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The research group that I am associated with organizes a conference that will take place next month.

One of the students asked if there is something that he can volunteer and help in the organization of the conference. He has not any scientific work to present, but rather offers some logistic and technical help.

Can you think of any "volunteering position" and tasks that can be given to a young student? Is this of any benefit to him, or is that just a timeloss?

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    See ff524's answer
    – user102
    Sep 25, 2014 at 16:44
  • I would refer the student to a more senior person in your group who has experience organizing conferences and is familiar with the details involved. That person will undoubtedly be able to think of work that the student could help with. It may be fairly menial, but can be a nice way to bring the student into contact with researchers in the field. Sep 25, 2014 at 20:15

4 Answers 4

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Lifted shamelessly from this answer, here are volunteer tasks that the student can do during the conference:

  • Check attendees in at the registration desk
  • Take minutes in meetings (if there are any)
  • Mic shuttler (the person that carries the mic around to people who have questions during the Q&A after each talk)

These offer the following benefit to the student: exposure and opportunities to network with attendees at the conference in a normal way.

Here are some additional tasks that weren't in that other answer because they're often done by students at the host institution. They also may or may not be necessary, depending on available facilities and services at your conference location.

I've done these tasks for conferences hosted by my own group:

  • Design and proofread conference program (before conference, obviously)
  • Set up poster boards, hand out thumbtacks, and show presenters which board to go to for poster/demo session
  • Print, hang up, and rotate signs showing people where to go/which session is going on in a room at any given time
  • Give VIPs a VIP tour around the lab, if conference is held at your institution :)
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The aftermath:

I just add here some notes about my feelings once the conference took place.

It is a great opportunity to even be remotely associated to such an environment. In such an environment exists the chance to meet people from the academy and the industry. If you have the rights networking skills you (as a student) can score some internship a possible future employment positions both in academia and industry. So in no way this opportunity is not considered a waste of time.

If you are a student volunteer these are some useful stuff one may need:

Typical Conference Questions and other stuff to consider:

  • Where is the toilet?
  • What is the WiFi pass?
  • Have different adapters and converters in hand

    • port – to- port video adapters
    • country – to – country power supply adapters
  • Extra batteries for the presenter

  • Arrange poster guys based on their order of presentation, put all the posters in a pdf file, on the same laptop (yours or someone else)

  • Ask demo presenters if they need monitor for their demos

  • Before the beginnings of the session, strongly recommend speakers to try if their laptop fit with the cables used for connection to the projector

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    I've been for a few conferences where they printed the wifi password on the badges, to avoid people asking that question. (or printed them on slips of paper). For those where they just post it at the registration desk, I've gotten in the habit of copying it down onto the back of my badge, so I have it when people ask. (they always ask the person with a laptop open)
    – Joe
    Dec 18, 2014 at 14:32
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I've been to meetings where they had a student volunteer positioned in each room:

  • they swapped out the name cards where the speakers will sit
  • they replaced the water bottles at the speaker table with ones stashed behind the podium
  • they helped out with AV issues, or called for expert help.
  • they kept a count of how many people were attending each talk in the session.

This gave them a chance to attend talks, albiet with some minor distractions as they did so.

They were wearing brightly colored shirts labeling them as volunteers, so people also knew who could either answer their questions or point them in the right direction of someone who could.

At other conferences (eg, AGU with thousands of posters displayed per day), we'll often assign students as the session chair for posters:

  • Grab a supply of pins from the main desk, and the signs for when you'll be at your poster
  • Help people find their poster location (look it up online or from the printed program)
  • Help people hang their posters (or at least get the top two corners pinned)
  • Record any posters that were no-shows.
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Depending on how competent the student is and how much you trust them, you can also task them with managing the abstract review process (i.e., if you are using something like EasyChair, you can make them a Session Chair, or even the SuperChair, if you think they can manage it). It's the kind of job that postdocs and faculty are reluctant to do, because it distracts from more urgent obligations and it has next to zero professional rewards at that level.

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