I am so psyched for ALA’s 2014 Annual Conference in Las Vegas! I fly out to Vegas on June 25 which gives me a whole day before opening ceremony to get situated. I haven’t decided yet if I am going to pay extra for a pre-conference that day, or make sure that I am 100% caught up on my summer course so that I don’t have to worry about too much work during conference. This is my second annual ALA conference, and my third major conference this year, so I’m posting some information for new folks about what I think is essential based on my own experiences, and I’ll link to some posts that I found especially helpful before my first conference. See you after the jump!
So, it’s your first time at an ALA Annual Conference (or similar conference) and you aren’t entirely sure what to take with you! That’s okay, there are a bunch of blog posts out there on what to bring and what to do at conference. Here’s one more with my own suggestions.
Aside from clothes, toiletries and other accessories, here are some things that I think are essential to a successful conference.
Bring business cards with you to give to others as you network. This is absolutely essential, and I can’t tell you how many first timers that I met last year who didn’t have cards to hand out. Those cool apps on your phone that let you send someone else a virtual business card are not enough because they don’t all cross platforms, and frankly they aren’t as convenient. When you have three or four bags of stuff that you are lugging around, using your phone can be a pain, it’s much easier, and in many ways still considered more professional, to give a real business card. There are some places to get free cards, and you can always print your own as well. However, if you can afford it, I think most of the cards you pay for are a much nicer quality. I really like the cards from the folks at Moo (full disclosure, if you click this referral link, I will get points in my account if you make a purchase). They are very nice quality, and they are generally affordable.
Pre-printed Address Labels
I have finally remembered to go out and purchase labels to make this time around, and I will be making them in the next week. Most people don’t think to take these, especially to their first conference, but they will save your hands. Many booths ask for you to fill out an information card to get whatever it is they are offering for free, or so that they can send you additional followup information after the conference is over. Writing your information over and over can get both painful and time consuming. When you pick up your guide book at registration, you will probably be getting a booklet that provides vendor information and a number of slips to fill out to turn in for free gifts or further information. You’ll be glad you have those labels. What should you put on them? Your name, institution, address (this will put you on vendor mail lists, so you may want to use your work address if you can get mail at your job), phone number (generally optional, make sure you indicate it is a cell phone if you are using your cell phone number), and email address. You may want to create a separate email address from a free program like Gmail, for this list, to keep all of the vendor emails out of your main inbox.
Comfortable Walking Shoes
Seriously, you do not want to walk all over conference in heels or shoes that don’t fit correctly. I walked so much last year at conference, that despite eating all kinds of junk, I came home about 2 lbs. lighter than when I left. Save your feet! Bring comfortable walking shoes.
A Small Rolling Suitcase or Crate
I swore to myself at Annual conference, AASL and Midwinter, that I would not grab a ton of stuff from the exhibit hall. And while I did get more discerning, I still hauled almost 50 lbs worth of books home from Midwinter (I did not mail anything home because I took the train). Unless you have special health circumstances, these are not allowed in the exhibit hall. But you can check them at the bag check for a pretty low rate (usually only a couple of dollars), and you can access your bag throughout the day for no extra cost. When those free tote bags start to feel heavy, it is great to have an easily accessible place to drop off your stuff without having to trek back to your hotel room. If you do have a medical condition that makes using one of these devices in the exhibit hall necessary, you have to have a doctor’s note, so don’t forget to bring that with you.
These are my essentials for a major conference. I’ll be back soon with a list of things that you should do and not do at annual conference, so keep your eyes open!