We go to conferences to meet new people, learn new things, and see new places. Getting the most out of a conference takes a bit of planning—and a bit of risk-taking. Here are some tips, adapted from Clint Gardner and Risa Gorelick.
- Network with EVERYONE. Everyone has an interesting story to tell, and you'll only hear it if you talk with them. Networking is about learning more about people, so try to listen at least as much as you talk! And push yourself to talk to new people. Go up to someone you know from their scholarly work or from Facebook whom you haven't met in person and introduce yourself face-to-face. When you talk to someone whose work you admire, try not to say, "wow, you're so-and-so" (s/he will know that already). Instead, introduce yourself and start a conversation.
- Go to the parties even if you don't know people. We're planning lots of activities to encourage mingling!
- Try to go to at least a few sessions on topics that are really new to you.
- Plan ahead and think about what sessions you want to attend so that you don't accidentally miss a session you really want to attend. If you're attending the conference with other people from your writing center, talk together about your plans—it's nice to have a balance between a few sessions you've attended together, plus sessions you can tell each other about afterwards.
- Make notes on what you'd like to try out at your own writing center/in your own practice—and follow through when you get home!
- Be an engaged audience member. Have questions for the presenters, and make an effort to convey your interest to presenters by looking interested—even if you have jet lag, and even if you stayed up a bit too late talking the night before.
- If you are on Twitter, tweet what you're learning at the conference (though please don't do it while someone is giving a presentation as it is rude to be typing on your smartphone while someone is talking).
- Bring an energy bar and a water bottle for snacks in case you get wrapped up in a conversation and miss your lunch break or in case you end up eating later than you normally would.
- Feel comfortable in what you're wearing. Especially if you're presenting, you might want to dress up a bit more than you do ordinarily, but don't wear anything that's going to keep you from feeling comfortable doing the main work of conferences: engaging with new people, ideas, and places!