Conference registration fees are far too high for students to afford. Attending conferences, however, is extremely important in building one’s network and getting a job, so “saving” money by not going to conferences is not a good strategy either. Some people say that one only needs to attend conferences the year one is on the job market, but this is the worst advice you could possibly give, as practice is required to successfully “work” a conference.
My first few conferences were disastrous. I did not know anyone, I was not used to the casual conversations that had to be carried out while standing (stand-up parties only became popular in Korea in the past few years) and I felt self-conscious about everything. Now, I feel a lot more comfortable, I recognize some faces, and don’t feel bad when I am alone and have no one to talk to. More importantly, I’ve learned that the most important events happen in the evening after the conference sessions– at my first couple conferences I dutifully attended the sessions all day and exhausted, retired in the evening.
I understand that the organizers need money to run the conference, but I feel the student registration fees should be less than $100. Even if I stay at a youth hostel in a room with seven other strangers, the stipend provided by the department is never enough, especially with ACM conferences, which are about $300 for student registration! It would be great if senior scholars could opt-in to donate money towards a student’s registration when they register. It’s such a simple thing to add to the registration form and something worth asking for, to help make conference attendance more accessible to poor grad students. ICA, for instance, gives you the option of donating $10. Why limit it, though, to $10? We should give those who feel generous an easy way to show their generosity. Frank Boster’s research tells us that direct request leads to higher compliance. There is no cost to asking for help, so let’s ask!