Preparing for the 2009 NJLA Conference
- Start preparing! First check out the NJLA Conference Wiki – this may seem obvious but sometimes things get away from us and we forget the obvious. No matter how many times we’ve attended, something has probably changed. The website provides a wealth of information for both the exhibitors and the attendees, including a floor plan and an event grid (the grid identifies room numbers and clearly labels specific tracks you may want to follow according to your professional interest).
- Create your agenda – it’s always a good idea to read the description of each workshop and note the guest speaker. Make sure to check the site once again, a few days before you leave, for any last minute changes. Try to establish a general itinerary for your day. I emphasize “general” because I think it’s best to get out of your comfort zone and experience new things. Besides, it’s likely you’ll meet up with a cordial and enthusiastic group of librarians that will suggest specific sessions or events. Be open to new ideas and allow for last minute changes. If you’re the spontaneous type and itineraries are not for you, at least think long and hard about the reasons you are attending the conference and decide upon one or two things that you really want to come away with.
- Bring extra copies of your business cards (trust me, you will be asked for them), comfortable shoes, tote bags to carry all of those neat giveaways, and cough drops. After all, it is spring, and if you aren’t getting over a cold or suffering from allergies, chances are someone next to you is!
Make the most out of it! Once at the conference, there is no end to the amount of quality resources and information available but before you start checking off that agenda, make sure to stop at the NJLA table for your badge and any additional conference information. To ensure your time is well spent, here are a few suggestions on making the most of it.
- If this is your first conference it’s okay to be nervous, but think of it as an adventure. This is a chance to leave your shy self at home and step out of your comfort zone. For an easy ice breaker, mention a few recent programs or services that your library had implemented. We absolutely THRIVE on sharing ideas! If you’re feeling especially nervous, arrange to attend with a co-worker or classmate.
- Step away from the smart phone. I know, I know, I have an iPhone myself and share the need to stay connected to everyone, everywhere. But how can you focus on the presentation, if you’re also sending mixed drinks or Coach bags to your Facebook friends? Go easy on the microblogging too, unless of course, you’re actually presenting a workshop on it. After all, if you’re too busy letting others know about what’s going on in your world, you may just miss your own experience.
- Take notes. Whether for a blog or future article, you’re going to need them. No doubt, you’ll be asked by a co-worker or supervisor how the conference went, who the presenter was and what sessions you attended. You may even be asked to write a report or train others on staff.
- Have fun and socialize. This may be THE most important step and the one we most often forget. First off, as soon as you get to the conference, take it easy. According to Travel and Leisure Magazine, Long Branch ranks among the top 20 American beaches, so weather permitting, take a stroll down the boardwalk. Drop your shoulders every now and then, take a deep breathe and RELAX. Then make sure to have fun! Don’t pass up an invitation to go out as a group or meet new people because some of the best networking happens AFTER the presentation. If you haven’t been invited out for lunch or dinner, then join NJLA’s Lunch Buddies or Dine_Around groups. If you enjoy meeting new people, try volunteering at the conference. The NJLA website offers a list of available and rewarding volunteer opportunities. If you’re too late this year, there is always next time!
- Remember the people you’ve met, by asking for their business card. It’s not only a tool to remember contact info but you can always jot down notes on the back. If you promise to follow up about something specific, note it on the back of the card so you don’t forget. Follow up is crucial!
- After the conference, I suggest taking the next day off. I know this is next to impossible but at the very least, take it easy. By now, we may be running on empty. Try not to schedule appointments that day or attempt to reply to every email. Consider the day after the conference – part of the actual conference. Sort out what ideas are easy to implement and what ideas should sit in the “bright ideas” folder for a while. Distribute the information you’ve brought home to the appropriate staff (half will accept with a grimace or smile) and file the rest.
Finally, work on getting your co-workers, director and board members to approve the many ideas you’ve brought back with you. By the time you’re finished, it will be spring again…Happy Conferencing!