Tuesday, November 5, 2013

NEMA Preview: 5 Tips Before You Go

The New England Museum Association's 2013 Annual Conference is right around the corner. Yours truly will be hosting a panel ("Conference Preview," 8:15 - 9:00 am on Wednesday), a dinner ("Breaking into the Museum Field," 7:00 pm at the Brick Alley Pub on Thursday), and a hands on session on Friday ("Learn How to Find, Connect With, and Keep a Mentor," 9:00 - 9:30 am on Friday). Whew.

During the Conference Preview, my fellow YEPs co-chair Ashley and I will be helping to ease new conference-goers into the experience, make some friends, and overall to help to process the next few days. As I've been compiling notes for that panel, I've realized there are some tips that really should be handed out before the first morning of conference. (Don't worry, there's still plenty to talk about on Wednesday morning, so don't skip our panel!)

So here are a few of our gathered pre-conference tips, in time for you to take advantage of them.

1) Order business cards. They're easy and inexpensive, especially if you go through a site like Vista Print. Keep them basic: your name, email address, and phone number if you feel comfortable. Maybe a small design. If you'd like to include a title and you're job-seeking or a grad student, use "Museum Professional" or something similar. Plan to write a few details on the back when giving them out so people connect the conversation with the name.

2) Plan your clothes. Bring comfortable shoes, bring professional but comfortable clothes. Pack extras. Think about not just the conference atmosphere - mostly inside, in climate-controlled rooms - but also the evening events and the possible museum-going in Newport. Clothes should also include a bag to carry brochures, notes, and anything else you need to have on your person. It shouldn't be a small purse, but it shouldn't be a whole backpack, either.

3) Review the program book. This should be a no-brainer, but go over the program brook in minute detail. Have a first pick and a backup. Construct a schedule for yourself for the conference and really think about what you'll get out of each panel. I am always balancing wants with needs when I pick sessions: some I'll go to because I know they'll help inform my current work, and some I pick out because they look really interesting, if not directly applicable.

4) Learn about Newport. The 2011 conference was in Hartford, CT, and unfortunately I came and went knowing nothing - and seeing nothing - of the city. I regret that. I had a great time at the conference, but I can't say that I really truly visited Hartford. So learn something ahead of time, and make a point of adding to that knowledge when you get there, even if it's as simple as checking out a restaurant that comes highly recommended.

5) Figure out who will be there. I'm totally guilty of this one myself, but: reach out to museum friends and colleagues and poke them. Will they be at NEMA? Would this be a great time to catch up with that grad school friend who moved three states away to take that amazing job? (Hint: it probably would.)

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