Annual Meeting Advice: Final Tips

SAA 2014 is just around the corner now. Some of you may even arrive in Washington D.C. this weekend for continuing education classes. Here are some final thoughts for conference preparation. Good luck, and have a great conference!

Annual Meeting Question:

Any final advice for first-time attendees and SNAP members?

Conference Veteran Answers:

“Be bold — don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and to speak up in sessions — but also be mindful of conference etiquette. If you go up to speak with someone, try to avoid buttonholing them (we’ve all got lots to be doing). Keep your comments in sessions brief, non-repetitious and on-point (don’t say something just to say something).”

“If there is a session you really want to attend, try to get there early. Sometimes sessions do fill up and become standing room only. Also, session hopping is okay as long as you don’t distract the other attendees. ”

“Relax and take this opportunity to learn. We’re a small and collegial bunch–if you’re not getting talked to much this year, chances are next year you’ll get talked to more, and more the next year, and so forth.”

“Set aside time to play tourist and to enjoy meals with friends and colleagues. You’ll be happier and more relaxed (and therefor better able to focus!) if you give yourself a chance to unwind and enjoy being where you are.”

“If you’re introverted, pretend you’re playing the part of an extrovert.”

“Don’t be shy! People are very welcoming and will talk to you.”

“Even if you’re on a budget, try to set aside some money to go out (for coffee, lunch, dinner) with other archivists at least once. It’s a great way to meet new people and cement connections that will last for years.”

“Wear comfortable shoes!”

“Dress in layers so that you can be comfortable in the freezing conference rooms as well as in hot, muggy D.C.”

“Many, many archivists are introverts, and are just waiting for someone else to break the ice and start a conversation. If someone’s a curmudgeon, know that they’re in the minority.”

“A lot of people say the most valuable part of conferences is what happens in the hallways between sessions, and I completely agree with this. If you have the choice between being late to a session or continuing a great conversation in the hallway, stick with the hallway. Unless of course you’re on the session panel!”

“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to meet everyone and do everything. You want to have a pleasant learning experience, not a totally overwhelming one. Also, don’t forget to spend some time with friends and colleagues you already know who are attending; they are an essential part of your network and can help you expand yours.”

“If you have a conference buddy or two that you know from school, work, whatever, push yourself to break away from them for at least one social event or one part of a social event. You’ll have a great time with new people and feel proud of yourself for extending your comfort zone.”

“This is an exhausting week so carve out a little time to chill out. Make plans with friends and colleagues for some meals and drinks. Remember everyone else was new once upon a time. Feel free to ask help from people you know and don’t take it personally if someone is short with you. The senior folks get stressed out, too! Archivists are basically a very friendly bunch.”

“Pre-arrange a buddy to hang out with to combat lonliness and the feeling that you don’t know anyone. Take advantage of opportunities to meet other archivists, such as the navigator program, first-timer orientation, lunch buddy program and alumni mixers. Attend roundtable and section meetings that interest you or pertain to your work, you never know when the group will need a new web-master or member-at-large, volunteer and get involved. ”

“Keep your chin up and meet peoples’ eyes. Be quick to learn and slow to snark. Utilize Twitter’s ability to participate in side conversations, but don’t forget to be present in the moment, too. Most importantly, have fun and learn something new.”

“Try to have fun! SAA can be tiring but I always come away bouncing on my toes and feeling really great about life as an archivist. And: don’t be too hard on yourself, especially as a first-time conference attendee. If you don’t build up the courage to do something(s) that you want to do – that’s okay! You’re human! There will be other opportunities to meet other archivists, soon.”

“Attend the new member/first timer orientation, and besides asking for assistance at the registration desk (they’re always very helpful!),feel free to go up to other attendees who are wearing several ‘badges’ (indicating that they’re active participants) and start a conversation with them, letting them know that you’re either a new member or that this is your first SAA conference and hope they can answer a few questions you have.”

“Make sure to get enough rest, even if that means skipping a session or two for power naps. Plan to attend at least one session ‘for fun’ rather than because it promises to increase your professional capabilities. If necessary save money on breakfast and lunch so that you can eat at a good restaurant for dinner. Unless you’re already familiar w/them, make time to visit at least one Smithsonian museum (they’re free). Try to make time to view the graduate student posters (I almost always come away from the posters with one or two new ideas or facts).” sessions, ‘Archives in the Movies,’ and exhibit hall events.”

“All attendee reception, certainly. New members/first-time attendees breakfast, career center if you’re looking for a job, at least one tour, opening reception for exhibit hall (free food), exhibit hall itself, your school’s alumni mixer, graduate student posters.”

“Keep your expectations in check. A wise phd student once told me that if you get one new thing (contact, idea, perspective, etc) at a conference, that’s a successful conference!”

“Don’t stress out over the conference! You’re there to learn and to network, but half of both is having fun while you’re doing it. Go to at least one session that is completely unrelated to your job. Visit the reception and schmooze with members of the profession. If you’re already out of school, make it a point to visit your alumni mixer and talk with other folks who went through your program. Or don’t! Ultimately, you have to do the conference in a way that works for you.”

“The SAA annual meeting can be overwhelming–don’t always try to do everything. I try to strategically focus my time and effort, and also schedule in rest/nap time.”


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