The 2016 Annual Conference & Expo is only a few days away! We want everyone to have an amazing time, so we asked Nick Collison, SLA HQ Board Member and SLA NY Chapter member, to share his best conference advice. Here’s what he had to say…
Don’t use the conference bag, or lug around all the “great stuff” they give you. First, it makes you a mark as a tourist. Second, traveling in packs of people all using the same bag and wearing name tags makes you look like a cult member. You rarely need to lug around all of the stuff they give you (I recommend dropping off the proceedings at my hotel room as soon as I get it). Instead bring a light bag with enough room for the small conference handbook/schedule, some paper, a pen, something to eat, and some business cards. Travel light. You’ll feel much better at the end of the day if you haven’t been carrying 15 pounds of stuff all day. Don’t bring your laptop so you can read your email. Go talk to someone instead.
Don’t wear your badge outside the conference. There is nothing sillier than a grown adult with a name tag (unless it says Rupert or Cornelius on it). When you go back to your room or leave the conference hotel, you are no longer at the conference. Take the badge and put it in your pocket (or with your wallet or purse), so you don’t lose it.
Ship your proceedings and stuff back to your office. If there are proceedings and other materials, such as books you’ve purchased, arrange to have them sent back to your office. Find a nearby shipping store and drop off your stuff the day before you leave. This saves you the burden of packing 10 pounds of stuff in your luggage or carry on. Sometimes the conference center has a little office that will do this for you. It’s usually not too expensive and you may be able to expense it.
Sit near the back if you’re not planning on staying. If I’m at a conference with concurrent sessions, I usually plan on bailing if I don’t like it in 10 or 15 minutes. Knowing this I tend to sit in the back. It makes it easier to leave without annoying people or the speaker. The downside to this tip is that sitting in the back does make it harder to connect with the speaker. An alternative is to always try to grab an aisle seat.
Ask lots of questions. Learning is a contact sport. If you don’t make your experiences engaging for yourself, you are guaranteed to be bored. Talk to speakers, paper authors, booth people, the folks sitting next to you, whoever. Ask for recommendations for books, websites, or other conferences. If you don’t become an active participant in your own learning, don’t be surprised if not much of what you experience is relevant to you.
Some conferences serve breakfast, some don’t. Know this before you end up 15 minutes into the first session, sitting in the middle of the room (making it hard to get up and leave), and realize you’re starving. Same for lunch or snacks. Sessions tend to start early, so you probably won’t have time to grab something before the conference if you don’t plan for it.
Get some exercise every day. Your mind functions better if your body has been active too. Most hotels, especially the fancy corporate conference center-types, have nice weight rooms or pools. Take the time to get some exercise at least every other day. Skip a morning session or skip out early in order to find time. If you hate exercise, try going for a long walk instead of taking a cab. Personally if I don’t exercise every day, I’m not a nice person to be around, and I struggle with sitting and listening for hours on end. I stress out more easily and am generally less happy. I think most people are more likely to enjoy the conference, and return home healthy, if they break a sweat a few times while they’re away.