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I am an undergraduate student. In about a month, there will be a conference a professor of mine suggested that I go to. The subject of the conference is part of his research field and I am interested in doing a MSc with him later on. I was wondering whether there is a way of asking him to join me (or me to join him) while attending the conference without creating an awkward situation. What I mean to say is that I really think that being around him at the conference, sitting somewhere close to him will benefit myself in many ways (for example hear some comments during a speech, share thoughts etc.). Is there anyway I could ask him so we meet there and sit together or something? In no way, do I want him to take that in a wrong way.

I would really appreciate it if you could help me. Thank you.

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    Yes, there is a way. Just ask directly; "hi, I'm really interested in the subject of conference X. Can I go?" – Gimelist May 30 '15 at 23:29
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    He might perceive it in a different way if I say it so directly. Isn't that possible? – NickyR May 30 '15 at 23:41
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    I'm not a psychologist, so take this with an anonymous-poster-on-the-internet grain of salt: I'm afraid that you've already made asking him to go to the conference with you something which can (will?) more than likely be taken in the wrong way. I would suggest just asking him for tips/pointers on how to maximize your experience at the conference, and, if he gets a hint that going might help you in that regard, he'll offer to attend with you. Note: I assume OP is worried that their advisor might think asking them to attend the conference might be taken as a sign that OP "likes" the advisor. – Mad Jack May 31 '15 at 0:00
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    I'm confused. Are you saying the professor is already planning to attend the conference, and you just want his permission to be near him during the conference? (This is probably overrated; your time, and his, is probably much better spent with new people.) Or he is not currently planning to attend, and you want to convince him to do so? (Probably impossible with only one month lead time.) – Nate Eldredge May 31 '15 at 0:15
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    I actively encourage (young or first-time) students who will be at a conference with me to attend a session or two with me. In some cases I ask them to come to a particular session because I want them to meet someone; in other cases it is just to be able to amplify and explain what is going on. Then I encourage them to attend some sessions on their own. But I'm bringing undergrads, so they're always a little overwhelmed. – dmckee Jun 3 '15 at 1:10
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I am going to answer specifically based on the explanation

He is already planning to attend and I want his permission to be near him during the conference.

I doubt anyone plans a conference visit down to that level of detail. Planning to be "near someone else" during a conference is rather counterproductive:

  • You don't want to focus on following someone, you want to focus on the conference presentations.
  • During the presentations, you could sit next to him, but what for? The options for talking or otherwise exchanging any meaningful information are rather limited while attending a talk.
  • You might then plan for joining him during coffee breaks. But then, those are exactly the time when a large chaos starts (everyone leaves rooms and walks around) and all the spontaneous things come up (fetching beverages and food, running into old and new acquaintances that want to discuss something, starting a conversation about one of the talks just attended, going to the bathroom, ...) and all planning is in vain.

Of course, you could ask the professor beforehand: "I would like to discuss some topics with you during the conference, can we meet for that purpose?", but from the point of view of the professor, that will most likely be a NOOP, a bit of conversation with you that does not provoke any concrete reactions. Once again, because that level of detail can hardly be planned beforehand.

Rather than that, approach the professor spontaneously during the conference; that makes it likely that either he'll be free then, or he'll promise some free time in the near future (e.g. the next break).

This way, there will be no need for you to follow him all the time:

  • You can pick the sessions you are personally most interested in.
  • By not attending the same session as your professor, you can even contribute to gathering as much from the conference as possible (with respect to your whole "delegation", as different members of your team gather impressions from different talks).
  • Maybe you can even find some contacts of your own (who might very well be quite a different set of contacts than who you might more or less get in touch with when just standing around next to your professor).
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    Exactly. Having seen all the replies (and before seeing yours), I've already decided not to say anything in advance in personal. If there is a chance I see him over there, then good; we will talk. If not, it's fine. Besides, it's the conference that will give me all the information I want, not him. If anything arises, I can find him later. Your answer confirms that. Thanks a lot! – NickyR Jun 2 '15 at 16:26
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Probably the faculty person's plans are already made, months in advance, so your asking will have no impact on their actual plans. Possible, but not likely.

That is, if they'd not already planned to attend, they had reasons to not do so, or insufficient reasons to do so, and these reasons will probably not be changed by your own attendance... especially when the faculty person has made a recommendation.

Yes, as often, there is some risk of accidental misunderstanding about motivations, personal versus professional. The usual irony is that only the scrupulous, honorable people worry about such things... :) But, in any case, I'd think that the on-the-mark question would be "are you yourself going to be there... for me to bounce questions off?"

As in many situations, asking the actual operational question, rather than any sort of circumlocutious persiflage, is ... good. In fact, the tone of many circumlocutions can accidentally/inappropriately suggest unintended intentions... of course.

This is yet-another one of those situations where worrying about "coded" communication is not productive. Be forthright.

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    persiflage... I learned a new word! – Moriarty May 31 '15 at 5:05
  • I think you're right. However, asking him to join him with the excuse of "bouncing off qstions" might make him fend off. He might think I won't let him a minute free...:P – NickyR May 31 '15 at 11:25
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"Would you like to attend it as well?"

Or

"Would you mind if I came along? The conference sounds very interesting."

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