I've been able to attend one - a whole one- conference related to library and information science. In 2009, I attended the Network of Government Library and Information Specialists annual conference, titled 'Information Landscape'. At the time, the service I was working for was going through a high-impact change, so it was interesting and comforting to meet other government librarians who had gone through - and survived a similar process. It was also pretty nerve-racking as I didn't know anybody else who was attending.
I was excited by the opportunity to take part in a workshop on information literacy, a session led by Sheila Corrall and a subject I was passionate about. I found myself in a group with people who I knew had written articles and presented on the subject. Looking back on the experience, I'm not sure I made the most of it. I collected a few contacts, followed up later with an email but nothing happened. The connections didn't stick. And despite my enthusiasm, I don't remember much, either the presentations or the discussions afterwards. Yet I know I came away feeling enthusiastic and re-energised about working in government libraries and the opportunities that were out there. I think there's a lesson there. Perhaps if I'd have blogged the event or made contacts via Twitter, I'd have gained more from it? So, my advice to fellow conference attendee's.
- Write about your experience. Provide a review of your day, and what you've gained from it to your colleagues / for a staff newsletter. If attending the conference is for your own professional development, then you've probably paid for it yourself and used your own leave. But demonstrating the value you got from it might persuade your employer to contribute to the costs next time. Consider blogging it. You are more likely to remember the event and the people you met if you have written about it and reflected on it.
- Use Twitter and other social media tools to identify other attendee's before you go. Identify the conference hashtag and follow it. At the time, I wasn't a tweeter. I think I'd have benefited from knowing beforehand who else might have been going. There is also a social media conferencing tool called Lanyrd. This allows you to find relevant conferences, find out who is attending and 'track' developments. I've also used it to find useful conferences and discovered new speakers on topics that interest me. For some reason, my workplace have decided that this site is a threat to their security, so it's blocked. I access it from my home PC.
So with one conference under my belt, I clearly need to make an effort and attend another. I do have a wish-list. It reads like a child's birthday wish-list where money is no object because Santa and the Easter Bunny club together. Special Libraries Association and Lilac are the two at the top.
As for speaking. I've spoken at one conference. It was a 2002, I was speaking at a conference to present a case for LGBT visibility within education. I was fairly prepared but naive. My arguments were written down word-for-word in large type, pages clearly numbered and fastened together in case I was clumsy enough to drop them. I shook all the way through, my papers visibly rustling. I think I looked up from the paper once to gaze at the audience. All 2000 members. When I had finished, I climbed down from the podium, walked straight out of the hall and ordered a something with plenty of alcohol. I was just grateful that a) I hadn't tripped over my skirt on the way out and b) nobody had asked me any questions. I'm not sure I gave them a chance. I decided never to do it again.
Almost 10 years have passed now, and perhaps the memory of the horror of it all has faded enough for me to consider attempting it again...