Frequently Asked Questions: Brought to you by the PSA's Student Affairs Committee
Thank you for attending the PSA Portland Conference! We know that many of you are new to conferences and may have questions so here are a few tools to make this conference a fun and positive learning experience.
How should I dress?
While some conferences are formal, the PSA is designed to be comfortable for all participants. You will see people in suits and in jeans. You are still networking and meeting new people, so you will want to look presentable. How you define this is up to you.
There are two sessions I am interested in attending, but they meet at the same time. Is there anything I can do?
Sit in the back of the first session and slip out when the speaker that you are interested in is done. It is acceptable, and common practice, for people to move between sessions provided they do it quietly and respectfully. A helpful tip is that the order that the presenters show on the program is usually (but not always) the order that they will present in.
Can I bring food or drink into the sessions?
You are welcome to have the water that is provided inside or nearby the presentation rooms (except the water on the front table that is for presenters only). Other drinks, such as coffee or soda, are fine as well but please open cans before the presentations begin. In respect for the presenters and those around you, food should generally be consumed outside of the sessions.
Do I have to go to the Student Reception?
We cannot make you go, but it is a great way to meet and connect with fellow sociology students and to enjoy some free snacks. We usually have a raffle for books and a few $50 checks for students who are registered for the conference and who are members of PSA. Remember to bring the name badge given to you at registration and your ID!
How do I mingle/network?
This is a tough question, because some people just seem to know how to do this and others are uncomfortable with the mere concept. The best we can do here is to remind you to wear your nametags and don't be shy. Review the sessions and presentations, go to the ones you're interested in, and remember that you are encouraged to approach the presenters afterwards with any questions you may have.
I am a graduate student presenting at a session. What should I expect?
There are different types of sessions, but the two most common are Research in Progress and Formal Paper sessions. A formal research presentation is based on a project for which data collection and analysis has been completed (at least preliminary analysis). The category also includes formal theoretical or methodological presentations. Formal research presentations are generally 15-20 minutes. Your session organizer should let you know your time limits prior to the conference. A research in progress presentation will focus on projects that are at various stages, from conceptual development through data collection. Research-in-progress presentations are generally 10-12 minutes. Depending on the number of presenters, there also will be a few minutes to answer questions. If you have not heard from your session organizer by January 1, 2014, please contact Amy Orr at firstname.lastname@example.org.
People in the audience will be walking in and leaving throughout your presentation – do not take it personally and try not to become distracted. There will be water up front for you in case your throat gets dry. A power point is an excellent idea, as it gives the audience something to look at while you are talking. There will be LCD projectors and screens in each room but the PSA does not supply laptops. If your session organizer has not contacted you about the computer arrangement for your session, please contact them. If you choose not to prepare a power point, try to refrain from just “reading” your presentation – it is a supportive environment and an excellent chance to practice your professional presentation skills. See this website on how to give an effective presentation:
If you need other A/V equipment (overhead projector for transparencies, CD player, VCR with monitor, flipchart) you MUST let your session organizer know before February 1, 2014.
What do we do if the organizer does not show up to the session I am presenting at?
While this is rare, it has happened. If the organizer does not show up, one of the presenters needs to step in and start the session. In this case, the presenter who does “step up” will only be asked to introduce the individual presenters (or can ask them to introduce themselves) and monitor the question and answer period at the end of the session.
I am presenting at a roundtable. What should I expect?
Roundtable presentations are far less formal than a paper session. There will be a presider at your table who will lead the session. Generally, each presenter will present their work, and then the table presider will engage you in a discussion about your work. They may have individual comments for each presenter, or moderate a larger table discussion among all participants. The advantage of a roundtable is that it is informal; it’s a great way to get feedback on your work, talk about difficulties you may have had in collecting your data, and find that other students have had the same problems. It’s a great way to share ideas and share your research experiences with other students. Often you will pick up good suggestions on how to improve your work from both your table presider and the other students.
What is an undergraduate ‘poster session’?
A poster session is scheduled just as other sessions (during a particular 1 ½ hour time period). Bulletin boards are set up in high traffic areas so that meeting attendees can walk through and look at your work You are required to be standing by your poster during the scheduled session so that people can stop and talk with you about your work. Posters are visual representations of your work and are viewed by many people, more people than attend either a paper or roundtable session. While it does seem as though sociology conferences do not do as many poster sessions as other disciplines – if you were to attend a major psychology conference, or one of the natural sciences, there would be many poster sessions, by students and faculty alike.
I noticed sessions called Presidential Session and Presidential Workshops. What does that mean?
These are special sessions organized by the PSA President. They have high profile presenters and they are the “highlights” of the conference. You should attend these if the topic interests you.
What is the Presidential Address & Awards Ceremony? Am I expected to go?
This is where the PSA President addresses the members and various awards are presented, including the Distinguished Undergraduate Student Paper Award, Distinguished Graduate Student Paper Award, Distinguished Scholarship Award, Distinguished Teaching Award, Distinguished Contribution to Practice Award, and the Social Conscience Award. It is a good idea to hear the PSA President’s vision for the organization and the discipline of sociology. This year, Dr. Wharton's Presidential Address promises to be interesting and informative!
What is the Presidential Reception? Am I expected to go?
This is a great networking event held after the presidential address. Not only does it have free food and drink, but it is a way to mingle and visit with other PSA members. Generally, faculty and students attend, so you have a wide variety of people to meet.
How do committees work? Can anyone who is interested go to a committee meeting?
Yes, anyone who is interested in a committee meeting may go to the meeting, with the exception of the Awards,Nominations, Publications and Committee on Committee meetings. If you are interested in attending the Status of Women meeting, for example, you are welcome to attend. Plan to arrive a few minutes early, introduce yourself to the committee chair, and tell them you are interested and would like to sit in.
What is involved with being in a committee? How do I express my interest in serving on a committee?
Students may serve as appointed members to all of the committees except for the Awards Committee and the elected committees (Committee on Committees, Nominations and Publications). If you wish to be considered for appointment to a committee, please submit the form located in every issue of the newsletter, The Pacific Sociologist, and on the PSA website (pacifocsoc.org). If you have any questions please contact the PSA secretary Amy Denissen (email@example.com). Please DO NOT approach a committee chair or committee member and ask to be appointed to that committee. There is a special committee, the PSA Committee on Committees that makes the appointments. The PSA secretary keeps a list of volunteers for the Committee on Committees. Terms of service are typically three years.
Who do I go to if I have other questions?
We have all been new to conferences, and know that there can be anxiety when faced with new experiences. You can approach any of the session organizers and if they can’t answer your questions, they should be able to direct you to someone who can.
You can always email the PSA Executive Office (firstname.lastname@example.org), PSA Secretary Amy Denissen (email@example.com), or the Student Affairs Committee Chair Tina Burdsall (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will always try to help you out.