I have always loved attending conferences because they provide opportunities to network with other scholars, publicise my research activities, as well as build my research profile. I have attended some conferences in the UK and when I got the email that my paper has been accepted for presentation at the American Marketing Association (AMA) Winter Education Conference, I was excited and started looking forward to it.
Attending an international conference requires good preparation. The conference organiser was very helpful with providing travel information, especially regarding obtaining a visa. All that was required by the American Embassy was my invitation letter in addition to a student confirmation letter from my University. I was amazed at how simple the process was.
Before I knew it, I was off to San Antonio, Texas. The immigration officials seemed surprised that I was only visiting for a few days for a conference. The Conference had a very different atmosphere to conferences I had attended in the UK – this could be due to the fact that Americans were by far the biggest nationality present!
There are some things I found particularly interesting:
Early Riser – I am used to the first session of each day starting between 9:00 and 10:00 in the morning but sessions started as early as 8:00 am! Each day was fully packed with events but it was great to have the opportunity to explore different sessions and meet lots of people.
Networking – Though I was quite reserved in my networking approach, I used every opportunity to network. I chatted to people I sat with in sessions or met during lunch. In relaxed atmospheres, it is easier to start conversations and get to know people. Interestingly too, I was able to network with people I had met on Twitter before the conference.
The PhD Process: US vs. UK – I learnt about the differences between how PhDs are structured in the US and the UK. In the US, PhD candidates can spend at least 5 years working towards their PhD. A lot of work (and time) is spent grooming candidates for research and academia, which I find to be very different from how the PhD process occurs in the UK. There were also indications that a large proportion of American Marketing research is quantitative – developing and testing models – this means researchers heavily rely on statistical packages and tools. Candidates are taught to use these tools as an integral part of their PhD.
The Job market – I learnt that you can use ‘one stone to kill two birds’ while attending the AMA Conference. Apart from presenting your research and networking, you could probably leave with a new job and start preparing for life as an Assistant Professor! This requires a lot of planning though as you would need to have applied long before the conference. The point to note however, is the fact that it has been incorporated into the conference. Universities know they can recruit at the conference and students are well prepared for the fact that they could be interviewed during the conference.
The Socials – Unfortunately, there was no social event as I would have expected. Typically, UK conferences are for three days; Wednesday to Friday; with socials being held on the penultimate night. Socials provide a good opportunity for conference delegates to ‘let their hair down’ and socialise in an informal atmosphere. I decided to entertain myself by visiting some key landmark sites in San Antonio.
Overall, it was a wonderful experience, I did enjoy myself, meet nice people and develop some productive relationships. Most importantly, it was a challenging, thought provoking opportunity to see how I could best improve myself, in terms of developing my research skills, publications and getting ready for the job market. I plan to attend the Summer AMA in 2016 as I will be more than ready to explore opportunities USA has got to offer.
Emmanuel Mogaji is a member of the Centre for Advances in Marketing, Business and Management Research Institute at the University of Bedfordshire Business School. His research interests are on the design and development of marketing communication for service providers, universities and charity organisations. He is currently working on his PhD, focusing on advertising strategies by UK financial service providers. He tweets @e_mogaji.
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