AMS 101: A Guide to Surviving and Thriving at the Annual Meeting

Becky DePodwin
Jan 4 · 8 min read

The 100th annual AMS meeting kicks off in just over a week and will entail several jam-packed days full of interesting sessions, networking, mentoring, and walking… lots of walking.

The annual meeting can be daunting- I’ll admit my first time attending as a student assistant in 2011 was pretty overwhelming. But, it’s also where I got a sense for how close-knit the field is and met people whom I am still friends with today.

AMS 2011 (Seattle) Banquet

There are definitely a few things I wish I had known going into that first meeting 9 years ago (eeeep, how has it been that long??), so here are some tips and advice on how to get the most out of your week at AMS.

Plan ahead!

Create a general schedule ahead of time, but be flexible! You can use the new and improved AMS Conference Planner, as well as the mobile app to keep track of what talks you want to attend, what room they are in, and see what other events are going on. I also add every meeting or event to my personal calendar, so I can have that on my home screen and receive notifications for when events are about to start. Keep in mind it’s highly unlikely you’ll get to every talk you want to hear. Far too many going on at once, not to mention they may not be near each other.

Comfort is key

Speaking of talks not being near each other…. my next two pieces of advice! Wear comfortable shoes and walk the convention center ahead of time. If time allows, walk the convention center before the conference gets going (@AMSStudentConf & @AMSEarlyCareer conference attendees have an advantage with this). This will help you get a lay of the land & figure out any schedule conflicts with rooms that are far apart. The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center is very large. Between walking from your hotel, walking between talks, walking to the Westin for receptions, and walking around Boston in the evenings, your feet are going to be pretty dang tired.

Comfortable shoes are a MUST and the week of AMS is not the week to break in a new pair of shoes (trust me and my blisters from 2011). There are many shoes that bridge the gap between professional and comfortable, but also, no one is judging you for wearing sneakers. Seriously. A first-aid kit with bandaids, blister-specific bandaids or moleskins may also come in very handy, even with the most comfortable of shoes.

The next recommendation is also about comfort and based on personal experience/preference: A backpack or bag with two shoulder straps is better than a one-shouldered purse or bag. Distribute that weight evenly! Your shoulders will thank you. Or you can be like me, bring a purse, kill one of your shoulders, and then have the strap break halfway through the conference because the bag is too heavy 🙄.

Last year’s snacks being packed

Snacks, hydration, & alcohol

Snaccckkksssss. I always pack several snack options for the week. Something savory, like goldfish, some granola or Kind bars, something sweet but not too sugary, and a few quick breakfast options. The hotel may not have free breakfast (the Westin does not), you may be running late, or you may want to save some $$. Oatmeal cups are super quick and easy to heat up in your hotel room microwave and also decently filling! Other meals at set times are also not a given on some days, due to everything going on, so snacks help keep your energy up & take the hunger edge off. If you see me at AMS and need something to get your blood sugar up or to take the edge off your hunger, let me know- I got you covered!

Equally, if not more important, than snacks is staying hydrated! My Hydroflask is my best friend during the week. Coffee is very important, but so is water. Lots of walking + lots of talking = very thirsty AMS attendees. I recommend bringing your own water bottle to help reduce plastic waste.

Along with staying hydrated, monitor your alcohol intake. Yes, I know how much mets love to drink, but remember this is a professional conference & you’ll be with potential future employers. Also, talks and meetings start early & I don’t recommend showing up with pillows taped to your head… or falling asleep in talks, so…. next piece of advice, get enough sleep! I know, I know… I laughed out loud at that one, too. I don’t want to discount the importance of evening networking opportunities, but those early morning meetings/talks are also important. Find a balance & know how much sleep you need to function well.

It’s okay to take a break!

Don’t hesitate to take breaks! Zoning out in a talk? Get up and take a walk. Overwhelmed by too many people or conversations? Find a quiet place to sit and relax for a bit. This will be a totally new environment, with thousands of people- it can be a LOT to take in, so don’t feel pressured to be “always on.” Breaks and naps are okay!

Talk to people!

One of the absolute best parts of the AMS meeting (at least if you’re a major extrovert like me) is seeing old friends and meeting new ones! Networking is a key component of any conference, so branch out and make new friends! It’s easy to stick with the circle of people you came with, but you never know who you’ll meet. Some of the best people I know were connections made at a weather conference. You’re also more likely to attend receptions or other networking events if you know someone who will be there.

#WxTwitter Meet-up in Austin, Texas!

On the topic of networking…. JUST TALK TO THE PERSON. I promise, no one is too important that you can’t shake their hand & have a brief discussion with you about their work, career, interests, etc. Networking is everything in this field and 99% of people are happy to talk with others and share insight, especially with students and early career professionals. It’s also advisable to bring an up-to-date resume and/or business cards that include LinkedIn and/or social media account info. Another option is to have your resume or CV set up in a draft e-mail and be ready to type in an e-mail and hit send right away! People don’t always remember names, but they do remember faces & conversations. Take their business card, write down what you discussed, & follow up with them after the conference. I can think of probably 10–15 people who have ended up as interns or full time employees after talking with myself or a colleague at AMS.

Keep an open mind going into the conference, especially if you’re a student or early career professional looking for a job. There will be a wide diversity of employers there- talk to as many of them as possible! You never know what might pique your interest. The career fairs and exhibit hall area great places to see what types of jobs or graduate schools are out there and where you might fit in your next career move.

Write stuff down

Have a way to take notes, whether it be your laptop (keeping in mind that outlets for charging can be limited), phone, or a pen and notebook. Be sure to include the name of the person giving the talk, so you know who to follow up with later if you want to discuss further. If you think phone/laptop will be too distracting from the actual talk, leave the computer in your hotel and phone in your pocket. Nothing wrong with old-fashioned note-taking… unless you’re me and can’t read your own handwriting🙃.

BE YOURSELF.

This one is important. I know it can feel like a lot of pressure to impress people at the conference, but don’t feel like you need to be someone you’re not in order to do so. Be confident in your knowledge and abilities (even as a student!) and be genuine and know you are in a community that is welcoming and supportive. This is especially important to keep in mind if you are presenting for the first time. Being nervous before presenting means you are a human who is capable of emotion. Public speaking IS a scary thing to do, especially when it means showing vulnerability to strangers. Take deep breaths & be yourself. People appreciate & remember authenticity.

Shoutout to the Early Career’s!

Lastly, I couldn’t wrap up this blog without a plug for the Early Career Conference. I’ve had a blast planning this year’s events with co-chairs, Jordan Bell, Brad Johnson, and Bill Burkey (plus special shoutout to current BECP chair, Jared Rennie!). Everyone and anyone is welcome at the Sunday evening reception, even if you did not register or attend the EC conference. A #WxTwitter meetup will also be happening on Monday evening- stay tuned for a location. Looking forward to seeing old faces and meeting new friends!

Some other great events and receptions to consider attending this year:

CoRiolis Reception: Monday, 13 January 2020, 8:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m.
Westin Hotel, Marina Ballroom III

Colour of Weather: Sunday, 12 January 2020, 7:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m.
Westin Hotel, Marina Ballroom I

Women in Atmospheric Sciences Luncheon: Tuesday, 14 January 2020, 12:00 p.m.–1:30 p.m.
BCEC, 205C

Earth Science Women’s Network Annual Networking Reception: Monday, January 13, 2020
6:30 to 8:30 PM

Rosa Mexicano
155 Seaport Blvd.
Boston, MA 02210

Any other tips, advice, insight, or other conference-related wisdom to share? Share on Twitter using the hashtag #AMS100.

    Becky DePodwin

    Written by

    B.S. Meteorology | M.S. Emergency Management | Crisis/Risk Communication | Mental Health Advocate | Podcast host | nature lover🌄 |

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