Club conferences are a vibrant part of the student life ecosystem at HBS. Over 25 conferences are held each year on topics ranging from finance to entrepreneurship, and some of the most well-known conferences include the Africa Business Conference, the Dynamic Women in Business Conference, and the Social Enterprise Conference.

Last year, Eddie Coates (MBA 2016) managed the Real Estate Club’s Real Estate Weekend. We recently caught up with Eddie to find out what prospective students should know about conferences at HBS. Here’s what he had to say.

1.      HBS conferences are run by MBA students

The conferences at HBS are entirely student-organized and there are a lot of them.  An outsider attending one of the conferences would probably think that a full-time staff organized the event, but I can assure readers that students do everything from recruiting the speakers to raising sponsorships to stuffing name tags in badges. 

2.      Conferences take place throughout the school year

Conferences begin within the first month of the fall semester with the final conference taking place about a month before finals. 

3.      Visitors (including prospective students!) are welcome at conferences

The attendee base is diverse and includes HBS and other Harvard graduate school students, visitors from other MBA programs, local professionals, and industry academics.

If you have the ability to schedule a campus visit on a date that is adjacent to a conference in which you’re interested, do it!  Prospective applicants are absolutely welcome and this is a great way to meet current HBS students and potentially learn more about a specific industry.

4.      On campus clubs spearhead conference planning

Before starting my RC year, I decided to target the Real Estate Club as the professional organization in which I was going to invest significant time and effort.  I meshed well with the Club’s leadership and they were naïve kind enough to ask me to co-chair the 2015 conference alongside a student from the Graduate School of Design and another HBS student. 

They helped us recruit a conference team of 5-6 additional students and we were off to the races!  I knew it would take a lot of effort to continue the conference’s legacy, but it’s much less daunting when you’re surrounded by such capable, creative people.  We quickly determined what aspects of the conference each team member would oversee and went to work (I took on programming and operations).

5.      Planning a conference can be a challenging and rewarding experience

I had been involved in organizing conferences and events before, but the experience was totally different due to the fact that the team was comprised of Harvard students.  Like many who come to HBS, I had never been surrounded by such high performers.  This reality didn’t necessarily surprise me, but I was blown away again and again by the creativity and efficiency of the team. The biggest challenge our team faced was deciding when to stop adding additional components and begin executing.  Enthusiasm is an amazing thing, but can also lead to scope creep if you don’t harness it properly.

Organizing the conference was one of the highlights of my RC year.  I made so many valuable connections with other students who are passionate about real estate as well as important professionals.  One’s time is scarce and precious at HBS, but some commitments are worth the added work.  I see many peers shy away from taking on leadership roles within student clubs or student conferences because of the implied time commitment.  I think this is a mistake.  If you’re passionate about a specific topic or industry that is covered by a conference, do yourself a favor and go all-in.