Employability Series: Try Going to a (Virtual) History Seminar or Conference

Senior lecturer Caroline Nielsen continues her Employability blog series, helping you develop your skills. 

Missing our department’s monthly research seminar series? Thinking about postgraduate studies in History, Heritage or archives, or in Teaching?

Want to reach out to other academics and students and build your network? What to learn about completely new subjects or the latest research in bite-size chunks?

Attending a conference. By The Climate Reality Project on Unsplash.

Try Going to a (Virtual) History Seminar or Conference

Conferences, seminars and workshops offer the opportunity to meet and learn from your peers. They are essential in nearly all industries and sectors. These events offer the opportunity for feedback and informal mentoring, in a less formal setting than a workplace or university.

If you are interested in postgraduate studies, it is an ideal way of learning from other postgraduates.

I love academic conferences, the networking and information events for my own sector of Higher Education. There’s always new people to meet and learn from, and new ideas to learn.

They also have limitations. Conference registration can be expensive. Travel adds further cost, time and environmental considerations. I have personal experience of the hassle of trying to use Google Maps to determine the distance between a venue and a hotel, and whether it was actually possible to get from one to the other without walking down a 3-lane bypass.

Historians have responded to the current pandemic by taking bits of the annual summer conference season online. Some of it has gone ‘live’, others have pre-recorded their papers or activities.

Looking for a seminar? Try these:

• The Institute of Historical Research (University of London, UK) is the national centre for History. Its seminar series present cutting-edge research as well as opportunities to hear established leaders in the field. Not all of its seminars have made the online jump yet but here are some that have.

• The Historical Association (HA) is a national charity supporting and promoting History teaching and learning for all. They work with teachers, museums and academics to develop History activities.

NB: If you are interested in teaching History in schools, look at the HA’s website. It has areas for primary and secondary History and runs CPD for teachers.

You can attend a conference from the comfort of your own home. Photo: Simon Abrams for Unsplash.

Getting the most out of a virtual event or conference

Successful virtual training and events has some practical considerations.

Screen time and breaks are key issues. It is not good for us to spend all day looking at a keyboard or screen without sufficient breaks, or without getting up regularly and moving. Most conference or event planners recognise our screen-time difficulties and build in regular breaks. Sometimes, this doesn’t happen though due to timing problems, technical issues or general forgetfulness.

You will know your individual needs and requirements better than anyone else. Think about what’s best for you. Do you absolutely need to watch both the video of the speaker, the PowerPoint screen AND listen to the audio recording? Could you minimise one?

If you know you have a specific requirement and if you feel comfortable doing so, have a chat with the conference organisers/planners in advance. They may know of ways to take it into account or ways to adapt their host platform software. As virtual hosts and moderators of an online event, they may have more software options than you do as a participant. For example, they may have more options for closed captioning or recording.

I’m afraid that the move online hasn’t removed all of the cost implications of conferencing and seminars. Some seminar series and conferences still have a registration cost. If you want to go to one, make sure you know the cost up-front and what you are getting. Ask tutors if you are unsure if it’s legitimate.

Have fun – and let us know which talks you are attending!



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