A Grad Student and Early Career Professional’s Guide to Getting the Most out of the AHA Annual Meeting

Editor’s Note: Last month we offered “5 Tips for Students Attending the 126th Annual Meeting.” Today, Elise Lipkowitz provides some more detailed advice for graduate students and early career professionals, though all attendees may find these tips useful. The links in this post apply to the 126th annual meeting, but the advice is good for annual meetings for years to come.

The AHA’s annual meeting offers a vast array of opportunities including panels on both scholarly and professional topics organized by the AHA and its affiliated societies, receptions, tours to sites of interest in the host city, film screenings, breakfasts and luncheons, as well as the exhibit hall. This post is designed to help graduate students and early career professionals navigate the annual meeting. It is based on advice culled from current grad students and early career professionals.

To get the most out of the AHA annual meeting it is helpful to think in terms of things to consider in advance of the meeting and things to do at the meeting.

Plan Things to Do in Advance
To get the most out of a meeting that is as large and multifaceted as the AHA annual meeting, it is important to have a plan. In setting up your plan, consider the kinds of opportunities that the AHA offers that other conferences you attend may not. For example, you may want to attend a number of the professional development sessions sponsored by the AHA’s Graduate and Early Career Committee (GECC) or take advantage of the fact that the AHA has many scholarly sessions that are thematic and comparative over broad geographies and time periods.

Spend Time with the Meeting Program

  • Review the list of panels/sessions planned by the AHA and the affiliated societies (those registered for the AHA meeting can attend affiliated societies’ sessions at no extra cost).
    • Sessions sponsored by GECC are specifically designed for graduate students and early career professionals.
    • Have in mind in advance which sessions you wish to attend.
  • Determine whether you want to attend any events that require registration or tickets, such as the Local Arrangements Committee tours of sites in the host city or some of the organized breakfasts and luncheons, and pre-register.
  • Look through the participants’ index to see who will be attending the meeting.
    • It is often easier to arrange to meet someone for coffee or a meal in advance of arrival at the conference.
    • Don’t be shy about reaching out to a scholar whom you’d like to meet; the AHA is a good place for networking.
  • If you are interviewing, watch the Job Center video on the AHA’s website and look at interview-related information on the GECC webpage.

Attend the Meeting

  • Go to the Orientation Session and the reception that follows.
  • Attend the GECC Open Forum.
  • Start a conversation with someone you don’t know.
  • Browse the exhibit hall and talk to publishers.
  • Attend the sessions and events that piqued your interest.
  • Meet up with folks whom you arranged to meet with beforehand.
  • Explore the host city (check out information on archives and cultural organizations in Chicago).
  • Allow yourself some down time by not over-scheduling.
  • Even if you are there to interview, try and do at least one non-interview-related thing.
  • Retreat when needed to the Quiet Room (located in the Sheraton’s Ohio Room and the Marriott’s Great America Room).
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