Conference Advice

The past few days have seen some great posts about how to get the most from conferences from INALJ.  First there was  a great round-up of ALA conference ideas and then tips for a conference newbie. That reminded me of a post I bookmarked years ago, intending to post it: How to Get the Most Out of Conferences on Half an Hour.

My personal tips for conferences?

  • Get out of your comfort zone – introduce yourself to others, make connections.  If you’re a New Yorker, you would never dream of saying hello to random strangers but at a conference, it’s de rigueur.
  • If the conference has multiple foci or strands (like ALA, BEA, CIL), go to at least one session that isn’t in your field.  What I mean is, if you work K-4, go to a college session (your students need to be prepared for that!) and vice versa (what are the young’uns learning?).  If you deal mostly with books, look at tech innovations.  You may never use the information in your daily work life, but you’ll have opened a tiny door into a new world for yourself.
  • Take time for yourself. One of my favorite moments at the 2011 CIL was having an in-room massage!  Decadent, but very relaxing.  Find a tea shop out of the conference area and go sit quietly.  Don’t feel you must attend everything – you’ll get overwhelmed.
  • Pack intelligently.  Wear what’s comfortable for you, being mindful of the weather.  I’ve had to go shopping for warmer or cooler outfits – layer layer layer.  If you usually wear high heels, that’s fine (so many tips say “comfortable shoes” but my 1″ heels may be problematic for someone who exclusively wears 3″+, and I’d die if I wore something higher).
  • Find a local grocery.  Bring fruit, yogurt and other snack-type items back to your room for an early morning pick-me-up, a late night nibble or something to toss into you bag for between session eating.  Lines will be very long in the conference hall!  And if you’re on a restricted diet, vendor/publisher/award meals don’t take that into account so be prepared.

My other tip is an oldie, but I think goodie.  I take notes longhand and then transcribe them.  Why?  Research shows that if you have to look at something more than once, editing and expanding it as you go along, you’ll retain more.  It’s a great way for me to remember what I heard (particularly after a session-filled few days) and reinforce things.  It’s also a great way to say “hmmm…. interesting, but never going to use that again”.  Don’t be afraid to weed out what will never be used!

Most of all, enjoy.  Have a great time being professionally developed.

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