Almost one week after, I wanted to share my observations from my first INFORMS Annual Meeting in Minneapolis. Let me say one thing at the beginning: I really enjoyed the conference and I am very happy to attend even if I had one assignment and two midterms in the week after the conference. So, here we go: The conference was held in a gigantic convention center in Minneapolis such that there were 72 streams held in parallel, with four sessions in each during four days! I hope this gives you a feeling about how huuuuge is the conference series held there. If you check the session booklet you will see what I mean. This meeting addresses every possible area related with OR/MS. I heard that there were approximately 4000 people this year, no wonder why convention center seems crowded to me everyday.
I wrote for eNews Daily – check links below – for INFORMS during the conference, so I could only attend a limited number of seminars, but the environment affected my perspective in different ways (both technical – knowledge, presentation skills – and personal). I haven’t mentioned networking yet, right? I met with many people from different backgrounds and positions; undergrads, masters, PhDs, academics and also some people from business. The good thing is you don’t need to look for them, it happens eventually. While you are sharing same table in the study area or sharing same session or having lunch from same restaurant, you start to talk about anything with the person next to you.
Experience is the best teacher
I am glad to be able to attend in my second year as a PhD student. Right now, I can say that, at least I know what awaits me in the next year’s meeting. A great tip for newcomers: find your hotel as close as possible to the convention center. This time, I could only find a hotel one hour away by walking. Thus, I had to use public transportation which ruined my mornings since I needed to wake up very early for preparation, breakfast and transportation (sessions start at 8:00 am).
To experience a great conference, you need to plan things before. Especially receptions should be in your schedule before anything else. Receptions are full of fun, especially if you are lucky to meet with new people. Another key point is that plenary and keynote talks are significant that you can learn many things in limited time, so this opportunity should be used. I was able to attend most of them and I took advantage of it. If you look at the program carefully you have a good chance of meeting people working in the same topic with you. Unless you are working on rocket science, you can find whoever you want to find among 4000 people there.
Seize the opportunity
During the conference, I attended one session in which I am interested but don’t have any background. It was a unique chance for me to listen top names on the topic. So, it’s another opportunity you can experience. Moreover, it would be also very beneficial if you join to the societies of INFORMS to get together with people in the topic you have an interest, such as healthcare, computation, energy etc.
To conclude, if what you are looking are networking, new research topics, broadening your mind, finding people working in same research area, improving yourself in education and joining societies then INFORMS Annual Meeting is a best place to find all of them at once.
Photo by Dustin Gaffke