ABA TECHSHOW is one of my favorite legal conferences with great sessions and keynotes, and unparalleled networking. I’ve attended in various capacities over the years, and during last year’s event where we had a booth, I took some notes. Hope this helps you navigate this year’s event in a more rewarding and productive way. The best advice is to plan early, so although the conference is three weeks away, we’re posting these tips now.
Getting there and leaving
Get there on Wednesday – The conference runs from Thursday morning through Saturday, but get there on Wednesday evening for LexThink.1. Run by Matt Homann and Joanna Forshee, the dynamic, rapid-fire presentations provide insight on the future of law from innovative leaders and change agents. And it’s loads of fun. You also get to meet the speakers and mingle with attendees – a networking jolt to start off TECHSHOW. Vendors should get there by noon on Wednesday to start setting up.
Leave on Saturday evening – The conference ends around noon, and with sessions and networking out of the way, leave your bags with the concierge and explore the beautiful city of Chicago. Vendors, this is your time to relax and enjoy. Catch the red-eye and sleep on the flight back home.
Drink lots of water – Between exhibition halls, conference sessions and networking events, you’re confined to the hotel/conference center much more than you’d imagine. That’s a lot of dry air. Vendors who yap all day on the exhibition floor are especially vulnerable. Hydrate. Water is your friend. So is lip balm. I’ve seen more than a few attendees licking their lips trying to stay in conversations without cracking a membrane.
Protect your voice – Sleep and rest help, but both are luxuries you can ill afford. Catch up after the conference. Drink soothing teas and lots of water, and whatever remedies you use, to minimize the damage. Take breaks outside for fresh air. Cutting back on alcohol and caffeine helps, but good luck with that!
Vendor socials – The best way to deep dive on relationship building is to attend the nighttime vendor hosted events. Find out about these events by following the #ABATECHSHOW hashtag on Twitter. Not on Twitter, you say? Then you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to meet fellow attendees before the conference which facilitates easy introductions.
Vendor dinners – If you can’t get on the invite list, host your own. There’s a vendor reception on Thursday night in the exhibition hall. It’s a fun time. Plan on attending.
Lunch – Check out the lunch ‘n learn sessions. Join a group lunch or invite others to yours. Again, this requires planning or you’ll be left lunching alone, wasting a great opportunity to network and build relationships.
Breakfast is a wash The ABA provides a light breakfast, but if you don’t get there by 8am, you’re out of luck. Minimal networking opportunities here, but get there early, gird yourself for the first half of the day, and grab an extra bottle of water.
Navigating the conference sessions
Mobile app – Two years ago I praised the mobile app and last year, not so much. I’ve been to lots of conferences and have yet to find a really great app. Maybe it’s the logistics, but more likely it’s about pouring resources into making a perfect app that will be used for only three days. Go ahead and download the app but hold on to your conference booklet.
Plan your session attendance in advance – If you don’t plan in advance, you’ll miss out. I give as much weight to the faculty as the topic when choosing which sessions to attend. It’s usually the deciding factor when faced with competing sessions of interest. Though increasingly rare, I especially enjoy session with only one good speaker. Panels are simply not as interesting or effective.
Vendor love – Ditch a few sessions and pay a couple of real visits to the exhibition floor. Vendors spend lots of time and effort (and money) to be there. They’re on the cutting edge of technology, change and innovation. Pick their brain. Give them feedback. You’ll come away with great ideas, new friends, and choice swag.
Vendors, you’ll inevitably forget or lose a tool or tape or chord, or something that you need in five minutes to avert a crisis. (Not really, but at that moment you’ll think it’s a crisis.) Ace Hardware is two blocks away on S State Street. It’s a lifesaver.
Ditch the bag – Hauling around a bag with your computer, the afore mentioned swag, and other non-essentials is tiring and tiresome. Lanyards and shoulder bags don’t get along. Don’t obscure your name tag and the opportunity for people to identify you. Leave the bag in your room and use a tablet or phone to take notes.
Finally, crawl the excellent ABA TECHSHOW (why ALLCAPS? Techshow is not an acronym) site, including the First Time Experience Guide. Have a great conference!
If you have additional insights or advice for attendees and vendors, please share in the comments below.