Q: Dear Ima, this is my first time attending USITTs Annual Conference & Stage Expo as a student and I want to get the most bang for my buck. What are some tips and tricks to know before going?

A: Whenever you plan to attend an event like USITT’s National Conference and Stage Expo, you should have a strategy to get the most out of the experience.  Here are some suggestions for getting all that you can out of your investment.

  • Arrive early to make contacts with others. When making the choice between arriving early or staying later in the week, the early arrive presents the most options.
  • Read the app and the printed program to discover all that is happening, and identify at least two things to consider doing every hour of the conference.  Having a choice as each new opportunity opens just feels good.
  • Bring business cards with you and collect the same from others.  You will be meeting a lot of people and having a business card provides a tangible way to remember each encounter.
  • Wear comfortable shoes as you will be walking a lot.
  • Take notes at the sessions you attend.  As the week wears on you will have less energy and less memory to maintain those two to four take aways that you should have from every session. On each note page put the date, time, and key names of folks who are presenting.  This information can prove to be invaluable in your future.
  • Volunteer to work the conference.  There is no better way to get to know an organization than to become involved in its operations.  There are many volunteer opportunities within USITT.
  • As you listen at various meetings and sessions, constantly ask yourself how what is being said can be adapted to your needs.  Your attendance is part of your continuing education.  Seize the opportunities to learn.
  • Attend as many sessions as possible, but don’t feel guilty if you skip one to spend more time with a new colleague, acquaintance, or to catch up with a former classmate. The conference is as much about networking as it is about education.
  • Watch for free food!  There are a wide variety of receptions and all conference events that include food.  Your registration helped to pay for it, so please consume it!
  • If you hear someone give a great presentation, thank them and introduce yourself.  Everyone at the conference has a name badge and all enjoy meeting people.
  • During breaks, strike up conversations with others who have just shared an experience with you.  Your coffee drinking mate, may just be your next employer!
  • Spend time on the trade floor, looking at all the products, but more importantly speaking to the vendors.  Making personal connections with vendors can be a great benefit sometime when you need their product or their advice in problems solving in a hurry.
  • Stay through the whole event.  While the conference and lodging costs are a big investment, think of them precisely in that way – and investment in your future!
  • Finally, complete any evaluation forms that are offered.  The conference will only get better if you tell the leadership what needs to be improved.

The nearly full week together is a remarkable opportunity of learning, connecting, and re-discovering why you are passionate about theatre!

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