GSNE Week: A Rae Clementz on Planning Your Best AEA Annual Conference Experience

My name is A Rae Clementz, and I am the senior Graduate Student and New Evaluator (GSNE) Topical Interest Group (TIG) Co-Chair. I’ve been attending the AEA annual conference now for seven years, and though it remains the best, friendliest, and most energizing professional conference I’ve ever attended, it has grown and changed a LOT in the last seven years. To round out the GSNE week here are a few of my lessons learned as a seasoned conference attendee.

Rad Resource: The online conference schedule!

1.       Search for sessions given or featuring leaders or icons in the field whose work you’ve admired (or disagreed with), such as Michael Patton, Jennifer Greene, Marvin Alkin, Tina Christie, David Fetterman and more.

o       Look at who else might be presenting from the same department or organization to see if their work is similar, interesting or relevant.

2.       Look at sessions sponsored by various TIGs, even if you’re not a TIG member. Aside from a straight keyword search, this is without question the easiest way to find sessions most relevant to you.

3.       Don’t overlook business meetings, roundtables, Birds of a Feather sessions, and poster sessions. Important work gets conducted during these sessions, and they’re phenomenal networking opportunities.

shoesLesson Learned:  Plan for a really long day.  Business meetings start as early as 7:00 A.M., sessions are held until around 7:00 P.M. at night, and then the really good stuff (networking & social interaction) gets started. Wear comfortable shoes and layer clothes so you’re prepared for anything from a freezing conference room to a sweltering bar. Bring on-the-go foods because lunch is short and lines are often very, very long.

Lesson Learned: Have cards to exchange with your name and current contact information (even if they’re not formal business cards). Pro tip! On the back of the card write down what you talked about, the session you met in, or specifically what you want the person to email you about. It makes you much more memorable once they get home and start sorting through the stack of cards they collected at the conference!

Lesson Learned: Go to your TIG’s business meeting! TIGs are the arteries of AEA, and business meetings are an excellent way to get involved. Volunteer for a project or sub-committee, or run for office. Also, free food.

Lesson Learned: Talk to as many people as you possibly can. AEA’s conference and participants are incredibly friendly. Talk to presenters whose work you liked, to people waiting for a session to begin, and even strangers in the coffee line or seated around the conference area.

AEA is celebrating GSNE Week with our colleagues in the Graduate Student and New Evaluators AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our GSNE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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