Planning Conference Attendance

Thanks to a post from ProfHacker I was inspired to go figure out what panels I will be attending at MLA.

I’m not coming in till Monday, due to the Christmas break and it being our year to go to my in-laws in Arkansas. If we’d been here this year, I would have showed up on Sunday, but we will be driving back to Texas on Sunday, so no go.

Given that the number of panels at something like MLA (which covers my own fields) exceeds 1000, it can be daunting to figure out where you’re going to go every hour. (This is what the plane ride if for, in my experience.) But it also means that there is almost certainly something relevant to your work happening right this very minute.

Despite my multiple field of interests, that this comment turned out NOT to be true is a little odd.

I think the problem was that multiple good panels on my interests were scheduled at the same time and other times had nada. So even in my official conference planner I have three sets of conflicts, after whittling down two of those from four panels I wanted to attend to two. And, of course, the one I most wanted to attend is at the same time as my incredible panel. Then there are a few blank hours.

And, since I decided to stay over till Thursday because I thought there would be late panels on Wednesday (been years since I last went to MLA), I actually have time to do things in Philadelphia.

This particular tip was good, and I found it to be very encouraging:

Participate in panels if you’re not speaking. As long as you’re attending the panels, take advantage of the scholarly exchange and become a participant. While the intricate maneuvers of the Q&A of the panels (if there is even time for it) could easily be the fodder for a Kafka novel or two, you should also consider speaking to the panelists following the session. Not only does this give you a chance to continue the conversation, but it’s led to some real opportunities for me, including an invitation to write a review essay, to participate in a large project archiving and cataloging electronic literature, and hanging out with senior scholars in my field.

There’s a way to start networking better, by asking questions after the panel is over.

If you’re there, I’ll be around. Maybe I’ll even be at your panel. If so, let me know. And, if you want to see me, you can hear me speak by attending 482 and 669.

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