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Conference planning…bring your cigar

This post was originally published on the MACUL Conference Blog.

It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

By my estimates, the total number of miles walked by participants by the end of each MACUL conference equals 2.75 times the distance from the earth to the moon.  I mean, really, there’s a ton of walking! Unfortunately, much of it would be considered aimless wandering and meandering by participants who aren’t sure where they’re going.  I’m not talking about being lost, I’m talking about people with no destination.

In order to get the most out of attending the MACUL conference, you really need to spend some quality time planning your strategy.  Cobo Hall is too large for you to make it up as you go along.  You’ll never see what you want to see!

“He who fails to plan, plans to fail.”
-Source unknown

There are many resources and strategies for laying out your plan.  Here are a few from me:

Take a look at the Program Book before the conference.
It’s on the web, right here, a full two weeks before the conference.  You don’t want the first time opening it be during Thursday’s keynote.  It’s like opening a good book, once you start you’ll have a hard time putting it down.  Then you’ll miss Alan November…and he’s pretty funny.  Come back to the Program Book often and narrow down your session choices.

Use the At-a-Glance Schedule…or whatever it’s called.
The Program Book is very important, but it can be unwieldy as you’re moving from session to session.  So…once you get to the conference, dig down into your Green Bag (or maybe they’ll be Black this year.  w00t!) and dig out the single sheet that shows a matrix of all the sessions for each day and where they’re located.  Since you’ve been looking closely at the Program Book, you should be ready to circle the sessions your planning on attending.

Backup! Backup! Backup!
Without a doubt you’ll find, that for whatever reason, a session you chose to attend isn’t going to be one of the ones you’re actually going to attend.  Maybe it’s a BYOL session and it’s full.  Perhaps you discover that you already know the topic.  Whatever.  Now what are you going do?  This isn’t the time for last-second decision making!  During your planning, pick one or even two “backup sessions” per time slot.  That way, when Option #1 falls to pieces, you’re ready to act!

  • If you’re really on top of things, you’ll try to identify backup sessions that are close by your first choice.  Otherwise, you’ll waste all your time hoofing it from D3-19 to Michigan Hall.  (Not gonna happen.)

I love it when a plan comes together.
-John “Hannibal” Smith

I’m sure there are other strategies and tips that seasoned attendees could add (and please do btw), but this is a great place to begin.  With a little thought beforehand you can maximize your experience.


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