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Intentional Conferencing: Tips for the Virtual MLA | SLA '23 Attendee

Here is where I confess to the title change. I almost called this post "Misadventures of an Awry Attendee." I imagined that you would titter lightly and agree because you, too, had logged onto the event scheduler with every intention of strategically planning your conference experience and then favorited nearly every available option instead. My screen was such a mess of golden stars that I began to imagine myself as that delightfully distractible Disney dog in the movie Up – “Squirrel!” For those of you with no comprehension of this description, I encourage you to search for a video short of Dug, the talking dog. I am a firm believer that everyone has a ‘Dug’ day. If you do not; if you are successfully superhuman… please, do not disillusion me. I have way too many of these days!

Anyways, skittering back on topic here… I know you are on the edge of your seat. How did she come around to the title above? Do I care? Yes. Because I pulled it together. We are librarians! Organization and presentation so that others comprehend information is our game! It is a matter of prioritizing the kinds of information you want to gain from this conference so that there are few missed opportunities. You have the variety, just identify the priority!

First, this conference has a wider variety of livestreams and virtual immersion sessions than in the past years. Don’t miss out. Get into the moment! Mark the times that you can pretend you are part of the MLA | SLA '23 crowd and log onto the livestream sessions that interest you. The easiest route for me to identify this was to select 'Schedule’ on the thin, top bar of bar of my screen and toggle to the day. However, if you are on the homepage, 'Virtual and Live Stream Sessions' is located directly to the left of the blue 'Welcome' banner. Start with 'Plenary/Symposia Livestreamed' and then head for 'Live Virtual Sessions.' The only difference between you and the people attending these events will be the obvious geographic location - and hopefully, the comfort of your own chair. Virtual attendance has perks, people. Pull on the fluffy socks and grab your favorite beverage, snack, and a note-taking tool as you tune in.

Second, understand that many of the ‘Live Virtual Sessions’ can be approached after-the-fact, as On Demand. Yes, you may miss the live Q&A but don’t stress it. Every in-person attendee will need to pick and choose which session to prioritize too. You, however, have the additional perk of backtracking to the video, downloading the slides, submitting a question to the presenter, or hopping onto a topic discussion. In that last option, the virtual discussions, you can even use emojis… if you are so inclined 😉. Do not be afraid to select the session title and play around with your viewing options. You have a lot of flexibility!

My biggest suggestion though is the method and madness behind the current title – "Intentional Conferencing." Choose what type of content you are most hoping to discover with this conference: Is it all things Artificial Intelligence? Instruction techniques and tools? More on systematic reviews? DEIA? Once you have that locked into your sights, strategically plan your attendance of the ‘Live Virtual Sessions’. Yes, you may still end up with a mess of ‘Favorite’ stars on your screen BUT you will understand that this is a conference you can take at your own pace. For this, I offer up two routes:

  1. Broad/If you are stuck or open to a broader approach to topic - On every page, on that left side bar, you will notice ‘All Sessions’. The menu from this option allows you to browse by ‘Practice Area/Access’. From which you can dive into all things Clinical Support or Education or Innovation & Research Practice, etc.
  2. Narrow - I wanted a narrow, more focused approach. You will see why in future conference posts where it is my intention to pull together a few topic groups and report on the presentation threads/trends. My technique involved the search box on the thin, top bar of every site page. Librarian here, search by subject! Keep it simple though, no Boolean operators – just one-word topics. For example, I put in the keyword ‘diversity’ and found a list that included not only ‘diversity’ in session title but also those sessions that had been tagged with ‘diversity’ as the subject. In this manner, you can group what you are learning and identify trends, difference in perspective, and new ideas.

Ta-da! Now you are equipped with all the potential wisdom that this blog offers without all the trial and error. Stay tuned, the next blogs will round up what I learned from the virtual sessions on AI, DEIA, and perhaps one more.

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