The Ontario Library Association is Canada’s largest library organization and OLA’s Super Conference is Canada’s largest continuing education event in librarianship. Within the Super Conference event is the country’s largest library tradeshow. The program is a tribute to the ability of OLA members to balance the cutting edge and the practical in a way that can satisfy an increasingly diverse number of member interests and needs. (from http://www.olasuperconference.ca/about-super-conference/)
I recently attended 3 days of OLA's Super Conference and here are my five tips for getting the most out of a conference.
1. Volunteer to be a convenor. You do not get in to the conference for free, but you do get to use the speakers' lounge. The speakers' lounge gives you a place to check your coat, leave your boots, have a coffee or tea, and use computers (the WiFi in the MTCC is quite spotty).
2. Comfortable shoes are a must! There is a lot of walking travelling between sessions and exploring the Expo floor, not to mention going out for lunch or grabbing a coffee. Bring a couple of pairs of shoes and alternate them on different days. If possible, change shoes during the day - leave the roomier ones for the afternoon!
3. Share a hotel room with a colleague from another library system, or a friend from your own system. Doing this meant I didn't have to commute back and forth on the GO train every day, plus the walk from Union station to the convention centre. Although this expense was out of pocket for me, it really made a positive impact on my experience and I plan to do it again.
4. Pack at least your breakfast and snacks, your lunch too if you can. If you're renting a hotel room there will more than likely be a mini-fridge in your room, as well as a coffee maker. Save your expenses for lunch and/or dinner with colleagues and friends.
5. Be flexible with yourself. If a session turns out not to be what you thought it would be, it's ok to walk out. You might find another session to attend, or use that time to explore the Expo. Time spent networking is also very valuable and is definitely work. Don't feel badly if you end up "skipping" a session or two here and there to make your day more balanced.
What about you? What are your tips for getting the most out of a conference?