Presenting at ISBS: My first International Conference Experience – Jonathon Holmes

I had the opportunity to attend and present at my first international research conference in September 2018, the 36th International Conference on Biomechanics in Sports (ISBS) held at Auckland University of Technology (AUT), Auckland, New Zealand. ISBS is considered to be one of the leading sports biomechanics conferences in the world with a multi-disciplinary focus. I attended the conference with fellow PESS student Evan Crotty and supervisor Prof Drew Harrison from PESS. ISBS . In this blog post, I will reflect on my experiences of attending my first international conference and offer some advice to research students who are planning their conference schedules.

Arrive Early !

After thirty-six hours travelling and three flights later, Evan and I arrived in Auckland. It was a long journey, and there was an 11-hour time difference with Ireland. We flew out three days before the conference to acclimatise and adapt to the time difference. If the conference is on the other side of the world, try to arrive a day or two before the start of the conference so you can adapt and familiarise yourself with the venue and conference location.

Pre-Conference Activities

Refreshed after a couple of days,  we registered early at 7 am (beat the queues!). For students, the pre-conference activities started full-on with several workshops on offer.  I attend one by Steve McMillan (Editor in Chief of Sports Medicine),  “What makes a successful paper? An Editor’s perspective”.  The workshop provided an excellent overview of how editors value a paper. When selecting workshops, oral and poster presentations take your time to choose the most suitable ones. Take notes and ask questions if you have the opportunity to, or try to make contact with the presenter after the presentation. Most presenters provide contact details but are very busy, so try to make the most of the opportunity at the conference, and more than likely this will make it easier to engage in email conversations after the conference.

The Conference – Plan Ahead

The conference was five days long with a lot of sessions for; posters, orals presentations, workshops, applied workshops and keynote speakers. Each evening I spent some time planning the following day, choosing the most relevant and interesting sessions to attend. Planning in a quiet space provided me with time to go through each session.  At the conference, you won’t have time to select sessions, especially if speaking to other researchers or just rushing between sessions. Discussing what sessions to attend provided a great conversation topic when talking with other researchers and helped build a relationship with them. I attended several presentations and workshops with members of other Universities, including some Professors which I feel broke down the barriers between conference attendees.

Support Your Colleagues

As part of planning my sessions, I supported other PESS researchers by attending their presentations which I would recommend if possible. Professor Drew Harrison and Evan attended my presentation which I appreciated and likewise, I attended their presentations. The support was a nice boost; and although it’s not always possible to support all presentations as several presentations sessions run simultaneously, the support really helps you thrive.

Engage with Early Career Conference Activities

The ISBS conference provides an opportunity for students to be assigned a research mentor for a mentor breakfast session with a Biomechanist with similar research interests. I was privileged to be assigned Dr Jeroen Van Der Eb, who specialised in applied biomechanics for improving sports performance. The breakfast mentorship provided a casual environment for students to discuss research, the conference, seek advice and ask any questions they may have. It was a very successful event for me and provided me with some great insights into biomechanics, an observer’s view into my research, provided me with feedback and dialogue. In addition, I gained a new contact, and we attended several presentation and workshop sessions together, and have kept in contact since the conference.

Delivering the Presentation

My oral presentation titled “A method comparison study of accelerometer based block response times in sprinting” was a 10-minute presentation in the main lecture hall and was on the afternoon of day two of the conference. That morning I had the mentor breakfast at 7.00 am, I attended several oral presentation sessions and a keynote talk “Sports Technology” by Mounir Zok, so it kept my mind occupied. By lunchtime, I was starting to get nervous, my supervisor Professor Drew Harrison instilled confidence in me, reiterating the fact that the quality of research and presentation were both good. After all, Prof Harrison and Dr Kevin Hayes and other members of the PESS Department had reviewed my presentation before the conference and provided critical feedback, which was a great reassurance. Once, the first slide was complete, I was enjoying it. The questions followed, and I received several.  It was refreshing that there was interest in my presentation. Immediately after I finished my presentation, several people came up to me to discuss my research.  I engaged in discussions with the other presenters on the panel and had the opportunity to network with the panel members throughout the week. Evan presented a short time later and received many plaudits. Prof Drew Harrison, an experienced presenter, presented the following morning which topped off our presentations.

Final Reflections

I knew our research and presentations had got our point across, when Dr Steffan Willwacher receiving The Hans Gros Award presenting “Sports equipment: How the transformation from passive to digital systems opens new doors and puts new demands on sports Biomechanists” edited his keynote presentation to include the results of (Holmes et al.2018) for different detection software algorithms and (Harrison et al.2018) in relation to false start detection systems..

The conference provided me with a wealth of knowledge, increased knowledge of sprint start systems which is directly related to my PhD and provided me with new research contacts and a new drive towards my research.

When going to a conference, take time to plan out the sessions you want to attend, ask questions, network as much as possible, and be self-assured in your research. If travelling in a group try to create a team approach as this really helps in terms of enjoying the conference. Attend any social events that are organised as they are occasions where one can gain new contacts and meet leading researchers in a relaxed setting.

Thank you to my supervisors, fellow peers and everyone in the PESS department that made it possible for me to attend and present at ISBS.


Jonathan Holmes is a postgraduate researcher in the Department of Physical Education & Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick.  His current research interest includes mapping responses in the sprint start in athletics.  You can contact Jonathon via email on or follow Jonathan on Researchgate or on Twitter.

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