I am trying a new strategy at the SBL National Conference this year…
Usually my approach to conferences has been to see what is offered in the sessions, pick those that interest me the most, and then use other time to hang with old friends. This method has always been enjoyable. Yet, it has also been frustrating, as I encounter so much stuff but much of what I “learn” is forgotten or ends up being interesting but not relevant.
This year I am taking a different approach and setting specific goals for the “learning” portion of the conference. Ultimately, it ended up being two goals but the intent is the same: I am going to focus on two very specific areas of my research and everything I do “officially” will help to accomplish these goals. The sessions I plan on attending are all related to these goals and each scholar I have contacted for a meeting is working on these two areas.
I am interested to see how it works out, but here are my thoughts as I prepare to leave this week.
1. It has made scheduling much easier. There is so much to do, to see, to hear at a conference such as SBLAAR it can be quite overwhelming and with no specific goal, I can (and have) get lost in the shuffle…hear quality paper after quality paper (OK they are not always quality!), and still have no real results for my efforts because there was no real purpose for attending the paper. I am still looking forward to attending the sessions, but I decided to only attend sessions that fit with my goals. A bit of a draconian stance, but at this point appreciated.
2. I am not the first to say this, nor will I be the last…it is OK to ask people to meet. If there is someone you want to meet, by all means contact them and ask to meet. After all they are free to say no, although I have yet to find one person who just said “No”. This year, one did say he was not attending, a couple instances unable to find times when we were both free, but even in these circumstances they offered to find other ways to converse. The overwhelming response, however, has been “Sure, when would you like to meet?” I am going to do a follow-up post on how to meet with scholars at a conference on Tuesday.
3. Planning this way has made me think about the conference. This may sound strange, but I often just show up and go with the flow! The money spent to go to the conference and the time away from my family can be a sacrifice, so need to do more than just wander around hoping to catch lightning in a bottle! In planning, I have found that my expectations for the conference are higher, but also realistic. Furthermore, it has freed up time to spend hanging out with old friends, and this time guilt free. After all, conferences are as much about catching up and refreshment as they are about research.