Abram, Stephen. "Getting the Most Out of Your Conference Experience: Follow These Basic Guidelines to Enhance Your Personal Enjoyment and Professional Growth." Information Outlook, June 2008 (v. 12, no. 6), p. 68-71. The tips were written specifically for the 2008 SLA conference, but most are applicable for any conference.
Hooker, Jenn. "ALA Conferences: Some Tips for Newbies". Public Libraries Online. January 7, 2013.
Newman, Bobbi. ALA Survival Tips, New & Improved for #ALA11 June 10, 2011
Schneider, Karen. "ALA Conference Survival Tips — 35 Conferences Later"
Schneider, Karen "ALA: It’s Not Just an Adventure, It’s a Job"
Yalsa Blog. "ALA Annual: Walking the Exhibit Hall Like a Pro"
(Note: These are adapted from those posted to the 2007 Annual Conference conference wiki and are the collaborative work of several seasoned conference goers.)
Adapted from the New Members Round Table (NMRT) "Conference Tips for ALA Annual" and previous conference wikis.
- Check preview pages in June issue of American Libraries. Mark programs and meetings of interest. Use the ALA Handbook of Organization for information about individual units and committees.
- Ask friends and colleagues what they are involved in and what they enjoy. Try to attend programs, meetings or discussion groups with them during the conference. Suggest that they introduce you to people.
- Plan for follow-up. Many libraries ask employees to report back on their meeting experiences. It is easier to synthesize needed information if you consider these questions before the conference.
- Cooperate with co-workers. If multiple people from your library are attending, talk with them about attending different sessions and meeting to discuss your experiences afterward. Stay focused.
- Pack comfortable shoes. Pack two pairs of comfortable shoes.
- Pack snacks such as granola or power bars, apples and a few small bottles of water or pick up some at a market when you arrive). Bring business cards.
- For summer conferences, pack light clothing that is comfortable but still professional. It will be hot outside, but there will be air conditioning inside; pack layers.
- Don’t feel overwhelmed with the program guide at registration. When you have a free moment (hopefully your first night at the meeting), review the guide and revise your original schedule to fit the time and place of programs and meetings.
- Don’t schedule time too tightly. Allow enough time to go from one meeting to another. Schedule time for relaxing and sightseeing.
- Each day bring your revised schedule or tear out the program pages for that day as a reminder of meeting times and places.
- It's easier to remember all of the interesting ideas you hear and people you meet if you make a note soon after -- try taking five minutes to "brain dump" the highlights of a meeting into your notebook before you go on to something new.
- Meetings and discussion groups are at many different hotels in the city. Print out (or tear from the program book) a hotel map to help you gauge the distances between meetings.
- Don’t worry if you arrive at a meeting or program session a little late or if you need to leave early. Attendees regularly come and go from meetings and discussion groups, just be as non-disruptive as possible. Note: if the room is overflowing, see if there are seats in the front, but otherwise you may have to skip it, as fire marshall rules are strict.
- If you want to get involved, attend committee meetings and introduce yourself to the chairperson.
- Allocate plenty of time for the exhibits. Don’t attempt to see all the exhibits in one day. Make several short trips. Use the program guide to select and find exhibitors.
- But also, allow for the serendipity of coming across a new vendor ... who just might have a product or service useful to your library.
- Don’t pick up everything you see in the exhibits hall. Ask exhibitors to send you information after the conference. Take advantage of the "expocard" you get at registration--just have the exhibitor scan it! Or, if you have business cards, use them. Or, some people bring self-addressed labels.
- Check your expocard! An error on your expocard can happen -- especially if you've had a change of address or employer. It's very frustrating to discover this on the last day of a conference, especially if you've requested important info.
- For materials you do pick up, make use of the on-site postal centers to ship materials back home or use bag check services. You will have a much easier time if you aren’t trying to carry everything.
- Attend the exhibits early in the conference before vendor giveaways run low.
- Try and find a map of the exhibit floor with exhibitors (usually in Cognotes, the conference daily), and then maximize your time on the floor by deciding ahead of time which exhibitors you want to visit and how much time you have to spend. You can leave a business card at the booth to try and schedule an appointment.
These tips are from seasoned conference goers—who have tried them all:
- Do you have relatives or college friends in the conference city? Invite yourself to stay with them. It's a great way to get to know a distant relative ... or just visit Mom.
- Consider staying in a Youth Hostel -- consult the directory posted online by each city
- Plan ahead so you take advantage of the lowest possible registration fee.
- Plan your stay around walking and public transportation. A cheap place that requires cab rides can eat up a lot of your savings.
- See if your college alumni association or another organization has a bed-and-breakfast program.
- Share a room. Having a roommate gives you a chance to discuss what you’re learning. Or, to reconnect with a colleague who has moved to a new city
- Eat only a couple of restaurant meals, if any. Find the closest grocery store and buy supplies to have a picnic in your hotel room.
- Unless you're a big eater, you probably don't want a huge breakfast anyway while you're on the go. Bring granola bars, dried fruit, coffee fixin's, and a travel mug.
- Stay in a hotel that provides free breakfast.
- Take your spouse/significant other/kids and consider it your summer (or winter) vacation trip. Sure, they get to play while you're in meetings, but you won't be in meetings every moment. If it's your nickel, it's an unreimbursed business expense.
- Cash in frequent flyer miles to pay for the airline ticket.
- Consider flying from an airport farther from your home.
- Take advantage of vendor receptions and meals. Find out who in your library is most likely to receive these invitations and be sure they get circulated to all attendees from your library.