Taipei: Reflections on a Hybrid Conference from an Early Career Presenter

BY MAGGIE HARDIMAN

I am not a morning person at the best of times, so a 4am start felt akin to the struggles faced in the 12 Labours of Hercules. Caffeine in hand the IT team talked me through what I needed to do as a speaker. This being a hybrid conference meant that some people were able to be there in person. The hosts and organising team managed to ensure that the conference ran smoothly and were warmly able to engage the physical and virtual attendees.

While I yearned to experience Taipei in-person, exploring the city with its rich history and cultural heritage, and networking with fellow researchers, the hybrid conference presented itself with many benefits. For one it forced me to prepare my slides weeks in advance, which had to be submitted early so the translators could familiarise themselves with the content. Additionally, I was able to experience home comforts such as my coffee of choice (no one is missing conference coffee).

I really enjoy conferences, but they can be draining particularly when the subject matter is suicide. For the first time I was able to take the time to process the information in a way that worked for me. I could take lots of in-depth notes at my desk (not needing to awkwardly balance my notebook cross-legged on my lap), I could embroider while listening to talks (giving my eyes a break from the screen), and I could listen to the recordings at a later stage that suited me.

None of these things I could have done in the same way at an in-person conference. I was able to engage with the content in a different manner and while I may have felt tired from the lack of sleep, I did not feel exhausted. We do not spend enough time talking about the impact of suicide research on the researcher, some days can be harder than others. While remote working means that we are forced to take our work home, it also enables us to turn to home comforts and find ways to disengage from difficult thoughts in familiar surroundings.

I felt incredibly inspired hearing about the work conducted by colleagues around the world. For me, this was the first time that I was at a conference that did not just focus on suicide prevention in Europe, US, and Australia. There were so many exciting talks from speakers across the globe from Japan to Kenya, the Philippines to Jamaica. It felt like a community, people who were all working towards one common goal, that of suicide prevention.