Friday, August 31, 2007

How to make it a great conference experience

Comfortable clothing and shoes. You are going to be sitting and walking around so be comfortable.

Bring a sweater for the rooms. It is hit or miss, either you will be cold or hot.

LOTION: The air in the hotel is very dry. The hotel lotion smells nice but it really doesn't help with moisturising your skin.

The hotel does not have free Internet access. There is free WIFI in the lobby it is often very congested. The cost of Internet access is $4.95 per hour or $9.95 for 24 hour period. It still amazes me that hotels charge for Internet access at 3-4 star hotels. But you can stay at the Days Inn and get FREE wifi.

Understand your need. What is your area(s) that you want to gain knowledge about and enrich your professional life? What are the obstacles that you are facing at work? Who is that one student that you have tried everything and still can’t get meaningful access? All these questions and concerns can be addressed within the workshops.

Turn off the CELL PHONES or at least put it on silent mode. We are all important to someone but there is nothing worse than a cell phone going off while a person is presenting. It ruins the flow of the presentation and it distracts from the other members of the audience.(Sorry pet peeve)

Give yourself permission to have some breathing room. There are workshops that are running from 8:00am to 4:00 PM. Remember to take care of your body. Keep hydrated and nourish your body while nourishing your brain. Trust me; your body will thank you.

Bring snacks with you. The hotel often has apples near the front desk. In the past some of the exhibitors have hosted afternoon snack (Chocolate).

Although there are water stations around the conference area, consider bringing a water bottle with a lid with you. The water bottle can be filled with ice in the AM and your water is cold all day long. When you are in a packed conference room and you are stuck in middle, it is often difficult to climb over people to get to the water jug. There is also that little issue of electronics. Nothing says Pop, crackle, fizzle like liquid on electronics.

Give yourself some decompression time to digest what you have learned or seen throughout the day. A nice brisk walk in the Minnesota air is always helpful to make you come to your senses.

Know that there are some popular workshops and presenters these presentations get very crowded. Get there early if you can. Sit right up front (the presenters do not bite). Fill the room. Have a BACK – UP to your presentations. There are times that it can be standing room only. There are some rooms that you feel like you are on the New York Subway in the height of rush hour. Freebies and handouts – we all love the free things.

If a presenter is offering a freebie be considerate - take only one, if they have extra I am sure they will let you take a second on (they don’t want to have to carry it home it was enough to get it to the conference). However, if the presentation is packed the people in the back of the room often leave empty handed. If the presenter is organized which many are, CTG post handouts on the website after the conference! It is important to remember is that the presenters pay for all materials that are being shared. The cost of a handout can vary greatly. Many of the presenters will tell you that you can burn your own copy of a CD or photocopy a handout, or even email them and they will send you the file.

Be patient and generous with the presenters. It is not easy getting in front of a group of your peers and sharing information. There is bound to be a technical clique or misplaced item. Just roll with it. Offer constructive feedback and don’t fault a presenter for technology issues or an off beat moment (we have all had issues that we wish never happened). The feedback presenters get helps them improve their skills as well as new ideas for presentations.

Be considerate of the presenter’s time. Often the workshops run back to back and the presenters need to pack up and move out. Most presenters have a few minutes for questions and autographs. But if you want a lengthy explanation or conversation ask if you can talk to them after they packed up, can you meet with them later (before the bar) or email them your question.

The elevators at the end of the day especially when the exhibitor hall closes are a utter nightmare. Everyone rushes to the elevators. There are three that hundreds of people are trying to cram into. I have a few suggestions:

  • DO NOT try to take the stairs the fire doors do not open when you are going up. So you might make it to the 5th floor to have to turn around and come back down the 5 flights. After the first time, I haven’t tried it again, so this may have changed.
  • Go down stairs and chill at the Navigator for about 20-30 minutes. It will be well worth the wait. You won’t be crammed into an overcrowded elevator and you won't be stressed that you have to wait so long for an elevator.

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