Top 5 Reasons Why Doctoral Students Should Attend Academic Conferences

cedric chaffois
Cédric Chaffois, DBA Candidate at Grenoble Ecole de Management

During my time as a DBA student, my Supervisor and I decided that we would attend the Innovation and Product Development Management Conference (IPDMC) at the Copenhagen Business School in order to present a paper derived from my thesis. This experience was extremely useful and here are five concrete reasons why I would recommend other DBA and PhD students attend academic conferences during their doctoral studies.

First and foremost, a conference provides the opportunity for feedback and exchanges. In our case, all of the comments and questions we received from the audience were both relevant and provided useful input to further improve our article as well as my thesis. For example, we discussed the paper’s perspective, theoretical framework and its key findings. Approximately 20 people attended the presentation and the richness of the debates served to confirm and complete our vision of the remaining challenges and issues in our paper and my thesis.

The preparation phase for a conference is a second important reason for attending academic conferences. If you wish to receive proper feedback, it is necessary to be disciplined and present your research in a structured manner. This includes creating a succinct thesis synthesis and presentation which must be based on a holistic view of your work. By doing so, you will surely discover areas for improvement and thus begin to implement important corrections. Your supervisor will also challenge your work and presentation in order to prepare you for the fact that the audience will detect any weaknesses in your work and highlight them during the Q&A session. Preparation provides you with the chance to examine your work in a comprehensive manner and, as a result, offers repeated opportunities for you to improve along the way.

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Third, conferences can be seen as the best rehearsal for your viva voce examination. They require you to present your work in a limited timeframe (e.g. 30 minutes, +/-10%) and you have to face the challenges of experienced and talented academics. Nothing is better to prepare you in terms of how and what you present. In our case, Peter Magnusson, a professor at Goteborg University and the author of several publications in top journals, as well as Nuran Acur, Co-Editor in Chief of Creativity and Innovation Management, were both present in the audience and asked relevant questions. You cannot ask for a better audience to challenge your work and offer you the chance to learn and grow from their feedback.

Networking and other professional opportunities are the fourth important reason for attending academic conferences. Participating in an event with researchers and world-class academics allows you to not only assess your research, but also take part in other presentations on topics that might be of interest to you. Thanks to these events, you may gain useful insights, contacts or other tips to help you advance. These conferences are also an opportunity to test your desire for an academic career. Even if you do not follow an academic path, conferences are a great addition to any résumé.

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Finally, attending and presenting at an academic conference will provide you with both confidence in your abilities and also humility in terms of what you have achieved. In my case, I will always be thankful to my supervisor, Thomas Gillier, and the Grenoble Ecole de Management Doctoral School staff who supported and motivated me to embark on such an adventure. The experience allowed me to grow and at the same time provided me with the perspective that my piece of work is just one drop in the ocean of knowledge that exists in my field of research.

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