At some point during your research career, even as an undergraduate,  you will be asked or required to perform some sort of presentation of your research. If you are lucky enough to be funded you may well be required to host a conference or an event to promote your research to the broader academic community. This can be a pretty daunting prospect, but is quite manageable and can greatly enhance your CV and may also provide you with publishing opportunities.

I have always found Postgraduate forums or symposia to be a great starting point in organising events of this nature.

The advantages of keeping it local is that you can start small scale and keep it quite restricted. Most departments run a forum for PGs to get together to share their research; volunteer to help run these events if you can. The effort is minimal compared to the reward and it will give you invaluable experience.

Annual events such as welcoming Symposia are also good things to organise or take part in. New comers to your institution will value any experience you can share as they embark upon an academic or research career. We host a half day event for new and returning students at the beginning of each academic year and PGs and staff alike give 10/15 minute presentations on matters that arise most commonly when you move to a new place:, where the pub is, where the best coffee shop is, where you can find wifi, how to get a print card, what finances are available to you. Presenting on non academic matters can provide the experience you’ll need when you move on to presenting your own research.

Organising conferences is a much bigger affair and involves inviting keynote speakers and forming panels and usually sifting through abstracts. (if you are lucky and you have enough abstracts to sift through! Sometimes the opposite is the issue where you are trying to desperately fill a programme instead of whittling it down! The latter situation is by far the most preferable!) Initially I would recommend joining with someone who has done this before and knows the lie of the conference-land and the protocols involved.  Again, keep it small, local and relevant.  A one day event can be as rewarding as as successful as a huge 3 day international affair. Make your keynote speaker as attractive as possible – no I don’t mean make sure they dress smartly and wash their hair – invite someone you know will draw in a crowd. Don’t be afraid to approach non-academic figures, or those outwit your disciplinary field. One of the best keynote addresses I heard was by the author Kate Mosse, at a conference on Women and History. She was spellbinding.

The first step is to approach your supervisor with a conference theme. You can get ideas for this by simply looking at other conference posters and CFPs and use them as a map to plot out your own idea. Check what funding your institution can offer you and if they are prepared to host (i.e. provide lunch, refreshments, room space, techy support). Don’t be afraid to look for external sponsors – but bear in mind that it wouldn’t be appropriate to use commercial money that might  reflect badly on your theme (using money fromBP to host a conference on Ecological Preservation of Fossil Fuels for example could be considered a  conflict of interests).

I’ve just touched on the basics in this post – but it isn’t as daunting as you might expect. Running events can provide you with important transferable skills, and shows your colleagues and your supervisors that you have initiative and drive, making them more likely to involve you in future events of their own. Well worth considering at any stage in your research life.

A brief checklist for conference organising.

A more detailed checklist for planning






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