Earlier this month, I was fortunate to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Keystone, Colorado. I was notified of my participation only two weeks before, and I wasn't aware of this conference at all. I made my reservations and printed out the conference agenda, which I reviewed on the plane on the way there.Most conferences give you access to the agenda ahead of time, and it's a good idea to print that out and have a look at it.
As for me, after one quick pass through it, I started by putting a "dot" next to anything I might be interested in, and a "star" next to anything that was a 'must see'. Then I started to notice some trends emerging. I came up with these goals for the conference, based on what was in the agenda:
- meet other IBM women (this was, after all, a Women in Computing conference, and IBM was sending me)
- text analytics technologies
- women in technology issues, including attracting more students
- social networking and collaboration
- cool stuff other than the above
To that end, I circled the name of any IBMer, and labeled each of the rest of what I noted as one of the above. Now, I realize, this approach might seem a bit, well, organized -- particularly for me. But it really worked, particularly to keep my attention and also keep a balance of different topics, as well as provide a tiebreaker when there were multiple sessions at the same time - I just look at the balance of the other sessions I've been attending.
Another thing you want to do while you're there is talk to other people about what they've seen, what they are going to see, etc. It's so easy to miss something or misinterpret something in an agenda.
If you keep a good balance between "use right now" and "good to know for the future" topics, you can help keep your brain from overflowing - that's always a danger at a multi-day conference!