One thing new attendees at academic conferences often get swayed by is the title of sessions or the titles of papers within sessions. One piece of advice I offer is rely n brand name for most of your choices.
Certainly, you will not be able to stop yourself from going to that sexy session that sounds right up your intellectual alley. But, do not choose all your sessions that way.
The simple rule, stick to brand name schools that the authors come from. If your choice of sessions features Northwest Dakota State versus Michigan State, Harvard, Queen’s or Toronto it is easy for me to choose what session I might get learn more about research in – no matter what type of research they are presenting.
And go to the research sessions as a young scholar. There will be plenty of time for panel discussions and education sessions later in your career. Indeed, the only panels I would ever go to was ones that focused on methods or theories. I would certainly skip the what’s hot in research sessions as by the time you graduate they will be quite old and cold.
Finally, avoid editors panels unless you are seeking entertainment value. Those folks can tell good stories but if you are in a d3cent PHD program with a responsible experienced supervisor you have better things to do with those 80 minutes of your life.
Free advice, and remember you get what you pay for!