By Gwen Pearson
The Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America is the largest insect meeting in the world. There are usually about 3,000 insect scientists of all kinds, from every continent except Antarctica. Talks start at 8:00 AM and run until 9:00 PM at night. For four days. By the end you just feel like your brain is swollen. But in a good way.
It’s exciting for me to be going back to an ESA meeting, since for the last four years or so, I’ve mostly been at science communication meetings, or science fiction conventions. Yep, you read that right. Science fiction conventions are a great place for science outreach! And, you get to wear costumes. The photo above shows me with some friends at ConVergence, where I was on several “Ask A Scientist Anything” panels.
It may be a bit of an adjustment to return to an ESA meeting. Of all the professional meetings I attend, the ESA has the highest proportion of suits. It’s a time to make professional connections and present research. It’s also a great time to hang out, talk to old friends, and commune with fellow bug people.
If you are a student, or someone attending ESA for the first time: don’t be shy! Entomologists are fairly laid back, even if they do insist on wearing suits. Anyone with an official ribbon–even the ESA President–will make time to talk to you.
As an introvert, it took me a while to figure out just how to deal with a conference that was that huge. Here are some tips that have been really helpful for me:
- Don’t know anyone? It’s easiest to approach another person who’s standing alone. Then you have an immediate opening—“I don’t know anyone here—do you?”
- When you join a group, smile, walk up, and join the circle. People will make room. Join the conversation. Ask open-ended questions.
- If you are in a group and someone approaches, take the initiative to welcome and introduce them. This helps you learn names, and also makes the new person feel welcome.
- Always pay attention to the people that you are with. It is rude to scan for someone more important than the person that you are currently talking to.
- Don’t sit alone when you have meals. That is a great time to sit down next to someone and start a conversation.
- Remember that people like to help other people! It’s ok to ask for help.
- Feel overwhelmed? Give yourself permission for a time-out. Head out to the hallway for some space, or find a quiet corner to recharge.
If you see me standing around, please do introduce yourself! I love meeting new people. I will NOT be wearing a suit, but I might have antennae on.
Plans for a Bug Blogger/Social media Tweetup are still being firmed up, but I hope to have more details for you soon.
Gwen Pearson is the entomologist formerly known as Bug Girl. She obtained her PhD in entomology from North Carolina State University, and her Charismatic Minifauna blog appears in Wired Magazine. Follow her on Twitter at @bug_girl.