2009webbanner679px03 I just got through the harrowing first day of school for two very nervous boys. Ian's bus never showed up, so I'm a good 1-1/2 hours behind schedule for my day. I'm getting ready for the American Political Science Association conference in Toronto. I'm flying out tomorrow, so this will be my last post for the week. I thought I would offer some advice for other attendees, especially the newbies.

APSA can be a very alienating experience, especially for women. Women are outnumbered ten to one at this conference. It's hard to be the skirt among the sea of rumpled khaki pants and blue oxford shirts. But everyone feels lost at some point at this conference. It's very big and not that nurturing. So, here are some pointers:

1) Dress conservatively. No bra straps showing or short skirts. Wear something that makes you feel confident and powerful. Don't try out the new shoes this weekend, because there's always lots of walking between rooms.

2) Seek out other women and strike up a conversation. Seek out me and I'll gladly have coffee with you, if I have the chance. Just leave a message on the APSA message system or stop me in the hallway. I have big, red hair.

3) Go to the organized section meetings. This is a good way to meet the journal editors and section leaders.

4) Plan out your schedule ahead of time. It really sucks to be aimlessly wandering around. Plan carefully which panels you plan on attending and where you'll go for dinner.

5) Spend time in the book room. Get the business cards of editors. Pitch ideas and scope out the books of your competitors.

6) Go to one roundtable that it is outside of your research area. It might inspire you. 

7) Don't gape at the badges of "important" people.

8) If someone gives a paper that you really loved, go up to them afterwards and tell them. They'll be so flattered, and you'll have made a new friend.

9) Ask questions of the people on the panels, but don't use the question to pimp your dissertation. You'll just piss off everyone.

10) There will be assholes there. There will be people who look over your shoulder for a more important person to talk to and insecure people who only feel good about themselves when they trash your methodology publicly. Shun the shmucks.

11) Get away from the conference, if you can. If you're really anxious, then go check out the local museum or read a novel in a local cafe. 

Good luck to all! I'll be back on Sunday.

9 thoughts on “APSA

  1. Good luck tomorrow, Macaroni. Sorry I won’t be there in time to catch it.
    I wore jeans to my first APSA conference, and Kirk V. made fun of me. Still mad about that. I think the second one that I attended, I tried to sneak in and got caught. Public humiliation.


  2. These days women can even wear rumbled khaki pants and blue oxford shirts and no one much will notice. (At least this is so at Philosophy conferences and the few political science conferences I’ve been to.)


  3. 12: If you do want to trash somebody’s methodology, remember:
    a. If something has few threats to internal validity, it is not sufficiently generalizable.
    b. If something is generalizable, it has too many problems with internal validity.


  4. I showed up at APSA one year because I was desperate to find hit up anyone I could find for job leads, though I had no place to stay and basically no money for food. I gorged myself at the evening receptions (University of Notre Dame/Review of Politics traditionally has a great spread), and hit up old friends I hadn’t talked to in years to crash their hotel rooms. Ah, the good old days.


  5. Teresa Nielsen Hayden offers advice on going to a Worldcon, to which APSA may bear some similarities. An excerpt:

    2. Personal Maintenance
    Early on in the convention’s program, there’ll be an orientation panel for congoing newbies. Go there. Listen. Consider taking notes.
    The worldcon can be overwhelming to people who’ve been attending it for decades. It will unquestionably overwhelm you. When things get to be too much, go back to your room and nap for an hour. It’s a sovereign cure. The other sovereign cure is to try some smaller conventions. Boskone’s good.
    Another sign of trouble is that you suddenly realize that all your friends hate you, you’re having an awful time, you’ve made a fool of yourself in every conversation you’ve been in so far, and you should never have come to the convention. This is definitely a sign that you should go back to your room and take a nap. When you wake up, things will be better.
    If it’s early evening and you suddenly can’t find anyone you know, it’s probably because your friends have gone off on a dinner expedition. Eat in the hotel coffeeshop, keep an eye out for their return, and get yourself invited along on the next one.
    Drink lots of water. Take your regular medications on your regular schedule. Carry your vital medical information (if you have any) on your person at all times. Remember to eat at least two meals and get five hours of sleep within any twenty-four-hour period. Spend at least half an hour each day outside the hotel, doing something that has nothing to do with the convention.
    If you run out of food money, bear in mind that there are often subsistence-level snacks for people working on the convention. If that doesn’t work for you, get a big jar of peanut butter. Failing that, check out the refreshments in the consuite.
    Be especially careful to keep up your fluid intake and get enough sleep in preparation for traveling home. You’ve just been under a lot of stress, and you’ve been exposed to new bugs imported from all over the world.
    If at all possible, budget a recovery day back home.

    I especially liked this bit:

    Be kind and polite. Never assume it’s safe to be rude or condescending to someone just because they appear to be a very odd bird indeed. Interpersonal connections in the SF community are complex, multilayered, and wholly unpredictable; and the community itself is notably tolerant of disabilities and personal eccentricities. That very odd bird may turn out to be your favorite author, or the agent you have your eye on, or the editor to whom your novel is currently on submission. They might be one of the field’s mandarin theorists: highly respected, but almost impossible to spot from outside the community. But what you really have to watch out for is the odd bird who was your hoped-for agent’s or editor’s best friend when they were teenage neofans together, or their former spouse and business partner, or their fellow member for several decades now of a small and obscure but oddly influential APA, or their opponent in the worst fan feud in twenty years.


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