Tuesday, March 20, 2012

#STLE2012 Tips for First Timers

#STLE2012 kicks off in about six weeks, and I wanted to share some tips for first-time attendees.

  • Go with a purpose. Whether you want to meet new people and network, find a solution to a problem encountered at work, or glean best practices from your colleagues, have a goal in mind and try to achieve it every day.

  • Have a schedule, but be flexible. Draft a game plan for the week on the drive or plane ride, using the preliminary program guide as a reference. If you're traveling with a group or have a group of similarly minded individuals, divide up your time accordingly so you can see the most and share/compare notes after the session or when you get back to the office. If you find a given session isn't what you thought it'd be, make sure to have a second option. Don't be afraid to "vote with your feet." We know you want to get something out of every session - that's what we want too! Finally, don't overschedule yourself. It's easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of technical sessions (over 350!) and other events, but realize that you won't be able to attend everything you want.

  • Introduce yourself to as many people as possible. Don't just stick with your co-workers (they can be your crutch to avoid meeting new people or trying new things). You'll get more out of the conference if you branch out and talk to someone else who has the same job or research interests as you do. And if you're coming to the meeting on your own, don't be afraid to approach people: (a) there are other people like you there (other first-timers), just find them and you can join forces, (b) everyone is friendly and will be open and accepting, and (c) you will find people who share your interests just by attending technical sessions - after all, you're both there because you have the same interests, so all you have to do is strike up a conversation.

  • Step outside of your box: sit at a table of people you don't know at the President's lunch, introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you at a technical session, tag along with a group you've just met to different events, and reach out. The more you try, the more likely you are to make some contacts and get the most out of the AM. You should also try attending a session outside of your research interests or job function. Getting a broad knowledge of the industry may lead to an innovation or idea you wouldn't have had otherwise, or a connection that may lead to a job or new colleague.

  • Contribute to the discussion for #STLE2012. If you're in an interesting session, let other's know about it.

  • Follow the back channel (#STLE2012) - it will help you keep up on what's going on, both the published stuff and the unpublished/spontaneous stuff.

  • Come to the YP/Student Networking event on Tuesday night May 8, 7:30 p.m. at the Flamingo Bowl. Come for some hors d'oeuvres, drinks and networking with young professionals, as well as key STLE members, so you can make some great career connections. Details will be on the AM webpage and will be included in AM emails, but make sure you RSVP so we have enough food to go around.

  • If you're participating in the student poster competition, be sure to visit the website (scroll down to the student/YP section) for updates, and keep an eye out for the email with instructions you'll need to get your bearings for the day. If you haven't gotten instructions yet, let us know.

  • Also, as a take-away, remember that we will have a CD of proceedings available for free to all meeting attendees. The CD includes a listing of the papers we received by the publication date, so not all papers may be listed in the CD, and others will have an extended abstract. It's something to take with you and share with colleagues after the event.

  • Visit the exhibit floor. Here, you can meet potential employers if you're starting your job search, or you can make contacts to help you with your job, find solutions to common problems, and find out about the newest products on the market. Click here to see a list of exhibitors, so you can plan out your attack plan for the exhibit floor.

  • Bring a ton of business cards - you will go through them, either on the exhibit floor, or just through the new contacts you make. If you don't have business cards, have something you can hand out with your contact information. Websites like VistaPrint have an option where you can get 250 cards for $10.

  • Come to the Membership Booth and we will point you in the direction of someone you can network or talk shop with, or we will be able to point you in the direction of members who can provide introductions to specific technical groups and/or key contacts. Staff and volunteers will be staffing the booth, so you can meet us and pick our brains, or even offer up ideas on membership and offerings. Also, we'll have some great give-aways as an extra incentive to come see us! We get lonely, so be sure to come say hi.

  • Get some rest - you'll need it, with a week jam-packed with events!

  • Bring snacks. Just in case your stomach decides to rumble in the middle of a session and lunch is hours away.

  • Plan out the social side of things (and how to get there). See what you can do while you're in St. Louis with some of these great links: Explore Neighborhoods (we'll be in Downtown, but you can go beyond, especially if you're driving to STL); 25 Things to Do; Day Trips/Excursions; sample Itineraries, and How to Get Around STL. Listen to this podcast (coming soon) with Karl Phipps, STLE staffer and STL native.

  • Remember to have fun - this is a great opportunity for you to meet with like-minded individuals, probably the only time throughout the year you are in the same room with so many folks in tribology and lubrication engineering (around 1,100)!

Some other resources, if you're interested, include Bob Gresham's webinar presentation on getting the most out of your attendance at #STLE2012 (click here to register), and the TLT articles: A Business Case for Attending the AM and Tribology's Big Show. You can also read the interviews we conducted with two STLE members for their perspective on attending the meeting for the first time: Rachel Colbert, student member, and David Burris, young professional and Chair of the Young Tribologists Committee. Finally, keep an eye out for the post on things to do in St. Louis. It includes some tips from STLE Staffer Karl Phipps - he'll be able to give you the best tips since he grew up there!

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