Tips for First-Time Attendees
Prior to the Conference:
- Once you have registered, use the conference planner to plan your personal itinerary, or print out descriptions of all of the sessions you might wish to attend. Then, develop a day-by-day agenda—including alternatives, just in case.
- Have at least two sessions in mind for every time slot. That way, if you go to one session and the room is overflowing or the topic isn’t what you thought it would be, you can spend your time productively by heading to your second choice.
- Try to attend a few sessions outside of your area or specialty.
- Sign up for breakfasts, luncheons, and dinners. They’re an efficient way to network, since you have to eat anyway. (Be sure to collect business cards to justify conference attendance to your employer.)
- Review the INFO-EXPO exhibitor list BEFORE heading to the conference and mark the booth numbers of the exhibitors you must see. You can spend your remaining time walking the entire hall.
- Bring 50+ business cards. Be ready to distribute them to people who ask or who want to trade. On the back of any cards you take, make a note of what the person wanted or what the context was. Add those people to your Outlook or notes file when you return. (Business cards are also used for raffles, so take 15 more.)
- Print the handouts (if any) for all of your chosen programs before the conference.
- Pack “sensible shoes” and plan to dress in layers.
Upon Arriving at the Conference: (Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA):
- Arrive at the conference as early as you can manage so you can settle in and “get the lay of the land” before your days become too hectic.
- If you’re unfamiliar with Boston, visit the SLA New England Chapter booth in the registration area. They’ll have maps, information about restaurants and local attractions, and plenty of advice.
During the Conference:
- The first day onsite, reconnoiter the convention center and hotels. Always keep your maps handy so you know where things are happening.
- At sessions, sit in the front so a speaker notices you. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions and be noticed. Network.
- When you attend a session, don’t sit with friends. Sit down and meet someone new on either side of you—you never know where this will lead.
- Attend the SLA Fellows and First-Timers Reception, where the association’s most seasoned members will greet first-time conference attendees.
- Use lunch and dinner periods to meet people with whom you might like to work or may need to connect in the future.
- Focus on the conference—try to leave work behind.
- Read the SLA blog, Twitter feed, and other social media for conference updates and reviews.
- Make sure you take time to relax and rejuvenate. Schedule a little personal time to get off your feet and relax briefly. This can help you recharge your batteries.
- Don’t consume too many high-caffeine beverages.
- Get to know the candidates for the SLA Board of Directors. Even though SLA offers multiple opportunities for your unit members to learn about the candidates on their own, the opinions you form will be important. In addition, serving on the Board is a two-way street—the candidates need to hear your ideas for making SLA an even more vital association for our profession.
Visiting the Exhibit Hall:
- Don’t simply breeze through the exhibit hall—spend time looking for opportunities to learn about new products, make new connections, and enhance your understanding of the information profession.
- Thank our exhibitors. This tip applies to all SLA members, not just division leaders who will want to thank those information partners who are helping to sponsor their sessions. Chapter leaders will also want to take the opportunity to thank the vendors who support us, especially in these tough economic times.
- If you want to take home a lot of promotional handouts, mail or ship them back to yourself using the hotel concierge or the business center in the convention hall.
- Exhibitors give away a lot of nice prizes, but sometimes you have to be present to win. Make sure you spend enough time in the hall so you can be a winner. Prizes are giving away daily by exhibitors during the last 15 minutes prior to closing each day.
Listen, explore, dare, speak up, participate, volunteer, mentor, recruit, smile, party, sleep!