I love conferences. I run myself from 6am (first breakfast meeting) to 1am (drinking with friends) and sleep as little as humanly possible. I catch up with old friends/colleagues and meet new ones. The energy, excitement, and knowledge are better than any form of caffeine. However just going into it can be really draining. There are loads of tips and techniques for making the most of a conference. Humbly I submit mine. I really thought I had written this post (or one like this) before, but I couldn't find it in my archives.
- Before going: schedule multiple sessions for time slots
The conference scheduler provided by ALA has been better and worse over the years, but it works fairly well right now. I always browse and choose as many sessions as sound remotely interesting. I'll put highest priority on the one I think sounds the most interesting. However I often find that once I'm there another sessions sounds more interesting. This saves me from frantically flipping through a conference schedule or trying to pull up the (overloaded) website trying to remember what that other session was. Go ahead and print out your schedule. I export my schedule to my phone, but I'm always prepared for catastrophic technology failure.
- Stay hydrated
Bring your own reusable water bottle. Fun travel tip: you can take an empty water bottle (even one of those metal ones) through airport security and fill it up with water once you're through. Carry that water bottle the entire time, including in the conference hall. Refill it often. Drink a ton of water. You need the fluids. The refillable water bottle is better on your budget and better for the earth then buying water.
- Carry snacks
I have low sugar issues, so this is one of my life mantras. But even if you don't, it's easy to get caught up in the fun of conference and forget to eat (or run out of time). Stock up on some granola bars, dried fruit, nuts, etc., before you leave and you'll avoid getting lightheaded and thinking the $4 conference center muffin is a good idea. (Also true for airports). As a side note, get your coffee before you go to the conference center. Lines are too long. It's not worth it.
- You need more business cards
I only took four once because I wasn't thinking. Don't forget them. Digital era and all, they're still going to be what everyone asks you for.
- Be ready to organize paperwork
Speaking of business cards, you're going to get a lot of them. Turn the card over and scribble a note about why you talked to them. Put them in a dedicated place for just received business cards. Whatever you do don't put them with your business cards. (That way lies madness and embarrassment when you hand out the wrong card.) An envelope put in your purse/briefcase/messenger bag will do nicely, but you can go fancier. I always have receptacles organized for all my paperwork. A folder with the printouts I will need (the schedule, hotel and flight confirmation, registration info, etc.). Additionally I have a folder for handouts and an envelope for storing receipts. This makes my life post-conference about 100 times easier.
There you go. Those are my hopefully practical and helpful conference tips. See you there!