Conference Dos and Don’ts for a First-Time Attendee

By Margaret Bates, Research and Instruction Librarian, University of Alabama Libraries

Conference season is upon us with ALA Annual taking place in San Diego from June 27-July 2. Conferences can be intimidating for first time attendees, especially large conferences like ALA. Here are some Dos and Don’ts, and some tips, for first (or second!) time attendees.

DO: Check the program ahead of time

Find breakout sessions that sound interesting to you or your institution and note when meals and breaks are scheduled.

DON’T: Disregard locations 

In bigger conferences like ALA, different sessions and speakers may be scheduled across the conference center. Take note of the locations of sessions you want to attend and try to get strategic about planning to attend events near each other.

DO: Attend the conference orientation

These orientations are usually optional events on the first day of the conference. These orientations are a great way to meet other first-time attendees. They also can help you understand the conference program, the layout, and they may have more useful tips and tricks than what you found here.

DON’T: Be a wallflower

Networking can feel tedious and intimidating, but remember that everyone who attends a conference is there to learn new things and meet people! Usually there will be Meet & Greets and mixers scheduled throughout the conference. Try and attend at least a few. These are also where those first-time orientations can come in handy, as you might find people you have already met, who can introduce you to more people.

DO: Be engaged

You get out of a conference what you put into it, make sure to bring a notebook or laptop or tablet to take notes. If you are an audio learner ask the moderator or presenter if you can record the session for personal use.

DON’T: Ignore your limits

Conferences can feel like a marathon. Although they can be super exciting for first timers, make sure you also take time to rest and absorb what you’ve learned. Make sure you are eating and sleeping enough and bring comfortable shoes to change into if you are attending a large conference (like ALA).

DO: Take home what you learned

Not every session you attended may be perfectly applicable to your institution, but think of the broader concepts and ideas and brainstorm how you can take something you learned at the conference and develop or improve something for your users.

DON’T: Be a stranger

 One of the best parts of conferences is meeting people in your profession from all over the country. If you make a connection during a conference, keep in contact! These people may be great resources for co-authors, co-presenters, or external reviewers. Or they may have great ideas to help you get something started or improved at your institution.

DO: Consider starting ALA Annual off strong by attending our preconference

New Members Round Table will be hosting a preconference focusing on the job application and interview process for public, academic, and special libraries on Friday June 28, 9a-12p. NMRT members and student members can register for a discounted rate. For more information about the session, please see below.

You can register for the preconference session and ALA Annual by visiting Hope to see you there!

Image preview

REMEMBER: NMRT will be present at ALA to help you navigate your first time. Take advantage of this resource to make sure you get the most out of your conference attendance!

What other questions/advice do you have for first-time conference attendees?  

This entry was posted in ALA Annual, Finding jobs, NMRT and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *