March 23, 2011

Conference Prep

Perhaps I am overthinking things.....

I have a particular (if flawed) approach to planning for conferences I am going to attend. It has everything to do with how I approach conferences I am helping to staff or organize. I've been fortunate to be in meetings with great minds who are putting together huge national meetings on important issues. Sometimes the whole event has an arc or theme that we work hard to build deliberately--and convey effectively--to attendees. Part of the work is putting yourself in a conference-goer's shoes and hoping that you've created something useful and, while you're at it, a little bit entertaining.

As I am putting together my schedule for SLA 2011 I am keenly aware of my position on the other side of this equation. What does the annual conference have in store for me? How will all the moving parts come together? Will I make the most of my experience? There's a lot to think about and time's a-wastin'.

First, there is the big picture what-do-I-want-to-get-out-of-this-conference question. Do I want to 'Embrace Ambiguity and Curiosity' or do I need to get organized? (And how will I feel in mid-June?)

While browsing through session titles I oscillate wildly between "Ooh, here is one that would be easy to justify, and a cinch to explain to coworkers," and, "...but it's a skill I've already developed a fair amount and I should move outside my comfort zone." Then there is the cynical conference participant in me: "Is this session on social media or millennials really going to teach me something new, or will it be more of the same bland overstatements I am trying to debunk in my own organization?"

There are a number of time slots where I think it might be good to attend one of my division social activities, but if I am already going to the division business meeting (and I'm in more than one division), how do I strike the right balance?

I want conference equilibrium between big sessions and small ones, new contacts and people I know, learning as much as possible and not coming back exhausted, a good dose of both practical tips and lasting inspiration. I would also love to find a way to sneak into the Baseball Caucus meeting, and to spin a connection between my current work and an unrelated but fascinating-sounding session like 'Post-Recessionary Consumer Trends in America.'

Will I go to my friends' presentations to support them? And where will I be the slot before my own presentation and will I be able to concentrate? With almost two months left to plan, I should be able to sort it all out.

One of my guiding principles when I travel for a conference is to 'embrace place,' so I should also work in some brotherly love time. I've already got a date with The Decemberists June 15 at the Philadelphia Academy of Music. Care to join me?

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