Everyone was a first-timer once. We’ve formalized ways to help newcomers get acquainted because we know it can be scary facing hundreds of people you don’t know. The IA Conference (IAC) is a community event. You are part of that community whether you are attending for the first time or you’ve been coming for over a decade. Welcome to the family!
I’m attending the IAC for the first time and I’m worried I’ll be stuck standing in the corner because I don’t know anyone. What can I do?
Every year there are impromptu lunch and dinner groups that form (usually in the hotel lobby and halls). And each conference location brings unique goings on: from museum and architecture trips, to pub crawls, to live music events, to pinball arcades. These things happen organically when folks realize they have a common interest and they make it happen. It’s usually fine to tag along if a group is forming — just ask! Or send out a call on Twitter or Slack (more below) and start your own group!
Most of the “official” social events listed in the program are there because a few people, in years past, decided to do a fun thing which attracted interest, and it stuck. You don’t have to be an extrovert to join in, and it’s surprisingly easy to connect with folks and make new friendships. One of the things that brings regular attendees back is the friendly, welcoming environment full of interesting and interested people. Check out what’s on the schedule:
- First-Timers Orientation — A short primer on how to get the most out of the conference
- Opening Reception — Meet, greet, and settle in
- First-Timers Dinners — Small, hosted groups go to local restaurants. Advanced sign-up required. Sign up now!
- Lunch Topic Tables
- Poster Night — IA “science fair” for academics & practitioners
- Acoustic Jam — Bring an instrument or just yourself and be part of the IA band
- Polar Bear Run — 5k run/walk, usually headed by Peter Morville
- Polar Bear Yoga—Morning yoga sessions, to help your mind and body relax and focus.
- Game Night — Board games, card games, strategy games, party games, all the games!
- Karaoke — The most fun you never thought you could have getting up and signing in front of a crowd! Hosted by one of our own, Kevin Hoffman, aka “Keyboard Man.”
Great, I’m arriving on Thursday — how do the dinners work?
Since one of the highlights of the conference is the opportunity to meet people who have similar interests, we’ve asked speakers, workshop presenters, and other regular community members to host dinners at various local restaurants.
Each group includes fewer than 10 new attendees to keep the groups small. Advance sign up is required. (First-time attendees will get an email with details.) Hosts and attendees will meet after the opening reception and head to their respective restaurants in groups.
How the dinners work:
- Hosts are well connected in the IAC community and beyond, so if they suggest you meet a particular attendee to discuss a mutual interest, do it! Ask to be introduced!
- Think about your origin story. How did you end up at the IA Conference? How does your background inform your work? What do you like and want to do? These things are likely to come up, and you may be surprised to find how multidisciplinary we all are.
- It’s not a job interview or a place to promote your company/business, but it is a good place to talk about interesting projects or even get advice (of a general nature).
- While side discussions happen, we encourage you to include everyone.
What’s the best way to find out about social events at the IAC?
While printed information is available on attendee lanyards and on the website, these only cover the planned social events. Twitter and Slack are the public digital lifeblood of the IAC.
- You don’t have to be an active participant on Twitter or Slack, but they’re the best ways to find out about impromptu lunch/dinner groups and goings on. They’re also outlets for commentary on the conference, as well as snark and humor.
- On Twitter, follow #IAC19 and @theiaconf, follow speakers or presenters you’d like to meet, follow your First-Timer Dinner hosts and anyone they recommend.
- On Slack, sign up and join the conversation
- Be respectful, but don’t be afraid to ask if you can join a group that’s forming, or to get more details about that awesome restaurant someone just mentioned.
- It doesn’t hurt to send praise to the organizers and even reasonable suggestions or complaints. The IAC listens.
Do you have any other tips for first time attendees?
First, there’s no “right” way to experience the IAC. Everyone gets different things out of it, based on where they are in their own lives, careers, and so on. You may be attending for one reason and then find that the biggest benefit was totally unexpected — and that’s great!
Here are a few tips that we’ve found useful over the years:
- Pace yourself! It’s OK to retreat to your room if you need some downtime.
- Don’t get hung up on job titles . Most of us are interested in what we’re doing far more than what we happen to be called.
- Stay at the conference hotel if you can. (Sharing a room can be much cheaper, you can find roommates in our Slack team or using the hashtag #IAC19 on Twitter)
- Leave on Monday morning, if possible. Missing the closing plenary due to an early flight is unfortunate, especially when it’s often one of the best presentations, and provides a nice end to the conference discussions.
- Thank your hosts and anyone wearing a “staff” pin. The IA Conference is run by tireless and sleep-deprived volunteers.
Why do people return to the IAC?
Although folks come and go, many of our regular attendees have been coming back for 10 years or more. That may sound weird, but there are many reasons why people keep coming back.
Some of us need to be reminded why we like to do this stuff. It’s easy to get energized and enthusiastic when you’ve spent an extended weekend with a bunch of fascinating people discussing interesting things!
Some of us come back for research and information gathering, so we can discover and bring back new ideas and tools to our teams at home.
Some of us realize we may have something to share, and are amazed when our proposal is accepted, and then well received. It’s an opportunity to learn and grow personally, alongside a supportive community that learns and grows.
It’s also a great place to see old friends and make new ones. It’s fun like a vacation, but a physically and mentally exhausting one that is brain-filling and satisfying.
Everyone was a first timer once, and we’re excited to have you participate!