Saturday, May 2, 2015

An Introvert's Guide to Library Conferences

This trip to the Alberta Library Conference actually marks my fifth - two as the Librarian for a non-profit in the mid-00s, one as a student during my time at the School for Library and Information Studies and twice since then, as a conference / mini-vacation with my lovely wife.  In addition I've done four American Library Association conferences and two local day-conferences, so this marks my eleventh Library Conference overall.

In all these trip there are a few things I've learned to do to make my experience, as a bookish, introverted guy, into the best one I can have.

So here goes:

1) Relax: Library conferences actually have a pretty high number of Introverts attending, and many of them are just as nervous as you.

2) Find (and help) other nervous attendees: Look around the various rooms you are in (whether dining hall, meeting room, or exhibit hall) and find the person or persons standing by themselves - chances are these are also people a little nervous about the event and may be glad to have someone come up and chat to them - ask how they are enjoying the conference so far to begin.  Also quick tip - hit the exhibit hall early as it is marginally less crowded, but definitely make sure to swing by, these are the people who are often sponsoring the event and deserve a hello!

3) Realize you can take some time for yourself: as a guy who needs some solitude to charge up before and during large events, I make sure to get up early (where I can have some breathing room) and that I will return to my hotel room at a set time each night, as just knowing that you have an end in sight can allow you to work your way through various social events and other (potentially) stress inducing events with relative ease.

4) Do what you can to help improve other's conference experience: In my life I've gone home from excellent, fair, and terrible events, and you know what the key difference is?  At the excellent events someone took the time to help me have a better time, either saying hello over coffee, informing me of where the best desserts are, or even just asking me how my day was going.  After attending a number of these I decided to start trying to help other people leave the event thinking it was pretty excellent - doing this has increased my enjoyment of the various conferences I've attended tenfold.

5) Keep a book on you at all times: Seriously, I have know idea how this works, but if you have some reading material available, lines will move faster, people will approach you to say hello, and most importantly your day will move much smoother.  Every time I've attended with no reading material, I've ended up waiting in endless lines, often surrounded by people I don't know and desperately wishing I had something to do.  NOTE: It is very unlikely you'll ever get to read the book, so bring something lighter.

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