My most awkward experience at the Society for Neuroscience meeting was the following: I was checking out posters and walked into one of our collaborators. I wanted to have his input on my work so I showed him some of my data and asked him what he thought. Before he had finished another person from the same field showed up. He’s a friend of the collaborator, but I also know him because he was at my old university. So we talked for a bit about how things were going, but I was still sort of waiting for our collaborator to finish what he had to say about my data. Next, another big shot in the field showed up and said hi to the two men I was talking to. They slapped each other on the back and started talking. I was kind of waiting for either the collaborator or the guy from my old university to introduce me but that didn’t happen. And I now realize that I should just have introduced myself, but they kept talking and I didn’t really know when to say something so in the end I said nothing. I was still kind of hoping to finish the conversation with the collaborator, but after some time it felt like I was obviously not part of the conversation anymore. I excused myself, left and kept feeling pretty awkward and regretted that I hadn’t said anything.
So the point of this story is that it’s a small gesture to introduce people to each other, but that it makes a huge difference in how you make people feel. I’m glad that my advisor is really good at this and has introduced me to a lot of people he knows in science, and I try to always introduce people to each other too, because it just sucks to feel so left out.