by Joanna June
It’s time to get yourself ready to attend whatever conference or professional networking event you have on the books for this summer.
Sometimes preparations before the event take as much time and are just as important as attending itself. You can review some of our previous posts about what to wear, attending without attending, and conference planning for some great general tips and information for surviving a conference — and we probably don’t need to tell you to plan your sessions early so you have ample time to research presenters or sessions you definitely want to see.
Conferences are not only about taking in new new information, they are an invaluable networking space. Here are some preparatory hacks with an eye on networking and professional development to get you ready to confidently hit the conference floor.
There was a twitter discussion recently about business cards and the result was that yes, they are still valuable and desirable to have. You don’t want to be that guy/girl littering every hand with a business card but you do want to have them at the ready. It isn’t too late to get some printed for ALA and they don’t have to be expensive. You can even get blanks at your local office supply store to print at home.
Dave Delaney has some good quick tips for a better biz card; I particularly liked his ideas to have whitespace for the receiver to make their own notes, and to possibly include a picture. As a student, you probably want to include your institution name, degree sought, and expected graduation date. At the least they should look professional and have your current contact information.
Speaking of contact points, have you updated your professional documents and public profiles recently? Hopefully you will be making lots of new contacts and connections and you don’t want to send them to an outdated website with an old resume. Now is the time to polish, proofread (again) and prep your professional accoutrements including your…
- Cover letter
- List of references and recommendation letters
- A drafted follow-up contact email (“Hello XYZ, It was so great to speak with you at ALA…)
- ePortfolio (you do have an eportfolio, right?)
- Professional website
- LinkedIn profile
- Twitter account (including your avatar and bio)
It also might be the time to scrub your Facebook or other social media sites of anything that might raise eyebrows to a potential employer or peer — the former will almost certainly check and it is best to know how you appear to the outside world.
Start the conversation early
Twitter is a powerful tool before and during conferences. Follow the conference Twitter account for all the latest updates (if you don’t have a Twitter account you should strongly consider getting one but you can also access in any web browser). Also, never underestimate a conference buddy! Post in your school’s Facebook group or listserv and talk about attending in class to find out who else might be going. You shouldn’t only spend time with those you know but it helps to walk into a room with one familiar face, both for information sharing as well as the chance to divide and conquer conflicting sessions.
Keep calm with your carry on?
Finally, what will you pack and what will you pack it in? While a suit is likely overkill for a conference, you should be thinking about what you plan to wear. Will you depend on the likely conference bag giveaway or do you need to bring/buy a suitable conveyance for your stuff? Will you use a notebook, laptop, iPad, phone, etc. for note taking? It is good to start thinking though these logistics so packing is a breeze and you have what you need when you arrive (don’t forget pens!).
Hopefully the hacks herein are good notes and reminders for all of us to get our professional lives in order — you never know who you are going to meet so best always to be prepared!