Jeremy Melis is a Marketing Manager for UPS, specializing in solutions for Professional Services companies, including Law Firms. UPS is part of the ALA Value in Partnership (VIP) program and will be exhibiting in Booth #409 at the 2013 ALA Annual Conference.
It happens at every conference. Leading up to it, you get excited about the time away from the daily grind and a few days away at a nice hotel with peers. Then you get to the conference, and it feels like the first day of kindergarten—you hardly know anyone, it seems like there’s a lot to learn in a short time, and you’re pretty sure you saw somebody eating Play-Doh in the corner.
With all of this to process, it’s easy to lose track of why you came in the first place. Having a game plan helps ensure you can get the most out of every day of the conference. Here are some tips that have always helped me:
• Step out of your comfort zone. You didn’t come to the ALA Annual Conference to talk to people you already know, did you? Challenge yourself to meet someone new at each session, sit with someone different at each meal, and avoid convincing yourself that the work email you just received is more important than the potential new contact standing 10 feet away.
• Stay at the Conference hotel. Spend more time networking, and less time travelling each day. You never know who you’re going to meet on the elevator.
• Don’t just attend sessions–participate. Ask questions and seek to truly understand the content being presented. If you don’t feel the urge to take notes and ask questions, you probably picked the wrong session. If you feel like you already know what’s being presented, offer examples—the speakers like to hear they’re right.
• Teach a business partner something about your business. The better a business partner understands the challenges you face, the more likely you are to find out about a solution that can help.
• Bring plenty of business cards. ALA members are some of the best I’ve seen at this. Just make sure you have someplace convenient and comfortable to carry them, so they’re readily available.
• Divide and Conquer. Work with colleagues and fellow local chapter members to select different sessions to attend, rather than attending all the same ones. Then organize a time at or after the conference to share what you learned with the group.
Two of the most important elements of all of this are documentation and follow-through. Before the conference, list out your goals: how many new people you want to meet, specific “must have” sessions or business partner conversations, etc. After the Conference, write down your follow-up plan. Which contacts are you going to reach out to? What were the 3 most impactful things you learned, and what can you change or implement in the next 30 days to leverage this? Create goals that will be challenging. The contacts and knowledge you gain are likely to be reward enough, but don’t be afraid to promise yourself something nice for meeting your goals. After all, you just survived another “first day of kindergarten.”
What additional tips can you add to the list that you’ve found to be effective?