Conferences 101: What I get out of the conference experience
The ALIA Information Online is happening in Sydney next month, so I was asked to write a bit about what I get out of conferences and the networking opportunities that happens around them.
The main reason we all, theoretically, go to conferences is to learn things. It’s an opportunity to see what our colleagues are working on, and to swap and share our own stories with our colleagues across the sector. They are an opportunity to learn new ways of doing things, and that is something that we should always be striving for(that’s possibly a topic for another blog post though).
Don’t feel like you need to attend every session though – time spent talking to vendors or colleagues in the industry can be just as valuable as time spent in a session. Also you don’t have to furiously take notes on the sessions you are attending. A few dot points on the key points you want to take away are enough. Or better yet, an awesome sketch-note.
Build relationships with vendors
I work in Collection Development for a large University so building and maintaining relationships with our vendors is a hugely important part of my role. While we see some of our main vendors throughout the year, some of our specialist vendors (especially those based internationally) we only get to see at conferences. Putting faces to names is always invaluable – it makes the relationship feel more personal, less clinical which I always find delivers better results (not necessarily savings or discounts though).
It is also a great opportunity to talk face-to- face with vendors about problems, issues developments and, yes, pricing, that may arise between visits. Or to talk about these issues with people higher up the food chain with those you may normally deal with locally.
And for the vendor it’s a great way for them to spruik their wares, which helps us in making decisions. If we know all the products that are out there, we can make better informed decisions about selecting the ones best for our institutions.
If you’re anything like me, sometimes work is great but sometimes you feel down about it. I’m one of those people that needs constant stimulation, otherwise I get bored and work gets stale. Conferences are a great place to get inspired and motivated about your work again. This could be anything from inspiration from a new project to take back, to the more abstract feeling great about how the work you are doing is valuable.
Sometimes keynotes have the power to do that – like R. David Lankes keynote at VALA last year.
Build networks with fellow GLAMers
This is one of my favourite things about conferences and links in nicely with the social aspect of conferences that I enjoy so much. Between conferences, I’m a bit of a Twitter whore so conferences are a great way to meet those people who I’ve been speaking with online. It is also a great way to catch up with those people you may have met through other programs, training or conferences you have participated in. Some of these people have become really great friends of mine
I am one of those librarians that is an outrageous extrovert. I cannot discount how much fun I have at conferences by seeing friends and colleagues I already know, meeting new people and just talking to people in general. I thrive off it and it definitely helps me in building and maintaining my networks and relationships. There are plenty of opportunities to take part in the more social aspects of conferences by attending opening and closing drinks, conference dinner, or the various soirees put on by vendors across the course of the conference. This may not be for everyone, but I always enjoy a canape, a glass of bubbles and a conversation about the ins-and-outs of this industry we’re a part of.