This Wednesday, I will be amongst hundreds of museum professionals and volunteers making their way to Birmingham for the annual Museum Association Conference.
This is the fourth time I’ve attended during my career and I like to think that I’ve got the hang of it. Here are my top-tips for those of you who are also attending:
What to pack:
10. Keep it to a minimum: There’s a lot going on at the MA Conference. Between talks, workshops and networking events you won’t have much time to get changed between day and evening wear. Therefore don’t bother packing lots of different outfits – keep it simple and maybe swap cardigans/jackets etc if you need to.
9. Sensible shoes: You will be standing around talking to people for long periods of time.
8. Business cards: It doesn’t matter how fancy these are (knocked up on the office printer is fine) but you will be meeting lots of people who you’ll want to talk to later – suppliers, colleagues who’ve delivered projects you’d like to emulate etc.
7. Power brick: whether you’re live tweeting through the event, looking up directions to a fringe activity or Googling the jargon which occasionally crops up in presentations, Conference can be tough on phone and tablet batteries. Having something to boost it will be invaluable.
Who to talk to:
6. As many people as possible: One of the great things about the conference is that you get to meet people from a range of backgrounds with different museum experiences. Experiences that you can learn from.
5. Put yourself out there: I know that it can be hard when you don’t know anyone in a room where people seem to have broken into cliques and are chatting away merrily. Introduce yourself, ask where people are from, which talks they want to attend etc. You’ll probably find that they are in a similar situation. Also, the conference is has several events designed for people with this specific problem – a tweet-up, networking breakfast and “Come Dine With Me”.
4. Regional Reps: Each English region has a volunteer representative who’ll be there this week (there are also two reps each in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). I’m the rep for the East of England and I can promise you that we’re a friendly bunch who would love to meet you.
What to attend:
3. Speakers Who Interest You: If your employer is paying for your place, you will need to pick speakers and workshops that fit in with your role and their aims. However, make sure you also make time to attend sessions which interest you personally.
2. Networking events: Talking to people all day can be tiring, but it’s worth doing. You never know who you’ll be approaching for funding, partnership projects or for your next job and this is a great way to promote yourself and your organisation.
And my number one tip is:
Enjoy yourself! We work and volunteer in museums because we’re passionate about them and here is an opportunity to spend 48 hours with people who feel the same way.
Do you have a tip for conference goers that you think I’ve missed? Tweet it to @EssexMDO and I’ll share the best ones.
Post-Conference Update (November 2015)
- Wear layers – you can’t predict the temperature of the venue (the ICC in Birmingham was boiling!)
- Drink plenty of water – lot’s of talking and long hours will make you thirsty
- Step outside at least once during each day – getting some fresh air and daylight will help with your concentration