Tips for First Time Attendees
Tips for Making the Most of an SLA Conference
Prior to Conference:
- Once you have registered, use the conference planner to plan a personal itinerary or print out descriptions of all of the sessions you might wish to attend, then hone down to 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 get to one and the room is overflowing or the topic isn’t what you thought it would be, you can make the most of your time by heading to your second choice.
- Try to attend a few sessions outside of your area or specialty.
- If your employer pays, sign up for breakfasts, luncheons, and dinners–an efficient way to network, since you have to eat anyway (collect business cards to justify to your employer).
- Look at the INFO-EXPO exhibitor list BEFORE going to the conference. That way you can mark the booth number of those you must see; then 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. Notate on the back of any cards you take what the person wanted or what the context was. Add those people to your Outlook or notes file when you return. Also, business cards are used for raffles–so take 15 more.
- Print out handouts for all of your chosen programs before the conference.
- Pack sensible shoes and plan to dress in layers.
Arrival at Conference (McCormick Place | Lakeside Center | Chicago, Illinois) :
- Arrive at the conference as early as you can manage in order to settle and probe before your days become too hectic.
- If you’re unfamiliar with the host city, visit the Chicago booth in the registration area to get “the lay of the land.”
- The first day on-site, reconnoiter the convention center (and hotels). Using maps, get to know the “lay of the land” (and 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, since you never know where this will lead.
- Attend the SLA Fellows and First-Timers Meet event on Sunday from 1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. at McCormick Place where the association’s most seasoned members will greet first time conference attendees.
- Utilize lunch and dinner periods to meet with people with whom you might like to work or need to connect with in the future.
- Focus on the conference and try to leave work behind.
- Read the blogs, etc.
- There are a lot of events for learning and networking, but to be the most effective make sure you take time to relax and rejuvenate. Schedule a little “down” time (or personal time) to just get off your feet and relax briefly. This can be a real boost at recharging your battery.
- Don’t consume too many high-caffeine beverages.
- Get to know the candidates. 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 from you about your ideas for making SLA an even more vital association for our profession.
During Conference – Exhibits (click here for additional tips):
- Don’t breeze through the exhibits; spend time looking for opportunities.
- Thank our exhibitors. This tip applies to all of us, not only division leaders who will want to thank the 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 pick up a lot of handouts, mail or ship them back to yourself via hotel concierge or the business center in the convention hall.
- Exhibitors give away a lot of nice of 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 the last 15 minutes prior to closing each day.
Listen, explore, dare, speak up, participate, volunteer, mentor, recruit, smile, party, sleep!