Some grad student friends and I (my work buddies) were having lunch this week and began discussing the expense of going to the major conferences in our fields. Now, each of us is in very somewhat different fields, but their conclusion was that going to the major conference in your field each year wasn’t that important. Last year I attended the large conference in my field for the first time and a very small conference, not directly within my field, but related to my master’s research methodologically.

Attending the large conference was stimulating because I was exposed to sub-fields and “star” scholars that I never would have understood otherwise. I got much more of a sense of what is hot in my field than I could from reading journals. The large conference was mostly a total bust in terms of networking though. I felt terribly out of place the entire time. The paper sessions didn’t allow enough time for questions and people weren’t very open to people waylaying them after their talk. The conference was so huge that I felt completely lost and dwarfed by the event.

The small conference was much more fun. My friend and I got to talk to some experienced researchers using similar methodologies. People actually attended our paper session despite the fact that it was scheduled for the last afternoon of the conference.

This year I’m going to major conference again, only this year it’s going to be much more expensive since I have to pay for travel and airfare. This year I’m presenting my thesis research. So in the coming years, as I’m developing my dissertation research, how often do I need to attend the major conference in my field?

The thing is, it’s fr*cking expensive.
$500 for airfare
$300/night for a hotel room (Ok, you could share, but still.)
$20+/day for food
$75 clothing to make me look less like a homeless person

Total= $1300 (minimally)

That’s almost a month’s wages for me.

Second question. There’s small conference coming up in June at Visitation U. It’s interdisciplinary, but very much related to my interests. I emailed the organizer to get more info about cost. He suggested that I might moderate one of the panels. How worth it is moderating? I guess it would give me something to do if I want to go to the conference anyway. If I only have money and time to attend one or two conferences a year how should I choose? This small conference seems like it would be better for networking, but it seems that I’m going to have to sample a variety of small conferences until I find the few that I really fit with. Last year I attended one small conference I really loved and one that I never want to go to again. I never would have guess which was which without attending each.