ALA Annual Conference 2021

Stay engaged at a virtual conference #alaac21

It’s time for ALA Annual! I’m really doing my best to start the day strong- I am a mom of 2-under-2, life is crazy, I probably wouldn’t even be able to attend annual if it wasn’t virtual. I am so fortunate.

BUT, let’s be real.

I’m tired, my toddler keeps trying to mean mug the computer- I don’t want to have awkward IM conversations and I’m pretty sure my trusty laptop wants me to give it a week off. I just realized I was in a video queue to meet and author, chickened out and Xed out and tried to attend a video conference that is full.

I’m trying to picture this as it was a “typical” in-person annual. I would probably awkwardly chat with said author, mispronounce something and stumble away opposed to what I just did, which is the equivalent of saying nothing and running away. I would try to enter the conference room and be told I was too late, it was already full. These problems are everywhere, though yes the grass is greener on the other side.

I just Googled some tips to make the most of a virtual conference (thanks Forbes, Celonis and Boomerang and here are my top pieces of advice:

  1. Block out your schedule. Take the time off work, tell your family and friends you are attending a conference and don’t attempt to multitask just because it’s virtual. (I really need to take this piece of advice to heart ad I’m writing this blog post, eating a piece of pizza and attempting to get in a session.)
  2. Replicate your conference routine. What is something you always look forward to about conferences? Having a fancy drink from the hotel bar? Working out in the morning? Catching up with friends? Find ways to replicate this routine virtually or from home. It won’t be the same, but can help.
  3. Engage virtually. This tip is hard, but SO important. The more engaged you are, the more engaged the presenter is, the more you get out of the conference. It can be so easy to space out and listen in the background- but then, is it even worth it? Ask questions in the chat, use reactions in Zoom and TURN ON YOUR WEBCAM!
  4. Network, network, network. It can seem hard to make new connections virtually, but most of my best friends I’ve made on the internet anyways. See something you like? E-mail the presenter. See an interesting person in a session? Find them and reach out on Linkedin. Want to go to the exhibit hall? Try to think of fun questions to ask the exhibitors.
  5. Sign up for swag! You can still get swag at a virtual conference. I repeat you can still get swag at a virtual conference. Swag is always my weakness and there can be many arguments for NOT loading yourself up with swag- BUT now you get the free goodies in the mail! And who does not like getting mail? Just go in the exhibit hall, see the exhibitors that have Swag-a-Palooza and fill out their forms.

Now it is time to follow my own advice. I am ready- to finish this blog post, to get back out there (or in there if it’s virtual???) and to be present.

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