Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Coming to AAM? Want to Meet People for Real Conversations on Issues that Matter Most to You?

Everyone always says that the best part of conferences happens outside the sessions, in the hallway conversations and one-on-one meetings that aren't on the official schedule. 

This may be true. It's also incredibly frustrating when you are new to a field, at a huge conference, or if you are not a born networker. If the best part of the conference isn't on the agenda, how the heck are you supposed to access it?

Last week, I was talking with some colleagues at my museum about the upcoming American Alliance of Museums conference and asked them what kinds of people they wanted to meet at AAM. Their remarks made me realize two things:
  1. I don't know the people they want to meet.
  2. It's ridiculous to assume that the best way to set up one-on-one meetings is through a conversation with your boss, or a hunt-and-peck through the AAM registrant list.
So my colleague Elise Granata and I set up a very simple LinkedIn group as an experiment. Here's how it works:
  • Join the LinkedIn group (if you are searching, it's called "Hack Your Hello's at AAM"). 
  • Post the question that you are bringing to AAM or is most on your mind.
  • In the "add more details" section, list your contact info and availability during the conference.
  • Contact people who share your interests and set up meetings with them at the conference. (Hint: you can do this even if you are not going to the conference.)
That's it. Easy. Hopefully.
If nothing else, it will be the first time I've ever really used LinkedIn.

We'll also be hosting an informal meetup at 10:15am on Monday, May 19 at the tables outside the general session (we assume there will be tables). If you don't want to go through the trouble of setting a meeting time in advance, show up on Monday and find someone interesting to talk with. 

I personally feel that the scheduled sessions at AAM are also pretty darn good, and the conference mobile app is useful for coordinating your official schedule. If you want to check out a presentation, I'll be speaking:
  • Monday at 12:15pm as the keynote speaker for the Small Museums Administrator's Committee luncheon, talking about why small museums (should) rule the world of relationship-centered museums.
  • Tuesday at 1:45pm in the "I wish somebody had told me..." storytelling session, talking about how I built confidence identifying as an activist.
  • Wednesday at 8:45am in the "Hack the Museum" session, about our MuseumCamp in 2013 at which diverse teams built experimental artifact-based exhibits in 48 hours.
A couple other scheduled events I recommend:
  • My excellent colleague Elise will be speaking on Monday at 1:45pm in the "Advocacy in Practice" session about our work at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History to engage community members as ambassadors and advocates for our community-based institution.
  • "Mistakes Were Made" on Tuesday at 3:15 is always a fun, honest story-sharing experience if you need a break from the content-focused presentations.
  • The people in the "Future of History" session (also Tuesday at 3:15) include some really incredible innovators who inspire me.
  • The fine folks at Incluseum are hosting a happy hour on Tuesday at 6pm at the Diller Room (p.s. - they want people to RSVP).
Enjoy the conference - or at least the LinkedIn group. I look forward to seeing if this experiment is helpful in matchmaking some fruitful conversations.
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