It’s conference season, so now seems like a great time to talk about some of the events coming up in April that I hope will be of interest for many of my colleagues and students interested in education and Asian American issues, and how to get the most out of them.
From April 9-10 is the annual Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education conference in San Francisco. The theme is “Many Identities, One Call To Action.” Topics include vital questions like “Supporting Underrepresented AAPI Student College Access and Success” and “Promoting Community Well-Being: Cultural Responsiveness for Asian American and Pacific Islander Student Success.” Discussions will be lead by many of the leading figures in Asian American higher education from across the country at the Hilton in the San Francisco Financial District.
The Association for Asian American Studies Conference will be held in Chicago from April 22-25th at the Hilton Orrington. Their theme will be “The Trans/national Imaginary: Global Cities & Racial Borderlands.” And a little closer to home will be the National Lao American Symposium and Writers Summit on April 17-18 at the U of M Urban Research Outreach-Engagement Center in Minneapolis. Their theme is “Our Shared Journey” and they will be looking at the 40 years since the end of the Lao civil war, gathering together over a hundred Lao American scholars, writers, artists, and community organizations from across the country to reflect and discuss new approaches to telling the Lao American story.
I remember when I first began attending conferences, and I understand it can feel a little intimidating at first. But when you keep in mind the basics, pretty soon you’ll go to them like a pro.
One of the important things I always encourage participants to remember is that it’s not just about attending the panels and workshops, but also making connections and reaching out to meet new faces. You never know where you will meet them next, so be open-minded and friendly. Some might be on the next committee you join, others might be your next boss, or your next employee. These are people who share many of your same interests and are also likely interested in meeting new people in order to keep current on the issues.
So, first, be prepared. This includes having your business cards ready, but that also means understanding yourself. If you had to answer “what do you do?” or “what would you like to do in the future?” you should be comfortable answering that. This doesn’t mean you babble out an elevator pitch every time you introduce yourself, but if it comes up in a conversation, you really don’t want to be fumbling for an answer. Don’t monopolize people’s time either, unless you’re really hitting it off.
Keep your hands free and eat a little before you go to the function. This seems like common sense, but it’s easy to forget. While you’re shaking hands and exchanging business cards, you don’t want to be juggling a plate full of appetizers or your drinks and conference materials.
Remember, you don’t have to meet EVERYONE at the conference. But look for people that will be good connections this year and possibly in the years to come. But above all else, always follow up. It’s not just about meeting people, but how you follow up on those meetings that make the difference for you in your professional and civic life.
Have fun, and respect everyone’s time and presence!
What are some of your favorite tips for attending conferences?