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5 things you should know before you attend your first BIG conference, by Amelia Doran

20 Jun 2024 12:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


Book 1, 2 or all 3 days of the conference or join us online with our hybrid ticket option.

1. This is not a conference where your days are pre-determined

The first thing you might notice about BIG is that there are roughly a hundred different things happening at once (I’m pretty sure this is factually accurate…). With 4 or 5 different sessions happening in each slot, everything can seem a bit overwhelming when you walk in on day one. My advice would be to have a look at the programme before you get there, and see what you might be interested in for each slot. I don’t think there's a right or wrong way to choose, but it’s useful to remember that you won’t be able to attend everything! I also find that, if you do miss a session you were interested in, people that did attend it will always be happy to share what they learnt!

2. This is not a conference where your mind switches off for 3 days

I know a conference does feel like a nice way to get some days off work (or away from uni in my case), but I can tell you for a fact that you will not leave this conference well rested as if you’ve been on holiday! Everyone I spoke to on Friday was still incredibly smiley, but we all agreed that we were exhausted. Between all the sessions, plenty of coffee and biscuits, the conference meal and everything else happening across the three days, you’ll be kept very busy (so maybe make sure you have very little to do that weekend…)

3. This is not a conference where you’ll be on your own if you don’t know people

I know saying ‘Don’t worry if you don’t know anyone at the conference’ is far easier said than done, but I promise it is true. It was something I was really apprehensive about before I arrived on the Wednesday. The very first session of the conference was enough to quash these worries – the BIG mingle introduced me to a lot of people very quickly. (I am going to qualify this by saying this might not be for everyone, and if it isn’t there’s still plenty of time to meet people in a calmer way!) In the mingle, you have about a minute to introduce yourself, your work and why you’re at the conference, in a group of maybe 4 or 5, and do that 5 or 6 times to try and meet lots of people super quickly. This helped me to find some friends who I spent the rest of the conference with, but also find some people whose research was similar to mine, or whose careers I was really interested to learn more about! My advice, if meeting people is something you’re anxious about, is to work on your quick elevator pitch, so that you don’t panic when you introduce yourself throughout the weekend.

4. This is not a conference where everyone’s coming from the same background, or even the same careers

This is particularly advice for anyone like me, who’s going into the conference as an early career (or for me, yet to begin career) science communicator. You’ll find that there’s an incredible number of people who have come from around a million different backgrounds, doing all sorts of different careers, who all meet at BIG. I think that’s what makes the conference so incredible! But it also definitely can make things feel a bit overwhelming if you’re trying to work your way into the sector. It’s important to remember that while some people have been explainers, some people have done PhDs, some people did teacher training, there is no one path to making it into science communication. Learning what other people have done can give you inspiration for your next steps, but don’t let it make you feel like you haven’t done the right things!

5. This is not a conference where people take things too seriously

I think this is the best news for any new attendees of the conference – this is absolutely not a suit or heels kind of conference (unless that’s how you feel most confident, then I guess go for it!). For most of us though, jeans, shorts, sneakers –whatever floats your boat. But this relaxed atmosphere is also present in so many areas of the conference, from the card of shame for losing your name tag, to the incredibly supportive atmosphere at the Best Demo competition, this is perhaps the most friendly conference you’ll attend (I don’t think I went more than 15 minutes without bursting into laughter the whole conference long). That also means if you ever need a bit of a break, if you want to sit out a session or need to duck out for any reason, everyone is incredibly understanding and it’s not something you need to be worried about!

I hope these 5 tips give you a taste of what the conference might be like, but the headlines are it's an incredible conference where you’ll learn so much, and you’ll meet so many amazing people! The whole BIG team are there to help make you comfortable, so you’ll have a great time. Enjoy it!

Amelia Doran is the Communications and Public Engagement Coordinator for Planetary Health Informatics, a research lab at the University of Oxford. You can follow her on X, Bluesky and Instagram @scicommelia or connect with her on LinkedIn 

Look out for Amelia in Cardiff and if it's your first conference this year, or you're also new to your Scicomm career, she will be more than happy to chat! 

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