Events Guest Speakers

Tips from “Conferences! What to Expect When You’re Attending!”


A huge mahalo to our guest speakers and for those who attended our conferences round table! There were great insights from experienced conference attendees and wonderful questions from the audience! Read on for some tips and highlights from our discussions:

Goals: build a professional community; extend your professional networks!

Conferences help you expand your PEOPLE NETWORK. Remember: Librarianship is about PEOPLE, not just book stuff and things!

  • Donʻt be shy. Introduce yourself…on a shuttle bus…sitting in a breakout session, etc.
    • At mainland conferences, your nametag will often say you are from Hawaii. It’s a natural icebreaker!
  • Bring along business cards (students may include professional interests in place of a position title).
    • Other things your business cards can include: MLIS expected date, email (don’t use school email if you aren’t planning to keep the account after you graduate), e-portfolio link, etc.

Conferences are terrific places to GROW IDEAS!


  • Donʻt restrict yourself to sessions in your specialty area. Attend at least one session that is not directly applicable to your area. You may be surprised to discover valuable information that you can actually use.
  • If you go as a group, split up and attend different sessions. This way you maximize your opportunities to gather new information and ideas.
  • Consider add-on activities like preconference workshops (additional fees for this) and field trips that can be awesome experiences.  Often times the field trips are no cost!

About exhibits:

Make time for the rows and rows of exhibits. Enjoy the swag but only take freebies that you can use (e.g., giveaways at home). Bring an extra bag to pack freebies in. Opening night is always the busiest since vendors are serving food and even champagne.

About poster sessions:

Think about participating. It’s a great way to meet people, exchange ideas, and build your professional resume.  Posters are a great way to make a big impact on a large amount of people.

About presentations:

If you are presenting, be sure to carefully organize and rehearse your presentation. When possible, case out the presentation room beforehand. This way, you know about the size, acoustics, lighting. Always have a contingency plan in case you can’t show your slides, present from the computer, etc.

Financial help:

  • If you receive a Spectrum scholarship, you get to meet other Spectrum recipients and enjoy talks and events specially created for the recipients.
  • Consider volunteering for the student-to-staff program that pays for your registration and hotel (3 days). In return, you offer some service during the conference (e.g., distribute evaluation forms at a breakout session).

More practical tips:

  • Wear comfortable shoes. In fact, bring along two pairs so that you can switch.
  • Dressing for conferences ranges from very casual to business attire. Choose what works for you. Folks may dress up a little at special events like awards dinners, but otherwise, the dress is casual.
  • A backpack might be more useful than totes that can get heavy. Messenger bags are a wonderful invention.
  • Take a break in a busy day. It refreshes and helps you decompress!
  • Make use of Twitter to keep on top of last-minute changes and additions during the conference. E.g. #alaac15
  • When you plan your daily schedule, be sure to leave enough time between sessions since they are often held at different locales in the city.
  • Take notes or keep a daily journal. That’s an important way to remember the great things and new people you didnʻt want to forget.
  • Consider travel time between sessions (it might be at a hotel rather than the Convention Center).
  • Food: Bring snacks and water. There is often not the best selection of food at the Convention Center.  Sometimes Vendors may provide meals in exchange for demonstrations of their products (invitations are sent via email).
  • You won’t have much extra time to explore the city during the conference, so plan at least one extra vacation day to do some sight-seeing.
  • Make use of the ALA Scheduler App to plan your sessions.
  • Tips from ALA for first time conference attendees.

After you return home:

  • Share the things you learned. This is one way to inspire your colleagues to join you at the next conference. Itʻs also a critical way to incorporate new ideas into your current work.
  • Follow up with people you met to continue the conversations over email.
  • Within a month or two after the conference, go through the material and notes you collected and decide what you want to keep and what can be thrown away (e.g. ads, etc.)

Leadership tips:

  • Get involved with your professional organizations: begin with student chapters in LIS and local affiliates of national organizations. Become an officer or committee chair.
  • At the national level, consider volunteering for an ALA committee. Learn more here.


Guest Speakers:

Annie Thomas:

Kara Plamann Wagoner:

Meera Garud:

Violet Harada:

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