Last month I had the wonderful opportunity to attend my first conference at the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) joint annual meeting with the Michigan Museums Association (MMA). Before my trip and during I learned a few tips that I found helpful to anyone attending a conference.
- Look for Scholarships
I was able to attend the annual meeting due to a scholarship for full-time students. It is a little known scholarship and not many students take advantage of it. As a full-time student, in exchange for volunteering eight hours, you are able to attend the rest of the conference for free, leaving only lodging, transportation, food and any extras to pay for. There were also other scholarships available to others through both the AASLH and the MMA
- Have Business Cards
A big part of the AASLH annual meeting is making connections, and the best way to make and keep those connections is through business cards. Some find it a personal goal to collect more than last year. If you don’t have a business card from a job, you can easily make one (Vistaprint has them really cheap).
- Bring a Notebook
At AASLH there were three sets of sessions Thursday and Friday and two sets on Saturday. I was able to attend many of these sessions, all of which had their own style ranging from presentations to roundtable sessions. No matter what type of session I attended I was glad to have a notebook. Many of the sessions are led by professionals in the field, and what they have to say are things you might want to remember later.
- Do the Extras (if possible)
I understand that sometimes money and time are a problem. But if the conference you are attending as some extra activities I would highly encourage you to attend. The AASLH holds their annual meeting in a different town each year. Many of the extra activities are a way to explore the host city and their history. It is also a really great way to make connections. I think I made most of my connections at the night events. Plus, I got to see some really cool museums in Detroit
- Dress to Impress
First impressions count and as a graduate student, you may be looking for a job from the people you are meeting, or may work under them in the future. You want to make a good impression; this does not mean you have to be dressed up in formal attire. I would say business casual; boys’ full suits are not necessary (ties are a plus). You also don’t need to be dressed up the whole time, there may be times throughout the conference that being casually dress is more suited.
Riley Hubbard, public history concentration, email@example.com