As a Ph.D. student, I already have attended quite a few conferences.
These are some things I learnt:
Be sure to know beforehand the Twitter hashtags. Make sure you have a full battery and tweet the shit out of that conference! Photos of presenters & compliments about the ‘lovely’ conference venue and great organization have a high chance of retweets by the conference organisers. This way, you don’t only focus the attention of your Twitter followers on the conference you are attending, you also focus the attention of the conference organisers and attendees on YOURSELF, and this latter can come in handy when you want to …
Network! Everyone on the conference likes to network. Let’s be honest, you can always read the content of the presentations in the conference proceeding. But you cannot meet the attendees again after the conference. So, don’t feel bad if you have to skip another session just to have a longer chat with that interesting Ph.D. student or that journal editor. Also, go to all the receptions and social gatherings. Walk up to someone with your business cards ready and your nametag clearly visible around your neck. Don’t be afraid to read their name tag and introduce yourself. It’s never been easier to start a conversation. You can talk about the topic of the conference, ask where and when they are presenting or deepen up memories from that one time long ago that you went visiting their uni’s city.
The food and drinks are paid for, so it would be a shame not to eat and drink all of them. There’s often no lack of food and drinks at a conference; (opening) receptions, dinners, coffee breaks, etc. Furthermore, it’s the ideal way to get to know la cuisine locale. This way, you don’t have to pay for a plate of local food yourself. Chances are you do not like the local take on ‘goulash’ (seriously, it seems like every country invented goulash).
Don’t worry about your presentation. Just don’t. Most of the time, the people in the audience are really sympathetic. Conference presentations are often articles that are not published yet. Thus, it is normal that you still have to find some answers. The audience knows this, so encourage your audience to comment on your work. Maybe they can give you new ideas for the discussion section of your upcoming paper. Finally, chances are – especially when you have to present early on day 2 or late on the last day – hardly anyone will attend your session anyway.