Though we have eight months until the 2010 AWP Conference in Denver, CO, I see no reason to subvert my excitement. As a four time attendee (to be five with this Denver event), I have learned a lot. Expectations have been set, have been met, have been exceeded, and in a few cases have been crushed by weight of disappointing reality (if a reading advertises free drinks, I take that to mean dine-in AND carry-out).
So, with hopes of alleviating preparation anxiety for first-timers and Alzheimeric repeat attendees, I have put together a short list of ways to wring as much from your conference experience as possible.
- Read the 2010 New Conference Attendee FAQ found at the AWP site. This will help with practical concerns; where to get your name badge, how the overall scheduling works, and even how to sneak in by taking another person’s badge (Q: May I pick up someone else’s badge at Pre-registration?, A: Yes. However, you need to provide a signed and dated letter stating that this person has given you permission to pick up his/her badge) which I don’t condone, but it seems almost too easy. I mean, who hasn’t forged a signature or twelve during this crazy bank job called life?
- Examine the schedule in-depth BEFORE the conference starts (a tentative list is available here. The final schedule will be posted at the AWP site October; I will link to it once it becomes available now, here. NOTE: the AWP site doesn’t have a .pdf schedule, so I made one. You are welcome. EDIT: the official AWP site has a .pdf schedule now). You will be on your feet all day, carrying more than a human should, and a giant 200 page conference schedule will not be a welcome anchor when trying to flag down your favorite author for a quick chat.
- Plan your days with the following in mind: the rooms are small and the demand is huge. Make plans for multiple backup panels should the one you want to attend be completely full (but be sure to check back here to see if one of us AWP Bloggers captured the skinny for you).
- Bring a recording device, audio or video, because I promise that you will not swallow everything during the panels themselves. Also, once days 3 and 4 hit, you will likely cut back a few panels due to exhaustion, and those that do stay on your agenda will have a tough time breaking through your burnout.
- Pack an empty bag for the many books you will buy at the bookfair. Better yet, plan to mail them home in order to make your airport time easier on your back.
- Join AWP forums before the trip to network with other conference attendees. It is always good custom to have coffee scheduled. Plus, it makes you feel like a true mover and/or shaker. AWP has an official forum, but a Google search as the conference nears will provide plenty more.
- Socialize, socialize, socialize (notice that I did not say “network”). Above all else, remember that the Conference itself is more than just series of ego-infused university style lectures (I kid…sorta). It is a time to meet other writers, drink some beers, share a dirty joke, and forget it all in the morning. Don’t worry, though, you’ll likely read about your forgotten exploits in attendee blogs the next morning.