ALA Midwinter – Know Before You Go!

Midwinter is this week and many folks in the College are packing up for Seattle. As part two of our series on conference season, here are some tips I’ve picked up from my conference travels, as well as some recommended reading:

  1. USE THE CONFERENCE SCHEDULER! Plan your days out before you get to the conference. I mean really plan, have ideas for places you can eat, maps and/or address of where you need to go etc. ALA has a pretty handy conference scheduler that you can use to plan your sessions, AND it gets updated when rooms change.
  2.  Dress Code: This is a matter of personal style and/or brand, but generally business casual is a good place to be during the day. In the evening for conference sanctioned events I stick with semi-professional dress. What’s most important is that you wear something that is comfortable for extended periods of time, especially your shoes. I know everyone talks about wearing comfortable shoes, but having twice broken-in shoes at a conference…trust me, it’s not pretty.
  3. When you pick up your conference badge: They’re going to try and give you MANY THINGS, including a huge conference program that is already out-of-date. What I do is take only the program and a coupon book for the exhibit hall. Then I sit down and tear out the maps and bus shuttle schedule from the program to keep, and recycle the rest of the program. If you’ve got an electronic device you can find what you need in the scheduler – and these are all updated with new times and locations! If you insist that you need paper, there is a paper program at all information stands. Use theirs and save your back!
  4. Regarding conference swag: if you wouldn’t pay for it (even a dollar) then do not take it! It’s so very easy to get overwhelmed by the headphones, pens, books, and endless quantities of tote bags. Remember that you have to carry them until you get to your hotel AND you have to get them home.
  5. Business Cards: Bring plenty, and when you get one from someone else write on the back of it why you took the card (i.e. I need to email them about this, they write this, etc). Write down whatever is going to help you remember. I keep these in my badge holder, because it forces me to process them quickly.
  6. What do I carry around? Try not to start the day with a huge bag of stuff, you will ended up with papers, books, business cards, and other ephemera. I have a conference kit that I carry around, which I’ll be honest is a little overboard, however, I’m everyone’s best friend when they need something from it. I carry (in addition to my usual purse):
  • iPhone
  • iPhone charger
  • Cash
  • Business cards
  • A sweater (the conference centers are COLD)
  • Pens & paper (usually a small notebook)
  • Water bottle
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Mints or gum
  • Snacks
  • Band-Aids (for your poor feet after you wear uncomfortable shoes)
  • Advil
  • Umbrella (if the weatherperson says so)
  • Laptop or iPad (only if I really really need it and of course pack the charger too)

Some other random tips:

  • Go to the social events.
  • Don’t just hang out with people you know.
  • Try some local eats or spaces. You’ve paid a lot to go to the city, you might as well get some sight-seeing in.
  • Take alone time if you need it.
  • Do your best to eat well and sleep.
  • Take Emergen-C or Airborne (thousands of people = germ pit).

Other conference survival guides:

Librarian by Day: “ALA Survival Tips, New & Improved for #ALA11″
ALA Conference Survival Tips — 35 Conferences Later

Gotta Tip? Share it in the comments!

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