What I Learned From My First Academic Conference

Last week I had the unique opportunity to present at my first academic conference. It was the 11th Annual Social Entrepreneurship Conference, which is the largest academic conference on social entrepreneurship in the world, with attendees coming from every corner of the globe. I was a bit surprised, to be honest, when our paper was chosen for the conference. Almost everyone else attending the conference was either a Ph.D. student or an established professor in the field. With the encouragement of my professor and advisor Dr. Aqeel Tirmizi we prepared and attended the conference together as colleagues. It was a lot of fun, we presented to a packed room with standing room only, and I was able to give away lots of incredible gifts like A Philosopher's Notes, Optimal Living 101, the B Corps Handbook and more thanks to the generosity of en*theos and B Lab who shared the goodies with me.

I've included my presentation below in case you want to check it out. In addition to Suncommon and New Media Group, who I highlighted in my original Leading Happiness research, I also conducted several new interviews for this presentation and added en*theos into the mix. Super exciting!

I loved the experience of the conference, learned a lot and received great feedback and support from professionals in our audience. Here are 5 of my favorite things I learned:

  1. Mentors Can Become Colleagues - It was a lot of fun to work together with my advisor as a colleague. Spending hours together, driving, attending the sessions, preparing for our presentation, and standing up together to talk with the audience was great professional experience. I really admire Aqeel and look forward to working more together.
  2. Give Away Goodies - It was great to be able to offer important books, tools and takeaways to our audience. It took a little planning (I had to request items a few weeks out) but I was amazed at how generous en*theos and B Lab were with supporting me and sharing resources. It felt great to give away such wonderful wisdom. I look forward to doing that again.
  3. Relax and Try to Learn - The presentation before ours was all about why B Corps are not a great idea, which really got my heart racing, but ultimately things worked out great. Going in with an open mind, trying to learn as much as I could and being humble in the presence of such great people, was definitely the right approach.
  4. Focus on Others - I'm so excited to see how much further I can carry this research into the field to make a difference and help improve people's lives. Through conferences, teaching classes at en*theos and much more, I have a lot I want to share to help people all around the world enjoy their work more, live happier and healthier lives and change the world.
  5. Be Constructive - It's easy to be critical, especially when you are sitting in presentations or meetings all day. Instead of being critical, be constructive. Try to build something. Try to make something better. As the founders of B Corps said in our retreat last month, we stand for things, not against things. I love that. Be positive, focus on moving forward, and give people suggestions and support for making things better.

All in all I had a wonderful time and I'm very grateful to Aqeel and the conference for the opportunity to share and learn so much. Thank you also to Judy, our wonderful Peace Corps friend, who kindly hosted Tunga and I during our week on the northeastern coast.

I'm excited to see where things will go from here and to share more with you soon!