I’ve made some updates to the conference tips I shared last year before ALA. Hopefully, there is a little something for everyone, I’ve added a short packing list of things I can’t live without and a reading list with suggestions on networking and tips for introverts.
These are the things I can NOT live without at conferences
- A good bag in a light weight material. Forgot leather its hot & heavy. Instead go for something lightweight like the bagallini bags, I have two big ones, the Only Bagg and the Ala Carte Medium. Both of these are large tote style bags great as a carry on or if you like a bigger bag. My favorite one is smaller though, the Hobo Style Tote. It’s just big enough my netbook will fit in it, the outer end pockets are big enough for a water bottle and the strap can be shortened to wear as a shoulder bag or long to wear as a messenger.
- External Battery Pack I can not express enough love for this device. It’s slightly larger than my cell phone and will fully charge it, twice. Yep. I just remember to plug it in and charge it each night then throw it in my bag during the day. No looking for an outlet or dealing with a dead phone. It has 2 usb plugs on it so if you’re feeling really generous you can share with a friend just as long as they brought their own cord.
- Good shoes, at least 2 pairs, neither new
- iPod touch – in addition to being a great travel companion (games, podcasts, music, books and more), there are some great white noise apps to help me get to sleep at night or to help drowned out those loud neighbors. Many hotels have a docking station or an mp3 connection to the alarm clock/radio. The new iTouch takes photos so you don’t wear our your cellphone battery taking pictures. Plus lots of great note taking apps if you decide not to take your laptop.
- Umbrella – small compact kind
- Snack bars – yep, most days my schedule is so packed I can’t get out of the convention center for lunch and you never know what food will or wont be offered.
- A well planned schedule – yep my schedule is plotted out weeks in advance with locations and everything. I print it out in additon to having it on my phone so I can easily see a glance where I’m supposed to be and when. I politely decline the big printed one at check-in. I already know where I’m going & its heavy.
- Give people your name – wear your name badge up near your face rather than on a lanyard so it’s easy for people to glance at it while talking to. Introduce yourself, even if you’ve already met the person. Some of us have hard time with names and there are a LOT of people to remember.
- Don’t hang out with the people you came with – Go to different sessions, eat meals with other people, maximize your time at the conference you can share with each other what you learned.
- Meet new people – you’re probably not going to meet new people if you’re hanging out with the people you came with. Get out of your comfort zone, ask people what they want to get from the conference, how far they traveled etc, you never know what you’ll learn or who you’ll meet.
- Make a schedule, be willing to break it – make a schedule of what you’d like to attend, know what you absolutely must see and what you’d be willing to miss for coffee with that person you’ve been wanting to meet or the awesome new person you just met
- Know what amenities your hotel offers – internet access, gym, fridge, breakfast etc, use them.
- Ask for the things you need at your hotel – you’re a paying guest, don’t be afraid to ask for little things like more hangers or more coffee.
- Make time for down time – conferences can be overwhelming there is so much to do, so many people to meet. Don’t wear yourself out early, it wont matter how much you see if you are too worn out to remember it or how many people you meet if you are too burnt out to make a good impression.
- Wear comfortable shoes – seriously, if you must wear heels put a pair of flats in your bag, trust me you will be happy you did when you making that long walk you weren’t planning to make.
- Get the right bag – you don’t want to carry too much it’s hard on your back & shoulders, but you need room for important extras like extra shoes, a water bottle and a sweater or wrap. Really think about if you need that laptop. Can you take notes by hand & type them up later? Twitter and check email from your phone if you can. Forgo leather, sure it looks great but its hot & adds extra unneeded pounds (see more about bags under shopping list)
- Layer your clothes, bring a jacket, sweater or shawl, temperature can vary widely in rooms and you want to be comfortable
- Drink lots of water – so easy to forget when you’re on the go and it is one small thing that can make you feel so much better
More tips from others via Friendfeed, Twitter or blogs.
- In the exhibits, ask yourself before taking swag “would I want this if it weren’t free?” And it is unseemly to push people out of the way to get an advance reading copy. – Steve Lawson
- Anything you acquire, you will have to bring home. I like to stick a small flattened cardboard box and a roll of packing tape in my suitcase to mail home free books. – Jason P.
- ALA is very spread out. You need to factor in where a session/meeting is when planning a schedule Tombrarian
- Bring more business cards than you think you need
- Always visit the exhibits.
- Get creative with transportation.
- Attend a program hosted by an entity outside your usual “space.”
- Tip the people who make our visit so comfortable.
Must Read List
- ALA Conference Survival Tips — 35 Conferences Later
- ALA 2010: My Simple Plan for Keeping Close to Sane
- Tips from Stephen Abrams
- Advice for the Shy
- Be Sexier in Person
- Tips for Conference Bloggers
- Maximizing the Conference Experience
- My First ALA! Advice Tips and Tricks
- Tips for Conference Attendees
What’s in your must-have packing list? What tips would you add?