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Professional Meetings

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November 27, 2012


Thinking about going to a conference?  Not sure what to expect, or which conference might be right for you?

Attending your first major conference, or even your second, third, or fourth can be a daunting experience.  Here is some information about types of sessions, a list of major gerontological conferences, and what to expect at each.

Types of Conference Sessions

  • Pre-conference Workshops/Intensives:  Special ½ or full-day sessions on a variety of topics; usually cost extra.  You can find out about these on the conference websites, preliminary program mailings, etc.

  • Poster:  Usually many posters being shown at the same time, in one large area; no formal presentation, but attendees walk around, look at posters, and often have conversation with authors.  Feel free to ask the authors questions!  This is a good way to meet people, talk about common interests, and do some networking.

  • Paper/Lecture:  A more formal presentation; presenters are combined into groups of 3 or more, all discussing related themes or topics.  Usually, there is a session moderator who keeps track of time, facilitates questions, or provides a summary of the papers presented.  Each presenter has a limited amount of time, ranging from 12-30 minutes in most cases.  Walking in and out of paper presentations is common; don’t be afraid to get up and leave if you want to go check something else out!

  • Symposium:  Similar to paper sessions, a symposium is a group of presenters that are all talking about one topic or theme, as a self-organized body.  Oftentimes, people will be from the same university, the same area of expertise, etc., and work together to create a well-coordinated presentation.  There is usually a discussant who, like moderators, tracks time, facilitates questions, but more importantly provides a more formal sort of commentary after the presentations have been made.  Again, don’t be afraid to get up and leave if you want to!

  • Resource Exchange/Roundtables:   These can vary from conference to conference.  Usually the program will describe the type of session, but they tend to be more informal discussions among persons interested in a given area.  For example, a roundtable on geriatric education might have professors from medical schools organized around a table, each talking about the strategies they use, etc.  However, some resource exchanges are tables set up in a large room, with one presenter at each table, and conference attendees can walk from table to table, talking with each presenter.  Either way, this is another opportunity to meet people, share common interests, and network.  Also a good way to find internships/jobs.  

  • Workshops/Mini-Workshops:  Workshops are almost like classroom-style learning; the audience participates in learning new techniques, ideas, programs, etc.  The presentation moves beyond just presenting research, to involving the audience in brainstorming, skill-building, problem-solving, etc.  These can vary in length, usually ranging from 45 minutes to 120 minutes.  Mini-workshops are often two workshop-type presentations paired together. 

  • Media exhibits:  Often, movies will be shown during the conference.  Usually, they are free of cost, and there is a designated area where you can wander in and out of, have some popcorn, and watch documentaries, movies, classroom-type films, etc

Major Gerontology Conferences
By no means an exhaustive list!

Gerontological Society of America (GSA)

  • Annual meeting is in November, usually the Friday before Thanksgiving
  • Runs Friday-Tuesday
  • Targets an academic audience
  • Volunteer opportunities for students to waive registration fee
  • Emerging Scholar and Professional Organization (ESPO):  The student organization within GSA; hosts events just for students, holds annual business meeting at the GSA meeting; good way to meet other students, student leaders, and to learn about leadership opportunities within the organization; sponsors student awards


American Society on Aging/National Council on the Aging (ASA/NCOA)

  • Annual meeting is usually in the Spring, either in March or April
  • Usually runs Thursday-Sunday
  • Larger conference, with a more applied audience (i.e., providers, practitioners, federal/state/local agency employees, etc.)
  • Volunteer opportunities for students to waive partial or full registration fee
  • Students and Emerging Professionals (STEP) Group: a way for students and those recently graduated or new to the field to become involved in the organization and to gain leadership experience.


Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE)

  • Annual meeting is usually late winter—February or early March
  • Usually runs Thursday-Sunday
  • Smaller conference—400 or so attendees
  • Targets educators in gerontology, from top-tier research universities to community colleges
  • Newly-formed Student Committee:  Hosts a student lunch, facilitates networking opportunities for students and more established attendees; yet another opportunity for leadership


American Sociological Association (ASA)

  • Annual meeting is usually August
  • Usually runs Sunday-Tuesday
  • Larger meeting, sociology-based with special sessions/groups on aging
  • Student Forum and Honors program:  opportunity to interact with students, attend the conference, and have special interaction with leaders in the field.


American Public Health Association (APHA)

  • Annual meeting is usually in November, right before GSA.
  • Usually runs Sunday-Tuesday
  • Huge meeting—over 10,000 members
  • Multidisciplinary, with an emphasis on public health training, intervention, research, etc.; special sessions on aging.


American Psychological Association (APA)


American Geriatrics Society (AGS)

  • Annual meeting is usually in May
  • Usually runs Wednesday-Sunday
  • Targeted at health care professionals from multiple disciplines, to address “clinical, research, ethical, academic, and public policy issues pertinent to geriatrics.”
  • Student Section, organized into chapters





February 28-March 3, 2013
Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront
St. Petersburg, Florida
Logo for 2012 Annual Meeting
February 23-26, 2012