Naomi Korb Weiss, co-Director of PresenTense Group, shares some suggestions for mastering the upcoming GA (or any other similar large multi-day conference):

Networking sometimes gets a bad rap. Maybe the word is just getting cliched. But despite today’s digital accessibility there is simply nothing that replaces in-person relationship building. So if you’re planning to attend the GA, take advantage and meet whom you can.

  • Take a look at the conference schedule in advance – and download the app for real-time schedule and speakers. Make note of those sessions and events you know you don’t want to miss.
  • Feel free to follow in the neurotic footsteps of us at PresenTense – create a shared Google document with your colleagues (whoever they may be) and keep track of who’s going where. Divide and conquer, as there are often multiple sessions occurring at once.
  • Figure out your logistics in advance – book your hotel or your friend’s couch and find out if there is shuttle service to the convention center. There is always a kosher food booth, plus the Pikesville area (a drive or cab ride away) has restaurants. Bring a water bottle – it gets exceedingly dry in convention centers (can you imagine what Denver was like?) Err on the side of packing fancier clothes rather than casual.
  • At the risk of sounding cheesy, figure out your goals in advance. Are you looking for a new job? New funders for your organization? New skills? There are opportunities throughout the conference for all of these things and more – just make sure to identify them inside the schedule – and out.
  • Schedule your meetings in advance. This is one time during the year when you can save trips and meet multiple people at once! We have some meetings scheduled with colleagues from San Francisco, DC, New Orleans, Houston and beyond. It’s hard to schedule a meeting place in advance – so I usually resort to arranging to meet at the convention center coffee shop and swapping phone numbers. (P.S. bring a charger)
  • Don’t miss the big events – particularly the plenaries and evening celebrations! There are generally big-name speakers and showcasing of local flavor. (This year, Edon Pinchot will be my personal favorite.)
  • And it’s hard to miss the marketplace, where hundreds of organizations and vendors rent booths to share their work and their services. It’s fun to wander around the marketplace collecting freebies and making in-person connections. And if you rented a booth, make sure to differentiate yourselves – with visuals, giveaways and an appropriately friendly and outgoing representative.

What would you add? Please include your own comments and advice in the section below. There are plenty of others who have been to 20 or more GAs! I do not claim to be an expert – but I do look forward to learning more with you next week in Baltimore.

This post originally appeared on the PresenTense Blog.

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