Wednesday, July 11, 2007

How To Prepare For Library Conferences

In 2 days, I will be flying down to New Orleans to attend the annual conference of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL).

I sometimes find these events a bit overwhelming, especially conferences organized by international or American organizations. American conferences are just so much larger than Canadian events. And of course, I barely know anyone in the law library field in that humongous Republic south of the 49th Parallel.

However, there are people out there with some good advice on how to prepare to confront the unknown at these get togethers. In fact, not knowing anyone may even be an advantage.

For first-time conference attendees (this will be my situation at AALL), organizers have put together some "practical things a first time visiter to the annual meeting needs to know".

This presentation, re-worked from material presented in 2005, covers food, snacks, conference bags, business cards, name badge etiquette, where to sit in a session, how to leave a session, vendor exhibits, networking and "brain burn". Very practical.

As well, the June 2007 edition of the AALL Spectrum has an article entitled All Rise! Stand with your colleagues as AALL comes together for the 2007 Annual Meeting in New Orleans that includes a sidebar entitled "8Tips for Making Connections at the Annual Meeting":

"... You need to spend more than half of your time at the Conference with strangers. Always sit by a group of people that you do not know ..."

"If and when you are sitting by friends or coworkers at an event ... , grab a small plate and only fill it halfway.That way you can refill your plate often and say something to the stranger standing in line next to you".

"... The first thing you should pack is business cards. More importantly, hand them out... Write down how you met the person (session, during lunch, etc.) and anything else that would help you remember them..." [N.B. from Library Boy - this may sound obvious but I have been to a few conferences and have forgotten to hand out my card. D'uh!]

"Set a goal, such as, 'I will meet 12 new people today.' ..."

"After the Annual Meeting, you should input information from business cards and contacts into a database..."

"Listen, learn, and act upon all the ideas you are exposed to".
As for my take on conference-going, back in 2005, I wrote a post entitled What I Learned at SLA 2005 about the Special Libraries Association conference held in Toronto 2 years ago. It has to do less with the practical preparations, but I believe I summed up the type of attitude that can make for successful conference-going. Just be totally open and prepare yourself mentally to entertain any idea:

"There are a few things I have learned, though, about conference-going. So here are the true reasons for attending conferences, according to my experience:
  • remember that project you wanted to launch, or that software you thought you wanted to test? Well, you don't want to touch any of that with a ten-foot pole: conferences are great places for finding out what to avoid and learning about disaster stories from colleagues
  • you know those things you have already been doing for so long but find boring? Well, you just may have been on the cutting edge all along without knowing it and everyone else is now copying you: conferences can be great places for finding out how good and creative your shop may actually be
  • remember all those ideas you thought were useless or a waste of time? Well, other libraries have successfully implemented many of those things you were ridiculing and they saved time or money or brain cells or their sanity: conferences can be great places for finding out how to change your thinking by taking another look at projects and ideas you had neglected or discarded too soon
  • you know that feeling that everyone else knows more than you and other libraries do things better than your place? Well, you may have stumbled across a solution to someone else's problem: conferences can be great places for finding out how bloody smart you really are in the eyes of others, and how much others recognize the value of what you do"
Of course, you will never get to realize any of the above unless you talk to all those strangers.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:12 pm


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