So You’re Going to a Conference!
by Diane Cordell
Your request has been approved and you’ll soon be on your way! Make this a trip to
remember...for all the right reasons.
Planning is the key to success.
“Girl Writing” http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/peagreenchick/367296810/
A bit of advance planning can really help maximize the experience for you.
The best deals on hotels go quickly. Start checking airfare or explore other options, like
trains, buses, or driving yourself.
Do some research.
“Old Photos of Family and Friends http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/micahb37/3524594940/
Take some time to learn about the conference itself, your lodging (and its amenities) and the
host city. Check with professional contacts and see if anyone you know (or hope to meet) will
also be attending. If the conference has a website, check for session schedules and other
“Vintage photo” http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/teresa-stanton/2982534944/
With your wardrobe, stick to a simple color palette and wrinkle-resistant fabrics. Pack
sparingly. Layer clothing - warm weather outside may mean air conditioning (often to an
extreme) inside. Bring comfortable walking shoes. Have a check list so that those priceless
cords and device chargers aren’t left behind.
Leave some wiggle room in your schedule. Don’t be afraid to “monitor and adjust” as the
“little girl and illustrated blocks” http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/freeparking/786143356/
Highlight or star the must-see sessions. Note which vendors you especially want to visit and
see them ﬁrst.
Have a back-up plan, in case of technical difficulties, like spotty or non-existent Internet
connection. If you will be presenting a workshop, ask to see your assigned room, note the
locations of outlets, be sure you have the equipment you’ll need. Ask a friend to be your on-
site troubleshooter & aide.
Carry a camera.
“A cat is posed...” http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/walkadog/3452774704/in/set-72157616546964031/
“Take notes” of people, landmarks, events with your camera. Find out the conference hashtag
and add your photos to the group feed.
Save where you can.
“Tellers with money” http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/ecu_digital_collections/3288383057/in/set-72157614025621218/
Carry snacks, bring a reﬁllable water bottle, have your big meal at lunch time. Find out if
there are cheaper alternatives to taxis. Visit libraries and parks for free. Ask for AAA and
other applicable discounts. Share rides, when possible.
Keep all your receipts.
“Kitchen, Guest CHECKS” http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/chaparral/1043482991/
What isn’t reimbursed by your district or company might qualify as a tax deduction.
Take advantage of available
“A clerk processing letters and parcels...” http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/29007475@N08/3273336170/
Many conferences have on-site postal facilities. The less you have to carry home, the better!
“steve memory - the witches photograph” http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/foxtongue/56510106/in/set-460894/
Get together with old friends and cement new acquaintanceships. While elaborate dinners can
be fun, breakfast meetings and casual lunches also offer opportunities for conversation.
Sign up for optional side trips.
“Girl on beach donkey” http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/whatsthatpicture/2883583328/in/set-72157594320546999/
Take advantage of the locale - who knows when you’ll return? Join a planned activity or grab
some brochures and do a bit of exploring on your own.
Write it down.
“Annual Board - 1912 Grinnell High School” http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/25306332@N05/4225306238/in/pool-1088961@N22/
Live blog, tweet, use an iPhone app - gather impressions, resources, contact information.
Keep a record of who you meet, where you go, ideas you’d like to explore further.
Although your main focus is on the conference agenda, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a
good time. Be open to new experiences. Make the most of your time away from routine
Reﬂect on your experience.
“I sure am good looking...” http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/walkadog/3432086929/
What stood out for you, what worked well, what could have been better? Most importantly,
did this conference give good value? Would you consider attending again?
Share what you’ve learned.
“kodak advertising no 161” http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/mario_groleau/3149733754/in/set-72157611812283137/
“My 5th grade classroom” http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/dok1/3992555473/in/set-72157622209385382/
You went to the conference for a reason: to grow professionally. Find ways to pass along
what you’ve learned to your co-workers and/or students.
Dream a little dream...
“Vintage postcard~Little Girl w/Dog” http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/chicks57/4295682155/in/set-72157601531333325/
..of future conferences, perhaps of being a presenter yourself. Consider the possibilities.
Enjoy the memories!