I have been attending tech conferences for quite a few years now, both in the role of attendee and presenter and even to this day, I always take away a tip or two that I wish I knew before I attended. Here are a few that I hope you will find useful
1. Get Involved!
Looking back at one of my very first tech conferences, I have to admit I was more of a ‘lurker’. I feel that this is one of the important keys to having a great conference experience. In my experience at both state level and national conferences, people are so friendly and are more than willing to share. Don’t feel like you need to be invited into a conversation. If you over hear someone talking, explaining something, or chatting about an issue that interests you…get involved! Introduce yourself and take part in the discussion. Conferences are about meeting people, sharing thoughts and ideas, putting names to faces, and of course, geeking out! Don’t be afraid to ask for help, ask a question, or start a discussion.
Make a list of all the sessions you want to see … then be ready to pay no attention to it … or at least most of it! Before every conference, I usually have a few ideas on topics that I’m in search of and I start looking for sessions that will apply. I can tell you that you will NEVER see everything you want to. Thank goodness there are archived discussions from a lot of the sessions, such as backchannels, tags that are used within sites, (Twitter, Flickr, Diigo, and Delicious to name a few), live blogs and streams. I have spent many a day well after the conference has ended going back over discussions. In other words, the learning continues well after the conference doors are closed.
3. Live Chat
Backchannels are becoming more and more widespread. These are nothing more than real-time online conversations that take place alongside live presentations. It is a great way to key in on other attendees thoughts on the topic and I always pick up resources from them as well. The fact that they are for the most part, archived, allows me to go back and review the topic. I can also pick up on what I overlooked the first time. Keep your eyes and ears open for back channel chat sessions happening during presentations. The URLs usually come via Twitter or by word of mouth in the session itself.
4. You’ve got the power!
Bring a cheap plug strip. This was the best advice I have ever been given. There are never enough plugs for people to plug in and power up. If you’re the lucky one with an extra power strip, then I can guarantee that you will make instant friends with many a people!
5. Take a time out!
Don’t feel like you have to go to every session. If you are able to, take some time to miss a session and join in conversations in the hallways and other areas. Some of the best learning goes on during those conversations!
I’m sure that there many others who could offer a word or two of advice on how to get the most out of your time here at MACUL. Be sure to check back here on the blog as it will be updated frequently in the next few days. If you are on Twitter, the tags being used are #macul10 or #macul2010. What are your tips to a successful conference?