an excel sheet for each day of the conference. Whatever method you choose to plan your conference days, know that this step can take time due to the vast session offerings at the conference (close to 1000!).
Choosing Sessions to Attend
- Make a plan
- Include back up sessions in your plan
- Plan to attend a variety of types of sessions
- Schedule breaks to eat, rest, and recharge
It is advisable to schedule a backup session or two that you might also like to attend in case you decide that your first choice is not what you thought it would be. Another reason to do this is that popular sessions tend to fill to capacity quickly and you may need to explore another option at that time. Faculty advisors, your SIOP ambassador, or other graduate students in your program can provide great suggestions if you need help sorting through the numerous SIOP program offerings. Look beyond the topic area for a specific session and consider who is presenting or leading the session. It can also be important to attend a session or two outside of your area of research or practice in order to keep up with other areas of I-O.
Remember, there are a lot of different types of sessions offered at the conference that foster different levels of interaction among participants. Mixing up the types of sessions you attend is important. For example, symposia offer the opportunity to hear about new research and practice in different areas of I-O whereas poster sessions and round table discussions can be a great opportunity to discuss topics with others. There is a full description of most session types under the Sessions tab on the SIOP website.
Last, remember to schedule some breaks for yourself throughout the day to eat, rest, and recharge. It is hard to concentrate during a session when the last time you ate or had coffee was hours ago.
During the Conference
While preparing for your first SIOP conference cannot be overemphasized, what you do at the conference is crucial. If you are traveling with other people that you know, do not hesitate to split up and attend different sessions. You are less likely to network in a session if you are part of a larger group.
There are a number of different types of opportunities at the conference depending on your goals. The Placement Center is geared towards anyone looking for internships and jobs in I-O. The virtual job board gives applicants the ability to research and apply to companies and possibly earn an interview at the conference. There are also mock interviews at the conference available to attendees.
Take time to visit some of the exhibit hall so that you can learn more about the type of I-O work that organizations are doing and the products they are developing. These vendor booths are also good for establishing contacts with practitioners and learning about potential internship opportunities. They essentially give you a unique opportunity to talk to people one on one. Also, some of the exhibitors give out free stuff! You can also combine this with a poster session so that you can spend some time learning about the applied world and some time learning about research.
Although the SIOP conference can be a fun experience, always remember to present yourself in a professional light at all times. The I-O community is relatively small and interconnected. Your future boss or colleagues may be in the room during a session or reception, so maintaining a professional mindset is paramount.
Again, remember to eat, sleep, and hydrate. Take advantage of coffee breaks to rest and refuel. Be mentally prepared that while having a productive SIOP conference takes the endurance of running a marathon, it can also be fun and exciting for first attendees who know what to expect!
Post SIOP To Dos
- Follow up with the people you networked with
- Reflect on your conference takeaways
- Develop goals for the next annual SIOP Conference
After the conference, do not forget to follow up with the contacts you met. Do not let all that networking during the conference go to waste. Most SIOP attendees come away from the conference having meet new people and reaching out via email or other methods after the conference is valuable. If you met future research or practice collaborators, tailor your message to the specific project you spoke about or address the discussion you had. This step can foster future SIOP conference submissions and presentations!
Take time after the conference to take stock of the sessions you went to and ask yourself what you want to do with that information. Did you attend sessions offering practical advice on succeeding in graduate school or obtaining your first I-O job or internship? Was research presented you hope to use as possible citations in your own future projects? Were there any overarching themes or takeaways that were extremely impactful for you?
Having a rewarding SIOP conference can be energizing while you are there. However, it requires most attendees to rest and recover a bit after the conference once they return home. Even though SIOP happens when many students and academics are nearing the end of the semester, take some time after the conference to reflect on your goals for participation at the next annual SIOP conference.
This column offered advice on attending the SIOP annual conference broken focusing on four facets: logistics, prepping, during the conference, and postconference. We hope to have provided those attending SIOP for the first time with a road map for a successful SIOP conference!
Stefanie Gisler is a PhD student at Baruch College and The Graduate Center, CUNY.
She received her BA from Bucknell University and an MS in I-O Psychology from the University of Central Florida (UCF). She is interested in employee health and occupational health psychology in general, and has conducted research on recovery from work, job control, illegitimate tasks, and work-life conflict.
Bradley Gray is a PhD student at Baruch College and The Graduate Center, CUNY. He obtained a BA in Psychology from Wake Forest University in 2010 and an MA in Clinical Psychology from Towson University in 2012. He researches occupational health psychology, with an interest in the relationship between supervisors and their employees, and is also interested in culture change and executive development.
Jenna-Lyn Roman completed her MS degree at Baruch College, CUNY in May 2018 and began her PhD studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology in August 2018. She is interested in work–family research with an emphasis on nontraditional workers and understudied populations (e.g., military families), as well as occupational health psychology and gender parity topics. Jenna would like to be a university professor specializing in work–family topics.
Ethan Rothstein is a PhD student at Baruch College and The Graduate Center, CUNY. Ethan obtained his BA in Clinical Psychology from Tufts University in 2013. His primary area of research has been the interface between work and family, but he has also conducted research on motivation, leadership, team processes, and occupational health psychology. After he graduates, Ethan would like to pursue an applied career in both consulting and industry.
The TIP-Topics team can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.