Congress can be overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time attending. We’ve put together some advice on getting the most out of the ACCUTE Congress experience. For details on all the events mentioned, read through the program.
BEFORE YOU GO…
Connect with your fellow attendees beforehand. ACCUTE member Jessica MacDonald points out that you can connect “on Twitter or elsewhere, using conference hashtags if they’re available (#Congressh, #accute), by contacting folks you already know who are also going. That way you have some support and connections to draw from once you get there. On the opposite end, for those who have been to Congress before, talk to the newbies in your association and welcome them warmly. That always helps.”
Plan your conference, but be flexible: Even before you leave home, you can look over the ACCUTE program Congress web site and schedule out the sessions and events you most want to attend. Sometimes you discover unexpected pleasures, so be open to that too.
WHEN YOU ARRIVE…
Don’t be shy. Introduce yourself. Connect with people whose work you admire. Ask questions. Exchange email addresses. As ACCUTE member Lucia Lorenzi says, “Remember that your fellow panelists, your panel chair, and your audience members are there to support your work, and that part of the great thing about conferences is getting feedback on works in progress: it’s okay to still be working things through. Remember that for all of the ungenerous scholars out there, there are dozens more who are dedicated to nurturing a nourishing and inviting community of inquiry.”
Plan on “downtime” and look after yourself: There’s a lot going on. You can’t do it all. Take some time out of the social hub-bub for quiet reflection. As Lucia Lorenzi says, “Don’t feel the need to attend everything from 9-5, and forgive yourself if you can’t make one panel or another. Stay fed and watered!”
Your first stop should be to pick up your Registration package or register if you haven’t already done so. Your package will include a nametag. Wear it: you want people to know your name and affiliation, and it will also allow you entry to sessions.
Look out for the Congress Expo, with publishers’ displays, career presentations, workshops, book launches, organization booths (often with Congress swag!). Set some time aside to browse the Expo. It’s a great way to take a break from sessions.
Check in at the ACCUTE Welcome Table. There will be someone at the table to answer questions, and you can pick up a paper copy of the ACCUTE program there. Each day, there will also be morning coffee available close by.
Attend the ACCUTE plenaries. During these talks, there are no other ACCUTE sessions scheduled, so members of ACCUTE and our collaborating associations come together en masse to participate.
The ACCUTE Annual General Meeting welcomes all members, and it can be an illuminating and fun occasion. There are presentations from SSHRC and the Federation of the Social Sciences and Humanities, a business meeting, and discussion about ACCUTE’s mandate and activities.
If you’re a student, you can meet up with others with common interests at the Graduate Student Caucus luncheonmeeting, where issues of concern to this constituency are identified and discussed over sandwiches. If you are a Contract Academic Faculty member, there’s a lunch meeting to talk about issues important to you as well.
There are lots of opportunities to meet, network, commiserate, and even dance with other attendees. Here are some of the best places ACCUTE members gather to socialize.
Morning Coffee and Breaks: The breaks between sessions are half an hour. This provides a great opportunity to chat with friends, follow up on sessions you’ve attended, and do some networking. Morning coffee is offered daily.
The President’s Reception: This is your opportunity to socialize with members from a wide range of associations gathered for Congress, along with Congress and University brass. It’s the host university’s opportunity to impress Congress attendees, so the location is usually agreeable, and the (free) food is typically good. You usually get a drink ticket in your Registration package, so be sure to bring that. Veteran’s note: collect drink tickets from friends you know who can’t attend; don’t let them go to waste.
The ESC Bash: This annual event takes place on Saturday, the first night of Congress, so it’s a good way to start off your conference. It’s hosted by ACCUTE’s journal, English Studies in Canada, at a local pub. It’s open to all ACCUTE members and always features lively company, tasty snacks, and a well-deserved fêting of ESC’s accomplishments over the past year.
The ACCUTE Annual Celebration of Research (Monday) is just what its name suggests: a get-together. Over drinks and snacks you can peruse book and journal displays from our sponsors, check out a rotating slide show featuring graduate student research, and toast the winners of ACCUTE’s Priestley Prize andGraduate Student Essay Award.
The Legendary ACCUTE Dance Party (Monday): Not-to-be-missed. A Congress tradition, this event usually starts at 8:30 pm. DJ’ed by ACCUTE’s executive member Mark McCutcheon, it is the place where you can move rhythmically to music in an energetic way.
Keep in mind that all members are expected to comport themselves appropriately and respectfully at all times.
Last, a note for established scholars: consider buying lunch for a grad student or under-funded attendee. It’s a small gesture, but a collegial one, and for people on a tight budget, it makes a difference.