It has finally arrived! WE15 is this week! It is an amazing opportunity to learn, build your professional and personal networks, and have lots of fun! But, the conference goes really fast once you arrive, so here are some tips to make the most of your WE15 Conference experience:
- Have a plan! Download the WE15 App (or look at the conference schedule online –http://we15.swe.org/schedule/ or in the SWE magazine – http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/swe/conference15/#/0), look through all the workshops, and add those that interest you to your personal conference schedule. This will help save time and frustration when trying to figure out what to do at conference. My advice: don’t try to decide only one session for each time block – have options and choose the one that interests you most in the moment, or have an alternative in case the session gets unexpectedly cancelled.
- Be prepared with resumes and business cards! Even if you’re not looking for a job make sure to have copies of your resume (short 1 page version and long version). You never know when someone is going to ask for a copy to pass along to their managers. Similarly, have contact cards or business cards. They’re simple to make using Microsoft Word and easy to print at home or elsewhere. You could even buy business card paper (on Amazon, or in stores like Staples or Office Max) – you can print and punch out the cards at home.
- Pack smart! Conference attire is business casual, with the exception of the awards banquet (formal) and Celebrate SWE! (business/semi-formal) and perhaps any tours or additional activities in which you partake. A few tips: make sure to leave enough room in your suitcases/bags for all the swag you’ll want to take home. Also, pack comfortable dressy shoes and Bandaids. Walking around the conference center in new shoes is also not advisable – pain and discomfort will ensue, trust me.
- Carry only what you need! I highly suggest bringing a professional-looking bag (a backpack also works), but only carry what you need! I learned this lesson the hard way by always trying to carry my laptop around. It gets really heavy really fast. Unless you need to work in between sessions, I suggest leaving your computer at your hotel. Things I suggest making sure to have on you: pad portfolio with a pen and pencil, business/contact cards, conference schedule, Bandaids, water, granola bar/snack, extra set of panty hose (if you wear them) or clear nail polish (stops panty hose runs), comb/brush, extra hair supplies, lip balm, and mints (not gum – you don’t want to be chewing gum when talking to recruiters or making connections).
- Bring cash! The SWE Boutique offers a chance to buy neat SWE merchandise, but you’ll need cash or check. Also, cash is easier for buying lunch or snacks from the conference vendors.
- Practice your elevator pitch and small talk skills! You will meet SO many people and you’ll need to introduce yourself and your background to each of these people. I suggest having a “script” of what you tell people. Practice saying it over and over to yourself on your way to the conference. Similarly, think of some small talk topics related to your recent experiences. For example, I recently finished my PhD, moved across the country, am looking for a house, starting a new job, and recently spent a month touring around Europe. Many people have experienced at least one of these things and mentioning them tends to spark a conversation.
Read through the recent Conference Intelligence Webinar here for more great tips on how to successfully navigate WE15.
Good luck, and Happy WE15!