After attending our first national conference in 2000, Liz Deskins and I wrote the article, “Liz and Deb’s Trip to ALA’s Annual Conference Gentle Tips for Future Attendees…” Fifteen years later many of our tips still work and a few need a little updating. Here are some of our best recommendations for getting the most out of the exhibit hall.
Before you visit the vendor hall, take some time to look over the lists of vendors and note booths you don’t want to miss.
When registering for conference, make sure you check that you want to have your contact information shared with exhibitors. You may be invited to special events and receive special offers.
Allow at least four to six hours to visit the vendor hall. Seriously!
Bring along address labels and business cards. Plan to enter drawings. You might win something. Liz and I have both won drawings over the years.
Stop to talk with exhibitors. The product you have been using for years, might have cool new features or you may discover something that is just right for meeting a need.
If a product has potential for your situation, attend a demonstration.
Whether you are looking for ARCs (advance reader copies) or published books, a backpack is helpful. Exhibitors often hand out tote bags, but most exhibit halls do not permit wheeled totes of any kind.
Vendors frequently offer books for free or at deeply discounted prices and there are many opportunities to have books autographed. Consider having a little cash and blank PO’s on hand. If you see a line around a booth, ask who is autographing. It just might be a favorite author! Also, there will be an autographic area in the exhibit hall for featured authors and there will be opportunities to buy books.
Many exhibitors offer particularly deep discounts on the last day of conference. Be sure to visit on that last day!
How are you going to get things home? There is a post office in the vendor area and they always sell boxes. Sometimes, you can get boxes from vendors. Check out the hours ahead of time so you plan ahead. Considering bring a role of packing tape and a marker from home to save money and label your box clearly. Fill the box full and be generous with tape to make sure your prizes travel safely.
Bringing back prizes as well as good information helps to let administrators know the value of sending you to this conference and can grow friendships with other faculty members. “I saw this and thought of that unit you teach on …….” Or “I know this is your favorite author so I got it for your classroom” will go a long way to build collaborative partnerships.