Conference 101: Tips for First-Timers

By Lindsay Harmon

NMRT kicked off ALA Annual with "Conference 101," an orientation session designed to help first-time attendees navigate the conference. A panel of ALA and NMRT leaders offered tips for making the most of the conference experience, with an emphasis on opportunities for new members to network and get involved in the association.

ALA President Jim Rettig and Executive Director Keith Fiels reminisced about their first ALA Annual in the 1970s and highlighted ways to connect with others in the profession during the conference. Rettig described the conference badge as a "license to be approached" and encouraged new attendees to ask questions and strike up conversations on the shuttle bus.

John Chrastka, ALA Director of Membership Development, promoted high- and low-tech conference services designed to connect attendees with people and opportunities, including ALA Mobile and the Membership Pavilion. He even gave out his cell phone number and urged the audience to call him if they needed anything during the conference.

NMRT President Laurel Bliss discussed the benefits of NMRT membership, including networking and leadership opportunities, and encouraged attendees to join one of the organization’s 35 committees. Those who missed the conference can still volunteer online at

Linda Crook, NMRT Networking Director, closed the program with some tips for navigating the conference. In addition to practical suggestions (leave the heavy program book at home—just bring the important pages) and event recommendations (the ones with free food!), she advised new attendees not to overplan, but to be open to serendipity. As she put it, "The real conference happens in the halls," and chance conversations can lead to new learning and networking opportunities.