Saturday, April 12, 2014

Stuff I learned at my first (full) TLA Conference--Personal edition

It has been 24 hours since I returned from my first full Texas Library Association Annual Conference...and I'm still recovering, mentally and physically.  It was a whirlwind of activity and learning for three and a half days, and I learned a LOT.  Aside from the seven pages of notes, there was a wealth of experience gained, which I want to preserve in print for future conference-attending.  This blog post, and the next,  are summaries of my personal and professional take-aways.

  •  Do not dismiss colleagues' suggestions about wearing comfortable shoes.  I brought two pairs to alternate, and these Propet Travel Walker Mary Janes were the outstanding winners.  My other pair, some bungee-laced flats from another company, were comfy for eight hours...and they need to be comfy for eighteen hours.  Trust me on this.  The convention center itself was huge, and add in exhibit-hall wandering, trips back to your hotel room, and dining on the town afterwards....Comfy shoes are a necessity.
  • If you have an early start on your first day, stay at the hotel the night before.  I did not do this, and waking up at 3am for a 5am departure behind the wheel was not the best way to start a long day of learning!
  • The suggestions for snacks and bottled water were spot on, though I admit to overpacking these.  Which is fine, since I'll be using the leftovers for my lunches-on-the-run for the rest of the school year.
  • Jeans are perfectly appropriate, even for fancy sponsor luncheons.  Remember--eighteen hour days.
  • Those printed address labels we were told to bring were for the backs of tear-out coupons from the exhibit guide, to turn in for drawings and give-aways.  Glad I printed some out!
  • Having tote bags to start out was helpful, too, even though I scored two more from tech camp and a vendor.  Next year, I'll be better at getting down to the exhibit hall earlier to snag some more free bags. 
  • Take advantage of the health-related events.  I walked the Hetherington 5K on Thursday morning, and it was so nice to be out in the fresh air doing something good for my health--especially after my yummy, not-so-healthy Mexican dinner combo plate the night before.
  • Do not be afraid to ask your colleagues, the concierge, other conference attendees, and random people for advice and help.  There are so many events to attend, breakout sessions, places to eat, etc.  The choices are mind-boggling; talking it out with someone may help you decide where to go and what to do.
  • The advice to take cash was spot on.  One of the author-signings I lined up for was charging for books and only accepted cash or checks, as was one of the major publisher booths.  And there were no receipts for the author-signed I may not get reimbursed.  Arrrgh.
  • I was so excited when the conference-provided mobile app worked for me at the beginning, and I spent time arranging my breakout sessions, events, and exhibits I wanted to visit.  And then the app stopped working for me halfway through the conference.  Thankfully, we had our handy dandy mini printed conference guide.  Lesson learned--be flexible.  Don't sweat it  if you can't remember which exhibits or authors you wanted to see.  I was so focused on attending breakout sessions that I didn't make it down to the exhibit hall in time to beat the lines for author signings...and that's okay.  I wanted to be learning rather than standing in lines, anyway! 
  • I reached my limit by noon on Friday.  I had attended a full day of tech camp (with three keynote speakers), five breakout sessions, two sponsor receptions, dinner with some of my district colleagues, the opening general session with James Patterson, the Bluebonnet Luncheon with John Grandits and Michael Allen Austin, the TASL breakfast with Lemony Snicket, dinner with my SHSU cohort gals, another SHSU sponsored food-and-fun on a riverboat ride, and spent approximately six hours in the exhibit hall.  I'm guessing that's not too bad for a beginner.
And I'll be sure that both pairs of shoes are super-comfy, at next year's conference.  Next blog post--the professional learning edition! 

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