Kevin’s DOs and DON’Ts of Conference Attendance

It’s been over a week since I returned from the ASIS&T Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, yet this is the first moment I’ve had where I feel like I can accurately assess my experience. After finally catching up on some sleep, my project proposals have been submitted and my cataloging assignments have been cataloged, and I can comfortably evaluate my time in Pittsburgh.

My primary finding is that attending conferences is one of the most important things you can do as a student. Having attended the ARLIS/NA Conference last April as well as ASIS&T’s Annual Meeting, I can safely share my DOs and DON’Ts of conferencing:

* DO go to any conference you think is relevant to your life, your career or your interests. And do it now! Conferences are way cheaper for students. Compare the ASIS&T student rate of $235 against the regular member rate of $485. The student rate for ARLIS was $95, while the full conference fee was $325, and ALA charged $130 for students and $260 for professionals. Get started now so you can be a grizzled veteran by the time you graduate!

* DO bring lots of business cards. Business cards are absolutely necessary. Hand them out to everyone you meet. (Pro tip: you can get 500 cards from Vista Print for next to nothing.)

* DO follow up with any contacts you make. You never know who you’ll meet. An exchange of business cards could lead to a job, a collaboration or a friendship. I’ve had fantastic email exchanges with two people I met at ASIS&T simply because we followed up with each other. If, in a moment of wine-induced jubilation, you promise to send someone a link to an article – do it.

* DO go to every social event. This is where ideas are born, collaborations form, and professional friendships are made. These events are the release valve for all the heavy intellectual heroics that go on during the day. Talk to people. Everyone is just as awkward as you are and everyone is friendlier than you think. Wine helps here, but is not necessary… just kidding – of course it’s necessary!

*DO try to stay at the hotel or with friends who live close to the hotel. This runs counter to my very positive couch surfing experience (more on that later), but the place where I stayed was pretty far out of town. Yes, it saved me a ton of money, but it was also hard to get to and from the hotel, especially late at night. Hotel rooms can be crazy expensive, so buddy up and share the cost. Make new friends! People who have real library jobs get a conference allowance that covers their hotel costs. Ask them nicely and they might let you share their free room.

* DON’T try to go to every session. You will burn out very quickly. This was my fatal error. Conference proceedings (including all the papers) are usually given out with your conference packet. You can read them later. I know that this may come off as heresy, but paper presentations are very boring. Brilliant academics rarely make lively public speakers. Save your brain space and choose your sessions wisely.

* DON’T plan on getting any homework done.

Remember, conferencing is a learned skill. Keep these tricks and tips in mind and you’ll do just fine. Hope to see you all at the next one. ASIS&T 2011 is in New Orleans!

by Kevin Pelrine
Secretary, ASIS&T @ Pratt


One thought on “Kevin’s DOs and DON’Ts of Conference Attendance

  1. A clarification: not all librarians are blessed with such a bountiful conference allowance. Allowances vary greatly from institution to institution and must cover not only conference attendance, but membership dues as well.

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