Conferences are big, and over stimulating, and exhausting. Here are a few tips on how to make the most of the experience.
1) Have a plan. As interesting as all the sessions may sound pick only a few that you absolutely don’t want to miss. There is even a conference app to help keep you organized.
2) Have an alternate session ready. Sometimes the session description sounds perfect for you and your interests but when you get there it isn’t quite right. There are multiple sessions happening at a time, maybe something else will be a better fit.
3) Attend at least one session that may not have anything to do with your work/study but sounds interesting. Last year I attended a session about “documenting the distasteful” and it was my favorite session of the conference.
4) Rest. Schedule some down time or be prepared to skip a session or two to take some down time. Drink water, see something not at the conference hall
5) Talk to people. This is the scary one for so many of us but this is where the SNAP lunch buddy and REPS activities sign ups come in. Networking sessions work great for some people but if you are like me there is a lot of anxiety that goes into it. Signing up to go get lunch or visit a local site with a few people is much more manageable and leads to better conversations.
6) Meet new people. If you are attending the conference with friends, classmates, or coworkers do stuff without them. You see them on a regular basis and are probably well informed as to what they are working on. See what others are doing!
7) Get comfy! Wear shoes and clothing that you feel comfortable in. Maybe don’t come in your pjs, you want to look professional, but conference days are long so if wearing heels or a tie for 10 hours doesn’t sound like something you can do, don’t. Remember that conference spaces are often cold so consider bringing a layer with you.
8) Check your resources. New city, busy schedule while there, ahh! Relax, the SAA Host Committee has a blog full of resources and suggestions that helps you navigate local transportation, eating around Portland, jogging routes, and more. Sign up for the Navigator Program and/or attend the First-Timer Coffee Break, these are great ways to meet your colleagues.
9) Have some fun. It is easy to get stuck in work mode but remember to have some fun. Join in the impromptu knitting circles or coffee breaks. Attend the Archives in the Movies event on Thursday evening where you will see the best/worst examples of what Hollywood thinks we do. The Oregon Brewers Festival is going on July 26-30, or maybe check out the International Rose Test Garden which was established during WWI to preserve species of roses grown in Europe from the bombs, there is something for everyone.