Last week I participated, for the first time, in the International Studies Association 2021 Virtual Convention.
It was an amazing experience and reminded me of the importance of participating in these types of activities, which is hard to do for practitioners of IR and diplomacy.
I think participation in a professional association´s conventions should be mandatory not only for MA and Ph.D. students but also for BA learners. There are many reasons why this should be, as there plenty of benefits beyond what the organization offers.
It was heartwarming to see great scholars (new and experienced) saying they were nervous about presenting their work at the ISA Convention. In a few panels, presenters talked about the “impostor syndrome” even when they already published excellent research!
However, in all cases, they received excellent feedback from fellow panelists and the participating audience. It is the perfect opportunity to develop a thick skin and tolerance, improve their presentation skills, and get awesome advice.
For first-time members, participating in a convention is challenging to say the least, even if you are not presenting any paper. The challenges multiply in a virtual environment. However, ISA had a first-time participant live meeting, which was extremely helpful. I believe that the more you participate in the association and its conventions, the easier it gets. So, familiarity with the organization´s idiosyncrasy will help anybody enjoy the convention even more.
It is also a great experience to connect with people who are doing interesting research, expand your horizons, and bring new perspectives to what you are doing. I saw a presenter using physics to describe power and influence in the global arena, which was awesome!
Membership in professional organizations is an excellent way to network beyond your academic institution or work milieu. It opens up a whole world of opportunities to learn, share, and discuss your ideas with like-minded people.
Besides, the breadth and depth of knowledge shared in a convention are mind-boggling. It will take me some time to absorb and process all this information. It definitely makes you think in different ways than before.
After a year of reduced contacts and little or no traveling, it was refreshing to see so many people excited about the convention, even if it was digitally. Watching from home had its challenges but the coffee, according to many comments on Twitter, was a lot better than at the site´s coffee shops.
I am not sure, but having a virtual convention might have boosted participation from Global South scholars, that usually would not attend as it is expensive to do so. And with the pandemic right out impossible to travel to most countries across the globe.
The possibility of recording the sessions will make many of the convention participants continue to explore the panels that they missed or watch their favorite ones again. I know I will be watching panels for the rest of the month!
Practitioners can learn so many things going on around the world, some of which can help them with their work. And there are so many panels; they can concentrate on just one topic throughout the convention and get real insight on that particular issue. Conventions are treasure-troves of information and knowledge from experts in that specific topic.
Membership has its privileges, from seeing old friends (and a few intellectual foes) to participating in committee meetings and connecting with scholars. Therefore, I invite you to join a professional organization and attend their conventions. There is no downside to it.
Rodrigo Márquez Lartigue
Diplomat interested in the development of Consular and Public Diplomacies.