Conferences, big or small, tend to be overwhelming, especially as a student. There is tons of information to absorb, there are lots of people to meet, and there are many events/sessions to scurry to. In my limited conference experiences I’ve found that it’s best to go in with a handful of definite goals/intentions in mind; if you prepare for that post-conference time period before the conference begins, you will get more out of the conference itself. Here are a few tips for mid-conference practices that will provide you with awesome post-conference opportunities:
Mid-conference practice: Keep all of the business cards you accumulate each day in a set-aside location (so they don’t end up swimming at the bottom of your suitcase). Try to take a few minutes each day (on the evening shuttle ride back to your hotel?) to scribble down a few notes about who the person was, where you met them (the session or event), and what you talked about.
Post-conference opportunity: Should you choose to connect with any of the people whose cards you received (hint: you should!), you’ll have something more to say than “It was great meeting you!” Plus, the added context will help them remember you more effectively. Additionally, even if you don’t feel like emailing someone directly, consider connecting with them on LinkedIn, following them on Twitter, or finding their LIS blog (if they have one). It never hurts to digitally connect with other interesting folks in the field.
Mid-conference practice: When you meet people, chat, and start to nerd out about your respective specialties, be thinking about where they are, what they do, and how your interests relate to one another. It’s easy to fall into the comfortable state of being library-friend-smitten with everyone you meet, but this does not really lead to effective networking.
Post-conference opportunity: When you contact these people, post-conference, consider going beyond “It was nice to meet you” and suggest a partnership or project of some kind (if you have the time/inclination). This turns a casual meet-and-greet into a potential project/poster/paper/panel collaboration in the future.
Mid-conference practice: If you have the time and want the advice, considering going to the free job placement and/or résumé-reviewing services that conferences offer. They are full of helpful folks!
Post-conference opportunity: If you choose to take advantage of these resources, be sure to flesh out the results in your entire portfolio after you get home: update your résumé & CV documents, update your online portfolio if you have one, and take their content advice and style suggestions to heart when updating your résumé with new information in the future.
Mid-conference practice: Find some spare time during (on those shuttle rides!) or just after (last chance: your plane ride home!) the conference to look over your copious notes from each session and write down your key take-away. Don’t just summarize – actually think about what the most relevant/affecting point was for you and your career.
Post-conference opportunity: As time drags on and the conference becomes more of a memory than anything, you can reference this short, manageable list of key takeaways, re-spark all of the positivity and inspiration from the conference, and get down to applying that information to your path.
Mid-conference practice: Keep a list of sessions you wanted to attend but didn’t make it to. This can be as easy as saving your schedule/list of sessions you wanted to make it to and then referencing it later to find the ones that didn’t make the cut.
Post-conference opportunity: Often with a little bit of searching you can find a handout/slides/recording from the the sessions you missed. Presenters often post the materials on their blogs or sharing sites like SlideShare; presenters sometimes post materials on their event within the ALA conference scheduler; and sometimes attendees will post materials and/or summaries on their own blogs. Additionally, it never hurts to contact the presenter directly and humbly ask for their handout/slides; the worst that can happen is they say “no,” right?
Mid-conference practice: Check out round tables and/or committees that interest you. Get their info, attend a meeting, go to their social event(s). Most are very welcoming and will gladly show newcomers the ropes!
Post-conference opportunity: If you liked a particular sub-group, consider joining them officially! Also, join their listservs (if they have specific listservs) so that you can start connecting with them year-round!
Mid-conference practice: Snap a photo or two (or more!), even if it’s just with your camera-phone. Get a photo of yourself at the conference, with your badge. You will want this later – trust me. It’s easy to get caught up in the conference and forgot to do a little documentation!
Post-conference opportunity: Your blog post will have a few fun images to accompany it! You will be able to show your folks a cute conference photo! You will have evidence of your awesome karaoke performance at an evening social/networking event! On second thought, maybe not on that last one… ;) But seriously, if you forget to take any photos, you will be kicking yourself afterwards.
Hope these tips help you have a great conference and a great post-conference period! Have your own strategies/tips? Share them in the comments!