How to: Conquer Your First Conference by Lauren Snyder, graduate of Indiana University, 2016 AMM conference volunteer and emerging professional.
Conferences. We’ve all heard of them, but why go? If you are like me, you’ve heard a lot of things about conferences but have never gone and the one thing you haven’t heard yet is that conferences are a blast. When approached the right way a conference can be the time of your life. The perfect amount of work and play, my first conference had me asking “people consider this work?” Here are my tips – as a first-timer – to help you make your first conference an incredible success!
1) Networking is number one.
Ready, set, smile… long enough to make your face hurt. Smiling is going to happen a lot. At a museum conference, especially, it won’t be hard to find a conversation that you are genuinely interested in and find yourself laughing with a like-minded so-and-so. Yes, it can be exhausting but meeting people at a conference is the best reason to attend!
2) Don’t stress about what to wear.
Do not stress about your outfits for a conference. Although it is important to dress appropriately, it is the last thing you will think about when you arrive. Make sure you are business casual and professional. Black pants and a colorful blouse and blazer are my go to! Add a fun accessory and – viola! Conversation starter.
3) Mind the weather.
Knowing the weather is crucial to deciding how to dress. Summertime conferences hold outdoor events and nothing is worse than sweating through your sweater while trying to network! If you are attending a conference in a rainy city do not skip out on the umbrella and rain coat! And lastly, if snowy weather is in the forecast pack the boots! You can always pack flats or heels in your bag and change into them when you arrive!
4) Bring a friend.
My biggest concern at my first conference was that I would not know anyone. What is an easy way to avoid this? Bring your friends! Find people who have similar interests and get them on board to attend the conference. Nothing is better than getting to debrief after a day of presentations and activities with a pal. (Of course, make room for the new friends you will meet!)
5) Attend EMP events.
We are not a minority in the workforce: we are emerging museum professionals (EMPs). Seek out fellow emerging professionals to swap stories about job searches – and frustrations – and navigate the conference together. How do you do this? Emerging professionals events and meet-ups. Most conferences – including AMM – schedule time outside of regular conference hours for younger professionals to get to know each other. Don’t miss it!
Good luck! And hope to see you at the AMM Conference in Des Moines, Iowa this summer!