Etiquette at conferences

This week I’m attending the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) Fall Meeting 2013. It’s a big, wonderful conference full of lots of interesting talks and lots and lots of scientists.


This seems like a great opportunity to share some basics in social etiquette for scientific conferences for those of you who may find yourself in this situation in the future. For starters, let’s imagine you are invited to join two colleagues at lunch. These two colleagues are particularly chatty and don’t do much to encourage your participation in the conversation:

That’s you at the bottom… bored and/or lost. Do not expect anyone to check in with you, your silence will be understood as RAPT ATTENTION. So if you don’t like the conversation then you’d better interject with a good conversation topic or settle in to be bored until the check comes.

Next up: Don’t be fooled into thinking that you must say hello to the people near you. For example, imagine you need a place to sit for a moment but all the tables are full, so you sit yourself down at one of the big round tables in the lobby area:


(That’s you in red at the bottom.) In this situation, DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT. You will be seen as a threat to everyone else’s productivity. You will not make friends and everyone will look at you strangely.

Please note, good reader: There are acceptable opportunities to start conversation with someone! They include by are not limited to:

1. After you bump into each other and both apologize and smile at each other. (Careful here! No smile = no conversation!)
2. If you find them at a designated “social” event. These are usually scheduled evening activities and include food and drinks to encourage conversation. Be careful, some potential colleagues are just there for free food and should not be approached during their hunting and gathering activities.
3. You already know the person and have initiated conversation with them previously.

Now you can walk more confidently knowing a few of the basic rules for socializing at a conference. Good Luck!

About Samantha from SocialMath

Applied Mathematician and writer of
This entry was posted in Social Mathematicians and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Etiquette at conferences

  1. Conference nerd says:

    Just love the drawings. Where did you find the artist?

  2. Pingback: IPCC 5 in Hiaku! | Social Mathematics

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s