Even in this connected age, face to face meetings are important to connect, share, and develop new ideas. I have the pleasure to be attending the National Council on Public History annual meeting in Nashville, TN starting tomorrow. Making the time, and setting aside the money for these events is critical for two reasons: exposure to new concepts, and exposure to new people.
It can be expensive, time-consuming, and honestly a bit frightening to journey to these events. For a budget minded graduate student or new professional; plane tickets, hotel reservations, conference fees and plentiful seminars can be overwhelming to set up. Huge crows of peers can be difficult to navigate. Here are a few tips to make the process less crushing:
1. Apply for scholarships: Most conferences have a program to help with costs for attending a conference, often covering conference fees and providing a grant to help with air and hotel. Usually an essay and letters of recommendation are required. Give it a shot!
2. Plan Early: Get the process started as soon as possible. Apply for time off of work, make travel arrangements, and study what events you want to visit at the conference. Take the pressure off the planning, and save money by grabbing plane seats, hotel rooms, and car rentals before the rush. Having time to review the schedule of events also means you are less likely to miss out on an interesting presentation.
3. Get the most of the experience: Chances are, the trip is costing some decent cash to undertake. Make the most of your dollars. Look into mentor programs for first time attendees. These programs partner new attendees with veteran attendees to give advice on making the most of conference resources. The number of mentors is usually limited; check into this early. Print some business cards inexpensively off of a website like vistaprint.com. Having a quick way to provide contact information is professional, makes a good impression, and helps you get connected. They can also be a cool expression of yourself! Lastly, spend the extra money for worthwhile programs. An excellent tour of a historic site in your field of interest, or a fancy meal that can lead to professional contacts are well spent dollars.
I’m sure I will have many more ideas after the conference, but I hope these help for now. See you in Nashville!