What I learnt from attending EAGx Oxford (as someone who's new to EA)

post by Olivia Addy · 2022-04-02T19:49:38.256Z · EA · GW · 16 comments


  The good
  The not so good
  What I'd do differently

Last wekeend, I attended my first ever EA conference, EAGx in Oxford. I wanted to share my thoughts on what was good, what was not so good, and what I'd do differently next time.

For context, I haven't been involved in EA for long (around 7 months) and this was my first time doing anything EA related in person. I work in communications for a housing association (aka not an EA org) and went in with the mindset of just wanting to see what it was like, I didn't really have many expectations, which as I'll get to, was probably to my detriment. 

The good

I think most people like reading concise writing, so I'll bullet point:

The not so good

What I'd do differently


So that's my thoughts on my first ever EAGx conference. Overall a great experience and I'm looking forward to the next one I can go too.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Yadav (AryanYadav) · 2022-04-03T00:26:09.121Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Well done on getting a post out on the forum about your experience Olivia!

Replies from: Olivia Addy
comment by Olivia Addy · 2022-04-04T16:44:52.625Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thank you!

comment by lennart · 2022-04-03T09:11:48.759Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Glad to hear you're now more excited. :)


I know there were a few meet-ups for other groups such as religious EA's, it would be great if there had been something like 'lonely and new meetup'?

I remember that at EAG London 2021 there was an event for newcomers and you were even matched with a mentor. Maybe we should copy this or make it a group effort for all the conferences.

Replies from: Olivia Addy
comment by Olivia Addy · 2022-04-04T16:48:02.171Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

That sounds like a great idea! I'd of loved something like that.

comment by Tom Gardiner · 2022-04-03T07:44:30.355Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Olivia, really good of you to share these experiences. A few points I think might be helpful for your next conference:

-The social norms in EA are probably the most open and accepting of any group I've seen in my life. Provided two people aren't engaged in a focused one-on-one, walking up to a group and saying "Hi, can I join this conversation?" seems universally allowed with no sense of alienation or awkwardness at all. People would always catch me up on the conversation topic and include me fully. 
- It was my first conference too and I also hadn't registered that one-on-ones seem to be at least as much the point of the event as the talks - you're not alone in that. Fortunately, my career planning is fairly late-stage and there were only 2 or 3 talks I found relevant enough to attend so I had a lot of time to plan last-minute meetings with people.  I can't make judgements on how to prioritise your time on your behalf, but it might be worth applying a stricter filter on which talks get added to your schedule to leave a bit more breathing space to meet lovely EA people. 
-If you go to another conference with very few or no other people that you know there, I'd strongly recommend joining the volunteer team. In return for moving some chairs around or helping people register at the help desk, you've got, like, 10 instant friends. 


Hope this seems useful!

Replies from: Olivia Addy
comment by Olivia Addy · 2022-04-04T17:20:40.616Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Tom, thanks for this comment, really useful suggestions! I hadn't considered volunteering but that does sound like it would be a great way to make some quick friends.

comment by RasaPetrauskaite · 2022-04-02T21:55:31.112Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thank you Olivia for your post! I’m now at my first EA conference, and it’s a good reminder that I can use the quiet room to recharge.

Replies from: Olivia Addy
comment by Olivia Addy · 2022-04-04T16:48:31.933Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Definitely! It's amazing how just half an hour of quiet time can help you feel so refreshed.

comment by OllieBase · 2022-04-04T14:04:34.179Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Olivia,

Ollie, one of the organisers here. Thanks so much for taking the time to write this - it's great to hear you had a valuable experience and this is such useful feedback for us :)

I've heard from others that they wished they prepared more. I plan to put out more comms about what to expect and how to get the most out of conferences in the future :)

Replies from: Olivia Addy
comment by Olivia Addy · 2022-04-04T17:21:22.741Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Ollie, it was a great event so your team should be really proud of what you achieved! And that sounds like a great idea.

comment by HowieL · 2022-04-03T11:42:42.794Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Glad you had a great experience though wish it could have been even better! I think it's pretty counterintuitive that most of the value from many conferences comes from 1:1s so it totally makes sense that it took you by surprise.

I wouldn't expect people to have found these in advance but, for next time, there's a bunch of good "how to do EAG(X)" and "how to do 1:1s" posts on the forum. Some non comprehensive examples:

https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/sxKJckCiZQyux4kCx/ea-global-tips-networking-with-others-in-mind [EA · GW]

https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/pKbTjdopzSEApSQfc/doing-1-on-1s-better-eag-tips-part-ii [EA · GW]

Generally the EAG and EA conferences tags seem good for finding this stuff.

https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/tag/effective-altruism-conferences [? · GW]

https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/tag/effective-altruism-global [? · GW]

I know the conference organizers have a ton of considerations when deciding how much content to blast at attendees (and it's easy for things to sink to the bottom of everybody's inbox) but some of these might be cool for them to send to future attendees.

I think going to conferences where you don't know a bunch of people already is pretty scary so I'm impressed that you went for it anyway!

Replies from: Olivia Addy
comment by Olivia Addy · 2022-04-04T17:22:52.501Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Howie, thanks so much for sending those resources over! I'll definitely be reading those before my next conference. 

comment by GraceAdams · 2022-04-03T07:34:02.596Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

It was an absolute pleasure getting to meet you Olivia! And had I not been speaking and had people reaching out to me for 1:1s, I would have really appreciated a 'lonely and new' meetup too, as I can get quite nervous about meeting people for the first time!

Also so happy you liked my talk :)

Replies from: Olivia Addy
comment by Olivia Addy · 2022-04-04T17:23:28.487Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thank you! It's definitely scary isn't it, but always worth it :)

comment by Michael Middleton (mmiddleton) · 2022-04-04T05:04:00.334Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Very nice and thoughtful post, I'm glad you had a good time. I had a very similar experience at my first EAGx (Boston) many years ago, though I had an advantage as I knew some other attendees. Hopefully this post will serve as a 'how to do a conference' for future attendees.

Replies from: Olivia Addy
comment by Olivia Addy · 2022-04-04T17:24:01.384Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks so much Michael!