Attending conferences is critical for your research.  It is a great way to reinvigorate your enthusiasm and inspire  new ideas, as well as see old friends and make new ones.

But it is also a valuable opportunity to visit many of your favorite companies.

For some scientists the value is in collecting pens and free gifts. But, visiting the vendors serves a much greater purpose than collecting swag.

Here is a list of reasons why checking out the exhibit area next time you are at a conference can be a rewarding experience for both you and the vendor.

1.  Meet the people behind the products

We love to meet our customers and hear about your results with products. For some smaller companies, you are actually meeting the person who takes your technical calls or the scientists in the lab developing the products. At larger conferences, the CEO will often be on hand to meet people and hear feedback.

2. Tell them what you think

You have a chance to meet the R&D scientists or product managers for products you use all the time. It is the perfect opportunity to tell them what you like and don’t like, and what needs improvement. Companies also love to hear what products you think we should be developing. What do you need help with? What could be better for you? This is a great opportunity to share all your feedback with people who can actually do something with them.

3. Ask questions
Another reason to visit vendors is to ask questions about the products you use. Your question might be technical, or it might be product design related, or, you might want to know what special deals are coming up. Whatever it is, take the time to think about what you want to ask your  favorite companies and come to get answers you need.

4. Make contacts
It is never too early to start building your network (for help with this click here).  Especially if you are interested in a career in industry, get out to the exhibits to meet people in marketing, sales, and R&D.  Make friends with the vendors and get to know the people who work at your favorite companies. They will be a valuable resources in the future.

5. Open the door to job opportunities

If you are interested in working at a company R&D, a conference is a great chance to speak with people about the culture and the current openings and also to make a contact with someone in the company that can forward your CV direct to a hiring manager instead of going through the website.

6. Set up collaborations
Some companies welcome working with academic researchers to help improve or develop products.  It may be in the form of testing products before they are released to the public (beta testing) and providing feedback, or it may be actually working together to develop a technology or idea. In exchange for your efforts, many vendors will provide free product, help pay for conference registration fees in exchange for presenting posters or talks, or co-publish in journals. In addition, working on commercial products can be a help in applying for jobs in industry.

7. What’s new?
Conferences are a great time to catch up on what new products from each company. No one has the time to search every company’s website or read every piece of literature in the mail. So walking the exhibit floor area is the perfect time to find out what new helpful products are out on the market and to find something that might just improve the results of your work.

The exhibit area section of the scientific conference is a key part of the learning experience. Vendors look forward to the chance to show off their new developments to researchers and are excited to meet the people who love their products.

Companies spend all of their time working on ways to make life easier for the bench scientist and the only way they can know how to do that is to hear from you directly. What better opportunity to discuss what you need than at a conference?

So be sure to make visiting the exhibit area a vital part of your schedule at your next conference.

(Hope to meet you at ASM 2009, Booth 720!)

More 'Career Development and Networking' articles

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.