The Sociolinguistics Symposia are the world’s largest gatherings of researchers in the field of sociolinguistics and hub to the latest advances in sociolinguistic research. Started in 1976 as a meeting to address the scarcity of sociolinguistic research in the UK, the Sociolinguistics Symposia have now flourished into an international affair as one of the most important events on any sociolinguist’s calendar.
Having attended now my first Sociolinguistics Symposium (SS21) at the University of Murcia just recently, this blog post aims to give practical advice about how to get the most out of (or HaCK, if you excuse the pun) attending a Sociolinguistics Symposium as a young researcher or a newbie to the conference world.
- Save costs on Registration Fees
Conferences this size are always going to be costly. The organisers have to look after a lot of academic needs and this is not cheap! Nonetheless, students can significantly reduce the cost of Registration Fees by registering well in advance for the ‘Early Bird’ fee with Student Status. For example, for the SS21 a Regular Professional fee for the conference was priced at EUR 370 and a Student Early Bird Fee at EUR 220. Even the difference between a Student Early Bird Fee and Student Regular Fee (EUR 50) is significant as that could be an extra night in a hotel or a contribution towards conference dinner prices, so book early!
It is also worth checking with your department or funding body if any funding is available to help cover any costs.
- Explore the possibility of staying in a local hostel or using Airbnb
Although staying in a hotel is most certainly the most preferable and comfortable option when traveling, do not automatically disregard other options such as staying at a local hostel or using Airbnb. These alternatives are not only extremely cost-effective, but may also offer unique networking experiences. During the SS21, I stayed in a local hostel and all of my five other room-mates were registered for the conference! This was particularly helpful for breaking the ice and arranging trips to the conference venue. Just bear in mind that hostels generally have important disadvantages such as limited privacy and resources.
- How to break the ice
This was perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of the conference for me personally, as I am a typical INTJ and bringing myself to talk to people I do not know in social events proves quite the task for me. At the SS21, there were many opportunities to interact and engage with academics, from breakfast with those staying at the hostel, to having engaging discussions after a paper. For the more introverted, this can be hard on the first day, but usually becomes much easier and natural on the second and third days.
I can recommend two main ways of breaking the ice in these situations that worked well for me at the SS21. The first is simply by injecting yourself into a group conversation by asking a question. The most helpful questions I heard being used at the conference were: ‘So where are you from?’ and ‘What is your research area?’ The second technique is to spot people you already know, give them a wave and (hopefully) be invited to join their conversation.
- Plan strategically but also be flexible
The SS21 was astronomical with approximately 1200 conference delegates and around 900 presentations of different types. At one point there were even 34 parallel sessions! Planning what sessions to go to beforehand might be daunting at first, but I highly recommend it. It will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.
If you decide to make a plan, it is also very important to be flexible with it and plan in breaks. Attending these conferences can be unexpectedly exhausting, especially on the second and third days. It is okay, and even expected, to skip sessions if that means getting a quality break and/or rest.
- Take business cards
As a PhD student, it might seem incredibly pretentious to have a business card, but one cannot simply overlook their advantages and practicality, especially at conferences of this size. During the many opportunities of networking and socialisation, there will be more than one instance where contact details will need to be exchanged. This is when the trusty business card comes in. It saves scattering around a bag for a pen and paper and makes the interaction go quite smoothly.
Hopefully these tips, or HaCKS, will come in handy. The SS21 was an amazing experience and I am privileged to have had the opportunity to experience it. I am confident that the SS22, taking place in New Zealand in 2018, will be just as good.
This Top 5 HaCKS list is directed at attendees, rather than speakers or presenters. If you have presented at a Sociolinguistics Symposium and would like to contribute a blog post to share your experience, please get in touch with us, or comment with your experience below.
Andrew Bradley is a PhD candidate at the Universtiy of Sheffield (Hispanic Studies). His research focuses on the presence and impact of language-political ideologies within Catalan and Valencian ‘language and literature’ textbooks.