My first ALT Annual Conference was in 2003 in Sheffield. I didn’t know many people and it was quite hard to get to know people without dropping into conversations over coffee, which can be challenging. What I did learn from this is this how other people, new to ALT-C, must feel. If Liverpool in 2017 is your first ALT conference, then you may be feeling a little trepidation and even a bit fearful about presenting and attending and getting the most out of the conference.
One of the real strengths of the conference is the community and part of that has to be meeting, getting to know people and talking. Many of my strong professional relationships in this field have emerged from previous ALT conferences and, more often than not, specifically the online interaction between delegates. Find people who are tweeting about the conference (they will be using the #altc hashtag) and engage them in conversation before the conference. If you are presenting at the conference, then why not tweet about your session, again using the #altc hashtag? Even if your Twitter community is small, using the #altc hashtag can amplify your tweet to a wide audience. Remember to engage with Twitter if it enhances your experience; otherwise don’t worry about it.
Back in 2007 the big thing about the ALT conference was blogging, with people blogging about the conference, even blogging about the blogging at the conference. Today people still blog about the conference. You could write a blog post about your session, what it is about, what people will get out of it and include useful links and references. You may want to blog about other people’s sessions that have peeked your interest.
Another important aspect to get the most out of the conference is to work out what you want to see and hear. I wouldn’t recommend waiting until the first day and then desperately scanning the programme to see what’s on, trying to work out if it is interesting or might be useful. It is worthwhile taking the time to review the programme and decide which sessions might be useful, interesting or informative. You may want to reflect on a theme, take one of your institutional strategic priorities and find relevant sessions that could inform that priority. You may have a particular issue or problem, review the programme and see what other organisations have done in that space and what their solutions are. I sometimes find myself going to sessions I know I will like and enjoy. I think, though, that there is real value in picking stuff which is out of your comfort zone and going to that. You never know what you may discover.
My final advice is to go to sessions prepared, be that with a notebook and pen, a laptop or a tablet. Make sure that everyone knows you are at a conference and ignore email for the time you are away. Don’t try to work at the conference; you will get so much more out of it if you throw yourself into it. Enjoy the conference – it’s going to be great!
Find James Clay on Twitter: @jamesclay.
Find out more about James Clay’s session at the Annual Conference: https://altc.alt.ac.uk/2017/sessions/if-the-walls-could-talk-1654/.
Read his blog post about the session: https://intelligentcampus.jiscinvolve.org/wp/2017/08/21/if-the-walls-could-talk-altc/.
Read his blog: http://elearningstuff.net/.