Simple Steps to Get the Most Out of the Conference
Take time for yourself
It is possible to fill every waking hour of AALL with committee meetings, programs, exhibit hall breaks, and receptions—make sure you don’t burn yourself out. Schedule some breaks in your time. Some attendees do a little sightseeing and others simply take some quiet time in their hotel rooms. This is not only okay, it is expected. Plan your schedule of what you’d like to attend—but be prepared to deviate from this plan as needed.
Bring your business cards
You will use them for everything from making sure your new friends have your contact information to entering vendor raffles in the exhibit hall. (Since you’ll probably collect several business cards from people you meet, you might also want to jot down brief notes on the backs of cards to better remember your conversations once you’re back home.) Tip: your registration badge can double as a handy business card holder.
Proper dress is always a big question, and it will depend on what you are doing during the conference. If you are interviewing or presenting at a program, plan on bringing a suit. However, you can dress more casually when simply attending the different programs. Most attendees dress in business casual attire (e.g. khakis, summer skirts, polo shirts, simple tops). Of course, you’ll want to make sure your casual clothes still look professional. Also, consider bringing a jacket or sweater because convention centers and hotels tend to be chilly.
Shoes are another important factor. They must be comfortable. Most people do a lot of walking and standing, especially in the exhibit hall. Finally, remember that it’s summertime, so be prepared for heat and rain if you plan to spend time walking outside. It is not uncommon for attendees to change their clothes over the course of the day. You should bring at least one spare outfit so you have a little wiggle room.
Vote with your Feet
Go to the programs that interest you. Many times you will have to choose between two (or more) great programs scheduled for the same time. If you go to one and it’s not what you were hoping for, quietly get up and leave. People do it all the time. You have much to do during AALL—don’t waste your time. If you enter a program already in progress, be as quiet as possible and simply take an empty seat.
Explore the Exhibit Hall
Is the exhibit hall important? YES! Explore the hall to discover solutions for your library, or even just to become more conversant in the tools and services other libraries use. Start with an all-purpose opener: “Hi, what’s new?” Not only is it valuable for you to learn about vendors’ new products and services, but this sort of face time with law librarians helps them better understand your needs and what their companies can do to better serve you. Working with vendors is a two-way street, and an important part of nurturing this relationship is simply meeting them, seeing what they have to offer, and keeping them in mind for the future. Plus, you might collect some nice swag.
Use “the bag”
Every registered attendee gets a bag when they check in at the registration desk. These bags become important for many reasons. First, it will give you a convenient place to put all the promotional items you can pick up in the exhibit hall. Second, it also makes it very easy to spot other attendees around town. Many conversations start when you’re out and about just because of “the bag.” You can also follow a line of them to different events. No need for Google Maps when you see five or six librarians carrying the same bag down the street.
Make friends with librarians in different fields
Some of the most rewarding experiences of the conference come from meeting other librarians with different expertise, experiences, and backgrounds. Colleagues from other types of libraries can often provide some of the keenest insight. The more we know about each other and what we do, the better our libraries will work. Lastly, try to check out a program or exhibit dealing with a different section of the library.
Find Time to Eat
Don’t assume that food will be provided at early-morning and midday meetings—sometimes you might need to eat on the fly. (There are usually numerous options along the route between your hotel and the convention center.) Most events where you can nosh are ticketed or by invitation only, so be sure to double-check your schedule before you head out for the day. Snacks are served during the daily exhibit hall breaks, and a complimentary lunch will also be served in the hall on Monday.
Explore the Host City
Set a little time aside each day to see something in the area. Many attendees bring family members and turn AALL into a family vacation. The Local Arrangements Committee hosts a hospitality booth—stop by for recommendations on where to eat, what to see, and how to get around. AALL offers library tours—check them out and sign up early since they often fill up.
Talk to anyone and everyone!
The people who get the most out of AALL are the ones who leave their comfort zones. Talk to people other than your co-workers, branch out. At an event, walk up to a new group and start chatting. You’ll likely find you have a lot to chat about. This is one of the best places to network, so take advantage of the opportunity to meet your colleagues and expand your network.
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