Sunday, October 21, 2012
#Netspeed 2012 Reflections
Having just returned from Netspeed 2012, I feel refreshed in the library profession. Some great speakers presented, some great ideas exchanged, and superb conversations and connections resulted. Sponsored by The Alberta Library, a consortium the majority of libraries in the province, Netspeed is considered one of Canada's leading library technology conferences. I certainly enjoyed my time, despite not knowing what to expect from a local conference. From the friendly registration table down to the closing keynote from Stephen Abrams, Netspeed 2012 gave me a few epiphanies regarding conferences. Here are my top 10 recommendations for conference goers:
1. City - Regardless of the locale, each conference is organized by a group of individuals set on showcasing the city, so make use of the expertise of these organizers and ask questions about places to see, restaurants to try out, and entertainment to check out. Conferences aren't meant to be holidays - it's work after all. Rather, they are opportunities to re-energize and enhance the conference experience . . . after the sessions are over.
2. Make Connections - Make it a habit to converse with as many people as possible, whether it's the hotel concierge, folks on the same elevator, taxi drivers, and of course, conference delegates. You're job is to learn as much as possible about the conference and also the city. Why did they choose this city? Find out why. Try to exchange business cards with at least two conference attendees. Those connections might be useful in the future.
3. Take Notes - Document what you're hearing. Don't just rely on memory. There's nothing like evidence of your attendance and learning than having it written on paper (or electronic device). I find that reflecting on my notes and synthesizing what I've heard to what I can apply from these thoughts.
4. Vendors - I used to find vendors as a supplement to conferences, perhaps as salesmen who support the conference economically in return for floor time. However, I think that's not quite the approach we should take. Vendors are full of librarians who speak the lingo, understand the challenges, and have worked with numerous libraries. Vendors are a great resource for picking up on the latest technology developments in the field, stay abreast of emerging trends, and even create some possible connections for your libraries. So try to pick up a few brochures and learn about what products and services they offer. Don't be afraid to strike up a conversation. Pick up some swag while you're at it.
5. Prepare Early - Take some effort in preparing to pack for your trip and make sure your luggage has the right clothing for the weather. There's nothing like a bad conference where you've left your passport or credit card at home on the way to the airport. Make the conference experience as seamlessly enjoyable as possible by incrementally preparing each day leading up to the big trip and don't leave everything the night before. Make sure you have your conference session schedule lined up so that you don't have to make the decision on the spot.
6. Take time for Reflection - There's lots to digest during conferences. Sessions are often empty by midday as attendees are tired out from listening and talking. Don't fall into the conference burnout trap. Take time to reflect on what you've been hearing and quietly contemplate on what you can do to apply at your own work.
7. Don't Rush - There are too many sessions for you to attend, so don't try to do everything at once. I used to have a habit of session-hopping - spending five minutes here and there - trying to soak up as much as possible, expecting to absorb the conference on my own. This type of multitasking is not only one version of ADD, it's also detrimentally unproductive. It goes back to the previous point about preparing ahead of time to really pick the sessions and people you want to see and meet.
8. Use Social Media - As you can't be everywhere at once, social media is so important in catching up on things you missed. Don't forget of course share your knowledge and contribute what you've heard or learned to the webosphere. Blog about it, tweet it using its hashtag, Instagram it. But don't overdo it, like tweeting every five seconds during a session.
9. Elevator Speech - Try to rehearse for a one-liner that best represents your work. Your position will change from time to time as your workflow and projects shift and change. Very rarely will our work fall static. Think of a few things you can say in response to the oft-famous question "So what do you do now?"
10. Share, Exchange, Present! - There's nothing like listening to an uplifting presentation and then enhancing it with your own knowledge through an insightful comment or personal anecdote. While you're at a particularly great session, start to plant a seed in your own mind in building on it with your own future conference presentation. Imagination breeds creativity and success. That's why I think personal attendance at conferences can never be truly replaced by the online experience. Conferences are meant for ideas to germinate and exchange between real people and human conversations. So while you're at it, enjoy!