A first-time conference attendee posed this question on ISPI’s LinkedIn page: “What advice do you have for a first-time THE Performance Improvement Conference attendee?” ISPI members and longtime attendees quickly responded with great suggestions.

Here are just a few of the many ideas presented:

Lisa Toenniges I’m thrilled you’ll be attending! Here are a few ideas. I’m sure you’ll receive many more great ones:

  • Study the conference program in advance and start to map out “your plan.”
  • Make sure to attend Introduction to Human Performance Technology and Conference Overview.
  • Attend all the “highlights”: opening session and reception, keynote presentations, Cracker Barrels, Chat ‘n Chews, and Awards Luncheon (these are just a few).
  • Introduce yourself to everyone. I think you’ll find we’re a very friendly accessible group.

I look forward to meeting you at the conference!

Guy W. Wallace Ditto to all of Lisa’s comments! As someone who has been to 29 of the last 31, I am sure you’ll find it very rewarding. Bring plenty of business cards and hand them out freely. Check out and attend the 3rd Annual Speed Mentoring session–it’s not for just “emerging” professionals–it’s for anyone new to ISPI. Find a buddy or buddies to connect with while there if you can. Ask for suggestions for sessions to attend from those who know your interests and the speakers. Join a committee. And have a lot of fun!

James Parry Great to hear you are attending! All of the advice above is great! THE Performance Improvement Conference is a great opportunity to network, network, network. You won’t be able to do everything and you may even want to skip a session or two so you can network with other attendees. Main thing is to have fun and take in as much as you can. See you in April.

Ann Battenfield All great ideas above. Carol Lynn asked if you were coming with someone or alone. When I first started coming, I came with 2-4 colleagues. This made it easy for me in some ways, but hindered me from needing to connect with new people. If you come with someone, consider making sure you have enough time by yourself to meet others and get to know a few new people. Over time, those new connections will become invaluable.

Another thing to consider is meeting some ISPI board members, staff, or volunteers and seeing if being a volunteer is something you might want to do in the future. Stephanie Fuentes is the Volunteer Coordinator, but I think any of us writing here are or have been volunteers or board members, so look for us, too, and say hi.

Another newbie chimed in on the conversation as well asking for tips on deciding which sessions to attend and the advice kept rolling in.

Jay Allen First, I simply encourage you to earnestly read through the program descriptions and the brief biographies offered on the conference website in order to best assess which session(s) and presenter(s) will offer you the greatest opportunity for learning. That said, sometimes it also helps to hear from folks who are far from your personal field(s) in order
to be exposed to very different models of thinking about HPT. Enjoy your time in Orlando and best of luck!

Gay Bruhn All good ideas. When I go to things alone I try to hook up with someone right away. Part of my plan is to identify those people I want to meet, like someone I have talked to on the phone and not met; someone who “wrote the book” on HPT or whose research helped me with a project or someone who is just plain famous in the field. I’m so glad you are coming–I’ll look for you.

Mark Boccia Agreed with the points mentioned above. Attending a pre-conference workshop helps you meet at least a dozen new friends you can hang out with throughout the conference. If you are a member of a local chapter, be sure to connect with anyone in advance…even if it’s someone to share lunch or a cocktail with on one day, it certainly elevates any feelings of being “all alone” among the masses. But we’re all friendly, so be sure to say hello! See you there… PS–Don’t forget a stack of business cards, you’ll be handing them out left & right! I still have a set of cards from my first conference and will connect with former attendees on occasion.

Tim Scudder Go to sessions that seem interesting–sit next to other people and let them know you are a newbie. If they’re members or have been to multiple conferences, ask why–if those reasons sound like good reasons to you, ask for their advice about which sessions/speakers/topics events etc. to seek out. Use the Chat ‘n Chew sessions (which some of us who have been to many conferences will probably call the “Cracker Barrel”) to get a taste of some topics that you know nothing about. If you’re ever lost or confused, find an ISPI staffer–good people. Peruse speakers’ books at the bookstore to help you decide which sessions to attend. Attend at least one session that has a description that sounds completely unrelated to what you do. Go outside at least once a day.

Sharon Gander All great ideas. One more… lunch with someone you do not know. Intentionally pick out tables or groups of people you have not met and ask to join them. Do you elevator speech and ask for theirs. Get their cards. Ask what they attended and liked… and why. Ask what they plan to attend and why. You just might get a tip for a session that
helps you decide over two equally interesting sounding events or even get a tip for an event that you had not considered. After the conference, send them follow-up emails.

THE Performance Improvement Conference is the place to get all your questions answered and to network with industry peers. For more
information and descriptions about the programming mentioned above, visit www.ispi.org/ac2011.