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Publications > Dateline Houston > May 2003 > Director-Sponsor Report

Volume 42, Issue 9

May 2003

Letter from Linda

Conference Going 101

by Linda Oestreich, Region 5 Director-Sponsor

Did you know that approximately half the attendees at each STC Annual Conference are first timers? So, when you think you're the only one who's lost, look around. The confused look on your face may be reflected from more places than just your mirror!

STC's 50th Annual Conference is my 20th. Over the years, the annual conference has become the most rewarding and fun part of my STC membership. Read on for a few tips on how you can make it yours as well.

How to Plan Your Time

Choices, choices, choices! How do you decide? For each time period available, you must choose from five areas of information (stem), from five styles of presentation (format), and from a myriad of topics. Check your final program for descriptions of each symbol, format, and stem. If you still have questions, ask your stem manager or a colleague. Look for someone who looks comfortable. He or she probably has it all figured out.

As you plan your sessions, keep in mind these questions and answers: Do you want a hands-on experience? Choose a workshop. Do you want to see how a new product or technique is used? Choose a demonstration. Would you like a small variety of information on a general topic? Choose a panel discussion or a group of paper presentations. Do you want a lot of information about one area of communication? Choose a progression.

Some of us enjoy particular topics, some look for particular presenters, and some relate to particular formats. I even know a few folks who stake out a room and just wait there all day taking whatever comes into the room. Now that's a truly laid-back way of experiencing a conference!

But if you want a little more structure, check the program. You'll find that many topics have been purposely "streamed." Streaming means that special care has been taken to book similar topics at different times so you can go to several sessions on the same topic. If you have a particular interest in "Online Help," check the "Streams" section of the program. You'll see that several sessions on this topic occur each day of the conference and you can plan accordingly.

All in all, the time will speed by. Don't forget to make time to visit the Exhibits area where you'll find vendors and products on display, as well as winning entries of STC competitions. And if you're really smart, you'll attend some of the STC functions such as the network lunch and the awards banquet. To really get your value out of STC, you have to support all those who work hard to make it the great organization it is!

How to Get What You Need

What is your area of expertise? Do you want to learn how to do what you do better and faster with newer tools, or do you want to return to basics and get a refresher for the things you tend to forget because your deadlines get first priority? What is an area you'd like to learn more about? Figure out what you want, and I'm sure you'll be able to find it!

The one tip that overrules all your decisions is to be flexible. If what you had planned to see is cancelled or full, just go to the next room or across the hall. Find something nearby that you would never have planned to see. You could be surprised! Stay open to new ideas and listen to people you may never see again. Realize how impressive it is that we have this conference, and that more than 2000 people are in the same place--all ready to share what they know about what they do for a living.

Don't forget to network . Take advantage of all the knowledge around you. Talk to those in the hallways, on the elevators, at the refreshment tables, and in the Exhibits area. Smile and ask folks where they come from and what they do. Ask for help if you need it. Offer help if you can. Share what you know and how you feel, and you'll have a conversation going in an eye's blink! Revel in the excitement of the conference. Let yourself learn all you can!

How to Help

As in any other venue, STC conferences have their rules of etiquette. They are simple and follow standards of good taste:

  • Avoid being late to sessions. If you can't avoid being late, enter quietly and stay at the rear or sides of the room so you'll interrupt the fewest number of people.
  • If you know you'll be leaving early to meet someone or to see another session, sit at the rear or sides of the room.
  • Ask questions in a clear, strong voice.
  • Don't malign the speakers. They may not have the polish you'd prefer to see, but they are doing the best they can under the circumstances.
  • Fill out your evaluations. That's the best way to provide feedback on what worked and what didn't work.
  • Overall, be patient, flexible, professional, and courteous.

Be a sponge. Soak up everything. Help yourself to new opportunities, new ideas, new people, and new technology. You just might go home a more capable you!

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