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Going to the STC Summit for the First Time?
2010, Q1 (April 11, 2010)
By Elaine Abousalh, Secretary, Carolina Chapter

Elaine Abousalh
Elaine Abousalh

The 2010 STC Summit in Dallas is fast approaching. If this is the first time you’re going to an STC summit, you may be uncertain about what to expect or what to do to get as much as you can out of it.

Last year I was a first-time summit attendee and I want to suggest a few things you can do to prepare for the conference. By planning ahead and neutralizing some of the stress of being in unknown ground you'll be able to maximize your learning potential and make your experience more enjoyable.

Have a strategy to pick sessions and other activities

Consider what you want to accomplish at the summit: Do you want to learn more about your area of expertise or would you rather sample topics outside your field of specialization? Do you plan to concentrate on networking and making new professional contacts? Maybe you want to focus on tools, either by learning about new technologies you can use to do your job or by expanding your bag of tricks for tools you already use.

Whatever your reasons for attending the summit, have a clear idea about the goals you wish to achieve by being there. It will make planning your days at the conference easier and more efficient.

Do your homework before getting to the summit

A preliminary conference program is available online. Take the time to go over session’s titles and abstracts, and study presenters’ bios to get a sense of what they will be talking about. It’s important to do this before you arrive at the summit; so many things will be going on at the same time that making all your session selections on the spot will feel overwhelming.

Put together a daily schedule for the education sessions you want to attend and take into account the time you may reserve to visit the Expo Hall and participate in networking events. Remember to keep some backup sessions in mind in case you feel like changing your original plan.

Use social media to your advantage

Once you have a schedule, follow the summit feed on Twitter to keep informed about program updates. Use Google Blog Search to find references to the conference. Check the STC group on LinkedIn to see summit-related discussions. You can also use LinkedIn to further research the professional profiles of people you’re interested in seeing and meeting at the summit.

Likewise, let others know what you expect from your summit experience. Blog about which presentations you’re planning to attend and why. Or tweet about people you hope to connect with at the conference. They may find you in a search and engage you before you get there.

Be prepared to talk to people and market yourself

Be prepared by having an elevator speech ready.
You’ll be meeting a lot of new people at the summit. And they will want to know who you are, what you do, and what you’re looking for while attending the conference. Be prepared by having an elevator speech ready. Practice it many times so that you can deliver it with confidence and ease. This is particularly helpful if you are a bit shy and feel apprehensive about approaching others to introduce yourself.

Don't forget to take business cards with you to be able to exchange contact information with the people you meet. Make sure you have enough cards available — it's better to come back home with leftovers than to find out you’ve run out of cards when you’re talking to a crucial contact.

Attend the first-timers session

The orientation session for first-time attendees is a great resource for those who are new to the conference and need some help getting situated. Although this is not something you’ll do before you get to Dallas, I want to say that it technically counts as part of your summit preparation since it happens before the opening general session on Sunday evening.

The first-timers session covers all the ins and outs of the summit. Topics discussed last year include social receptions and unofficial gatherings, conference etiquette, and resources available to attendees. On top of that, you’ll have the chance to meet other first-timers like yourself.

Elaine can be reached at elaine dot abousalh at gmail dot com . End of article.

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