Susan Kistler on Tips for First Time Conference Attendees
My name is Susan Kistler. I am AEA’s Executive Director and I contribute each Saturday’s aea365 post. This week, I asked the participants on AEA’s LinkedIn Group what recommendations they had for first time conference attendees to Evaluation 2010 this November in San Antonio. Before I get to their answers, two things:
- If you aren’t part of AEA’s LinkedIn group, consider joining! It’s free, and a great place to post your own questions.
- Thank you to Cady Berkel, Nicole Vicinanza, Disa Lubker Cornish, David Dobrowski, Jane Davidson, and Kelly Hannum. What follows scratches the surface of their suggestions.
Hot Tips: These are great ideas shared by AEA Conference veterans for making the most of the AEA conference:
Clear your calendar: “Make sure you are 100% unavailable for work” (Davidson) so you can “focus on what’s happening.” (Cornish)
Connect…connect…connect: ”Don’t be shy – ask questions. “ (Cornish) “Use the many opportunities to just get talking with people – presenters you enjoyed, people in the audience who asked interesting questions, whoever you happen to be standing next to in the coffee queue. AEA is great for friendly people, and, unlike some conferences, the Big Names are always delighted to talk with newcomers. Make a point of talking with people from other parts of the planet too!” (Davidson) “Go to the social events/poster sessions – you’ll meet lots of interesting and enthusiastic folks there.” (Vicinanza) Attend the session on “Networking and Getting Involved With AEA” on Wednesday at 4:30. “It’s designed for new evaluators and first time attendees to maximize connections and achieve professional development goals at the conference.” (Berkel)
Get oriented: “See the [online conference program] in advance to get first and second ideas for which sessions you want to go to. There are so many options it is hard to decide and easy to miss things you want(ed) to see if you wait until 5 minutes before hand.” (Dobrowski) “Use the TIG (Topical Interest Group) categories to help narrow down sessions, selecting TIGs that match your interest.” (Vicinanza)
Expand your horizons: “Go to a few sessions important to your work or study, a few sessions to see the top names, and a few sessions just because. But, don’t spend all your time in sessions. Take the time to get to know a few people people.” (Hannum) “Find yourself an AEA ambassador and pick their brains (and ask other AEA conference ‘veterans’) about which presenters are known for being particularly engaging – and go and see them even if it’s off your usual topics of choice Note: These aren’t just the “big names” – there are some hidden gems that are a delight to discover every year!” (Davidson)