A Walk-Through Guide to ASAE’s Annual Conference: Pre-Conference Prep

After my previous post, Five Tips for an ASAE Annual Conference First-Timer, I decided a more in-depth guide might be helpful. So I bring to you, A Walk-Through Guide to ASAE’s Annual Conference. This will be a three-part series focusing on what to do before, during, and after this year’s ASAE Annual Conference. This first post will focus on what you need to do before you arrive in Dallas to make the most out of your time while you are there.

Download the Conference App

ASAE continues to provide an app for their conferences; you can download an iPad version from the iTunes Store by searching for ASAE12. I’ve heard that there will be an iPhone app but as of this posting I have yet to find it through the App Store. If you are on a non-apple smartphone check out your app store. The app is helpful in keeping track of the sessions you’ve selected for the conference and for the finding information about the exhibitor hall. However, it doesn’t replace all the information in the conference program.

This year they’ve added integration into Collaborate, ASAE’s social community for its members. There’s also twitter integration for the conference hashtag, #ASAE12, the ability to tweet from within the app, exhibitor information, and a floor plan for the expo hall only. It’s worth the download — even if it’s just to have quick access to a schedule at a glance. You won’t be able to enter any events not found in the app though — so all those meetings you schedule and social events will have to go somewhere else.

Review the Conference Sessions

This year’s annual conference hosts more than 130 sessions, 137 to be exact (as of the preliminary brochure). That’s a lot of choices for even the most veteran conference attendee – and you only get to pick seven of these learning labs. You will have some tough choices to make, to ensure you make some good ones take some time going through the preliminary brochure you were sent, or review session descriptions online.

Typically I go through each Learning Lab time slot and pick three or four sessions that I’m interested in attending. I try not to pick sessions solely in my responsibility area, I encourage you to pick some sessions that seem interesting even if it’s out of your practice area. You’ll be amazed at the ideas you can pull in from other topic areas. In my next post I’ll share with you the sessions I’ve selected for each time slot.

Also, if you end up in a session that isn’t interesting you; don’t feel like you have to stay through it. I know everyone gets nervous about leaving during the middle of the session. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, and I think it depends on the person. It’s possible the session description didn’t match what they are talking about or you thought it would be something completely different. While I’m all for being polite, I also realize I only have 7 sessions to pick from and I can’t afford to “waste” a session just to be polite.

Download Session Handouts

ASAE’s conferences have been paper-free/green friendly for a while now so all of the provided handouts are available online. It’s a shame they don’t make the handouts available through the iPad app. You may want to consider pre-printing handouts for sessions you want to attend. ASAE will also have printer stations located throughout the conference floor with access to the handouts that you can print onsite. I would rather spend time in-between sessions meeting new people than running off to print handouts. You can always access these handouts online after the conference.

Line Up Your Social Events

Attend social events! Association professionals definitely know how to let their hair down, and you never know when you’ll make an amazing connection. As I’m writing this I’m talking to friend I met at last year’s annual conference – in fact, we probably talk multiple times a week (on g-chat of course).

You can meet quite a few people at social events, such as the Opening Night Celebration at Cowboys Stadium on Saturday Night, Section Receptions on Sunday evening, Awards & Recognition Breakfast, ASAE Foundation’s Classic VIP Reception and Classic, or the Closing Night Celebration at the Fair Park on Tuesday night, just to name a few. Of course there are always vendor parties to attend on Sunday and Monday evening. I’ll let you know which social events I’m attending in my next post.

Before You Go

Packing Tip: Before placing your clothes in your suitcase, encase each outfit or item (on its hanger) in a plastic dry-cleaning bag. I’m told your outfit will arrive wrinkle-free – but I’ve never tried this.

Research Dallas: I’m sure most of us have never been to Dallas anymore. Find a few items you might be interested in checking out while you’re there. I’m a big fan of the New York Times, 36 Hours in <city name> series, see their page for Dallas.

In my next post, I’ll provide a detailed walk-through guide for Saturday through Tuesday evening, including top three sessions I’ve picked for each time slot and what evening events I know about.

What pre-conference tips do you have to share with your fellow attendees?