by Courtney Baron, Head Editor, INALJ Georgia
5 Tips for Attending your First Conference
I just got back from my first library conference last week! It was a great learning experience and I’m excited to share my tips with other library students and first time attendees. I can’t stress enough how important it is to start attending conferences. Most of the people I met were professional librarians who shared their job search experiences with me and gave excellent and well-received advice. I also heard about upcoming job openings and got a sense of the culture and environment at various libraries.
Choose wisely – I knew I wanted to go to my first conference this fall, but I wasn’t sure which one to choose. A librarian at my university recommended starting with our state library conference and it was a great choice. It was large enough to have a lot of options, but small enough that I got to network with a great group of attendees and meet some of the rising stars in the profession. I’m interested in a pretty specific branch of librarianship, as well as archives, which weren’t represented much at the conference, but I’m attending a conference on those topics in November. I will report back!
Get business cards – I posted about business cards a few months ago and you can read that article here. I ended up ordering cards from Moo using a cute vintage-y typewriter template. I had to rush order to get them on time, so make sure you plan ahead! When I arrived at the conference, I was actually given a small stack of pre-made business cards for the event. I don’t know if it’s the norm to get cards at conferences, and if I had known I might not have rushed my delivery, but I decided to hand out my customized cards anyway. They were very unique (i.e., hopefully easy to notice and reference later on!) and I got a lot of compliments, so I think it was worth it. If you are like me and feel slightly uncomfortable handing out business cards, ask other attendees for their card first and hand yours over as part of the exchange.
Plan ahead – I printed off the schedule of presentations ahead of time and circled everything that interested me. The night before each day of the conference, I made a detailed list of where to be, what to do, and what time all the sessions and events I planned to attend were held. I also included one or two more options that stuck out just in case. I did deviate from my original plan a bit, so it was nice to have one list to refer to rather than having to pull out the booklet for reference in the crowded hallways.
Volunteer – Volunteering is a great way to meet people and show your enthusiasm for the profession. I volunteered to pick up AV equipment at the end of the conference. It was an easy task, but I found out the school librarians were primarily in charge of that, so it wasn’t the ideal volunteer opportunity for my interests. Next year I think I will focus on the registration desk or something more social.
Follow up – After the conference, send a quick message to those you connected with the most. Don’t send out a generic email and make sure you personalize it! Examples: “Thank you for letting me know about that job opening at X University! It sounds like a great opportunity and I will definitely apply.” “It was great to meet someone who is also interested in art librarianship! I’m looking forward to seeing you again at the networking event next month.” It’s thoughtful and helps you stand out. As a library student, I’m soaking up whatever knowledge I can gain and appreciative of everyone’s advice.
Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy yourself!