The first in my series of write ups of SLA 2013 focuses my experiences of the overall conference programme; the sessions, and events attended.
In the weeks leading up to the conference I was able to use an online conference planner to find out what sessions and events were planned. My first observation was the volume of sessions and the comparatively small space of time they were crammed into. Every day of the programme offered a lot of choice, everything from breakfast business meetings to panel sessions and interactive workshops. There were even some of those old school style speaker and a PowerPoint type things. Navigating my way through all of the choices seemed like a challenge at first however the online planner was great as I was able to build my own personal schedule for the event. Though of course I didn’t really stick to that at all choosing instead to pick sessions as I went along. Recommendations from others and reading tweets during the event were really useful in making these decisions.
I went to some amazing sessions and some rubbish sessions, as is the way with conferences. You never know what it will actually be and how good the speaker will be until you get started. As a result I attended a lot of sessions but not a lot of complete sessions. At US conferences it is acceptable to switch between sessions at any time. I found myself doing this a lot, partly because I could and partly because too many potentially interesting things were happening at once. Session hopping has downsides though. It was great to be able to leave sessions that weren’t overly interesting or living up to expectations but arriving part way through a session can make it hard to understand exactly what is going on. I found there was a lack of focus in the room, which was perhaps due to a flow of people coming and going. Session switching is definitely an interesting and useful concept though, especially when you are in a session that you don’t think you are getting anything out of.
My favourite sessions were:
- Dream Jobs: What’s it like to Work There
- Bad Food: Life-cycle of a Food Recall
- Big Data, Big Challenges
- Storytelling Across Multiple Platforms
- Make the Most of a Difficult Situation: Solutions to Get You Through
Alongside the conference sessions was a varied and busy programme of social and networking events. These were often hosted by specific divisions however were generally open for anyone to attend. For me these events were the best part of the conference. As presentation and panel sessions can often be very specific it is sometimes hard to feel properly engaged but networking events are great opportunities for learning and building contacts. I took the advice of my mentor Neil to heart and attend as many as possible. One evening I attended 5 different social events, namely The Canadian Reception, Solo Librarians Open House, International Reception, Legal Division event and the IT Dance Party. At all of these events I was able to engage with people, discuss various topical issues and build up a network of contacts. Even the IT Dance Party provided opportunity to get to know people; it was especially good for getting to know people in more social context. I’ll write more about this aspect of the conference in Part 2: People.
I’m not going to write about the exhibition hall as I didn’t feel I had much to talk to any vendors about. I did enjoy the wide range of vendors and absorbed quite a lot of awareness about various organisations and services though which could be useful in the future.
There is so much more that I could write about however for now that is the broad overview of my reflections concerning the actual conference itself.