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Society of American Archivists Conference 2011

September 9, 2011
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As one of the final elements of this summer, I attended the Society of American Archivists (SAA) annual conference in Chicago. This was my first professional conference. The Society of American Archivists is the oldest and largest national professional organization for archivists, so the conference is quite large. I was nervous! But, armed with my business cards and a schedule, I had a great time.

I would agree with past suggestions for conference attendance, but here’s some observations and recommendations of my own:

1. Swag can be a great way to network. At SAA, ribbons that attach to your name badge are all the rage. While many are provided by the conference itself (for example: student, new member, SAA fellow, etc.), members also print their own (such as: I like beer, fancy, deranger, etc.). Tracking down ribbons gives you a reason to start a conversation. Also, some ribbons may encourage others to speak to you. I found that by wearing a student ribbon, folks were extra friendly!

2. Chose something unexpected. While many of your session choices might be motivated by personal interests or work responsibilities, selecting a session about something different can be especially beneficial. You’re more likely to learn something new and identify opportunities for growth and collaboration. Plus, you get a little mental break while still taking in valuable conference activities.

3. Use twitter! Before grad school, I thought twitter was seriously silly. I’ve found that it is a great tool for professional development – you can follow fellow professionals in a less formal relationship than through listservs or Linkedin. During conferences, twitter can be particularly helpful for gleaning information from sessions you aren’t attending, finding someone to have lunch with, or hearing about event changes. Using a twitter app (I use Tweetdeck) to organize your twitter feeds is very helpful in this kind of situation. Just be sure to use the correct conference hashtag when tweeting or searching! You can explore tweets from SAA here.

Have you picked up any other great conference tips? Tell us about them in the comments!

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