Conference Materials Survey: How Attendees Get Organized

I’m running a series of posts about a survey I did to see how conference attendees organize the information and materials they bring home with them. Please be sure to read Post 1 (Survey Results Overview), Post 2 (Questions 1 & 2/Attendance & Note-taking) and Post 3 (Questions 3 & 4/Vendors & Swag) for analysis of the results thus far.

In this post, I’m going to examine the answers to Question 5: How do you organize your conference materials when you get home?

Respondents had the following answers to choose from (and once again, they could pick more than one):

  • I don’t
  • I create a binder for each conference I attend
  • I scan everything for future reference
  • Other (please specify)

Twenty-one folks admitted that they don’t organize materials once they return home. Thirteen said they create a binder for each conference (but many more said they use simple file folders instead). Nine said they scanned the materials. I had 51 replies for “Other” to sort through.

There were many interesting ideas among the various responses submitted. Here are a few examples:

“The best way is to share your conference highlights with someone else. When I start talking about a session, I really “get” what I learned. The best conference I had was when my roommate and I de-briefed each other each evening on our highlights.” (this type of comment was echoed by at least one other respondent)

“One thing that helps me is postings or articles about conference sessions. e.g. for our AIIP conference, I love reading the articles in Connections, esp. if I missed a session. I love the way others perceived the content of a session as it broadens my own understanding.”

“I generally review all my notes and create a list of action items for follow-up.”

“I write up summaries (with links to slideshare etc) and keep it in a file on my computer.”

One respondent mentioned in answer to this question that she live-blogs to help her record sessions. Another respondent said they take notes on index cards and then these are filed appropriately on their return — I need to follow-up with this respondent to see how these are organized. I keep imagining they have an old card catalog cabinet or something.

Still another very organized respondent organizes reference materials for vendors and products she already uses in files she has for each of those providers; notes on topics related to research she performs are filed in the appropriate boxes by subject; she has a “Try It” box for new things to explore and she schedules time to try these out; and finally, she sorts the cards for contacts with whom she needs to follow-up.

Stay tuned for my next post on how many folks purchase conference materials on CD/thumbdrive and/or purchase recordings of sessions after the fact. Read more below:


Conference Materials Survey — Results Overview

Earlier this month, I asked folks to respond to a survey about how they deal with the information, materials and swag that they collect at conferences. I will be putting together a full report on the results, but I’m going to publish the report bit-by-bit on my blog as I write it. You, my faithful readers (and hopefully, some of the survey’s respondents) will get a sneak peek!

The Questions

The survey’s questions were as follows:

1 ) How many conferences have you attended in the past year?

2 ) How do you take notes at conferences?

3 ) Do you visit vendors at conferences?

4 ) What do you do with vendor swag when you get home?

5 ) How do you organize your conference materials when you get home?

6 ) Do you purchase conference handouts on CD or thumbdrive, if offered?

7 ) Do you purchase recordings of sessions, when offered?

8 ) What would help you make better use of conference materials when you get home?

9 ) Other thoughts? Do you use systems/tools to keep yourself organized at/after a conference not already covered above? Ever been wowed by how a conference presented its materials? How did they do it?

10 ) Please provide your email address below if I can contact you with follow-up questions and/or if you would like a copy of the results of this survey.

The Respondents

I advertised the online-only survey to my networks on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, here on this blog, and on the listservs of a couple of professional associations to which I belong (the Association of Independent Information Professionals and the Special Libraries Association, in particular). Eighty-five (!) people responded to my survey during the week that I had it available online. This was more than I could have hoped for.

The majority of the respondents, therefore, were librarians, genealogists and other types of information professionals. These folks tend to be organized and focused on how they process information. It is presumed that they all had a comfort level with computers, the Internet and some forms of social media in order to take the survey.

Preliminary Results

The demographics of the survey respondents might suggest that the group who participated may be more organized than your average conference attendee. After going through the aggregated responses to the multiple choice questions and skimming the individual comments for other of the questions above, many of the respondents do have intricate systems for organizing conference information.

I also found though that many, like me, expressed frustration with a lack of time and appropriate tools to organize everything that they gather. There were suggestions for dealing with notes, handouts, giveaways, business cards and other data, information and materials that one collects at a conference. Some of these suggestions are systems that the respondents already use and others are wishlist items that will depend on conference organizers, or even vendors, to supply.

In ensuing posts, I go over the responses to each of the questions asked in the survey. Read on at the links below:

Tombstone Tuesday (AIIP10 Edition): Erie Street Cemetery

I attended the 2010 Association of Independent Information Professionals conference in Cleveland, Ohio, this past weekend (read my recap here). The conference hotel was located directly across from two important Cleveland landmarks: Progressive Field (where we watched the Indians lose to the Twins) and Erie St. Cemetery.

One of the stones in the cemetery is for Joc-O-Sot or Walking Bear.

Next to his stone is that of Chief Thunderwater. Both earned names for themselves by participating in theater acts and Wild West shows.

Another stone that caught my attention was this one:

The dates are a bit hard to read due to the staining on the stone, but when you blow up the photo, here’s what you see:


Born July 11, 1835–Died Mar. 13, 1904 [age ~69]


Born July 3, 1859–Died Mar. 13, 1903 [age ~44]

Born Nov. 28, 1860–Died Mar. 28, 1864 [age 3 1/2]

Born July 26, 1866–Died Aug. 16, 1867 [age 13 mos]

Born Jan. 2, 1873–Died Aug. 16, 1873 [age 6 mos]

Albert H
Born Mar. 3, 1877–Died Feb. 3, 1880 [age ~3]

Born May 15, 1879–Died Nov. 1, 188[3 or 9?] [age ~4 or ~10]

Born Aug. 15, 1885–Died Dec. 3, 1888 [age 3]

Born Mar. 3, 1887–Died Jan. 5, 1888 [age 10 mos]

Can you imagine? I had to know, were these the only Scharlott children or did more survive into adulthood and are perhaps buried somewhere else? I think I found the family in the 1880 census in Cleveland on (under the name Scherlotk; click on the photo for a larger view):

(Ohio, Cuyahoga County, Cleveland, District 15, page 7, lines 40-49, 1880 U.S. Census,

You can see Amalia and Carry listed in the census — presumably they are the Amelia and Carrie listed on the stone. Their birthdates match.

It’s somewhat comforting to know that after all that loss, some of the Scharlott children survived. And now we know their parents’ full names as well. As to why the mother, Anna, isn’t included on the stone, one can guess that she survived her husband, remarried and is buried with the subsequent husband. That’s another question for another day.

My AIIP10 Top 10

The 2010 Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP) conference wrapped up in Cleveland today and it was another excellent event. Below are my top 10 highlights from the conference. I hope those that are unfamiliar with the group will take a look at their web site and consider saving up for the 2011 conference in Vancouver, Washington, next April. All genealogists are info pros and would find value in this event (and as an AIIP member!).

10. Roger Summit Award Lecture: The immediate past president of AIIP selects the recipient of the Roger Summit Award, who gives a lecture at the conference. This year’s awardee was Peter Shankman, founder of HARO and a marketing/PR guru. He gave a really funny, engaging talk with great advice on how to portray yourself.

9. Door Prizes! Members, vendors and conference sponsors are encouraged to contribute door prizes, which are given away throughout the conference. There are tons of opportunities to win something and your chances are good (the conference averages about 100-110 attendees each year). This year, I won a centerpiece at the gala and a lovely bowl donated by another conference-goer. Books, subscriptions, gadgets and gift certificates usually are up for grabs as well.

8. Getting the 23 Things Done: AIIP/SLA member Deb Hunt led a session on this initiative to encourage us to experiment with various Web 2.0 tools. The 23 Things program was originally created by a public librarian in North Carolina and was adopted by the Special Libraries Association (SLA) for its members. New tools mentioned include Trackle, BackType and Addictomatic.

7. Member Introductions: A tradition at the conference is to line up all the members and give each 30 seconds at the microphone to give an elevator speech. It’s a good exercise to distill what you offer as an info pro into a short, snappy intro. This part of the conference is the perfect way to meet all the other attendees. The introductions provide a jumping off point for networking later in the conference.

6. Good Grub: The food this year was phenomenal, especially the last lunch, which provided a taste of Vancouver, Washington’s regional fare: salmon, hazelnuts and apple pie. Yum! I also thoroughly enjoyed the dessert at Saturday night’s gala (which involved copious amounts of chocolate sauce).

5. Roundtable Discussions: Conference attendees break up into smaller groups to discuss topics of interest. This year, conference speakers and others were invited to host roundtables about hot topics that generated a lot of buzz over the course of the conference. I attended an excellent discussion on pricing by AIIP member Susan Berkman.

4. Volunteering: This is the second year in a row that I served as PR and materials coordinator for the conference. I worked with a stellar group of fellow AIIP members on the past two conferences and gained lots of experience. Volunteering had the added benefit of giving me more visibility among AIIP members.

3. Learning: The conference featured sessions on everything from protecting your business to web site design. The topics selected for the invited talks are of interest to anyone who runs a business. My mind is spinning from all the new techniques and strategies I learned over the past few days.

2. Tips Sessions: In a format similar to the roundtables, we had the opportunity to sit in small groups for 30-minute sessions on a variety of topics. I attended “How NOT to Market Yourself on the Web” by Mary Ellen Bates, “From ‘To-Do’ to Done” by Char Kinder and “Business Etiquette” by Ulla de Stricker. I learned a lot from them in just 90 minutes!

1. Other AIIP Members: My favorite part of the conference is meeting the other members and making connections. This group is so diverse and talented. Members offer expertise on marketing, accounting, research techniques and more. The specialties of the group cover every topic and industry imaginable. I made a lot of new friends and potential partners this year, including two genealogists!

But wait, there’s more! I had to arrive late to the conference this year due to work and so I missed some other conference features that are worth mentioning. Before each conference several AIIP members offer pre-conference workshops on a variety of topics. These are intense half-day or full-day workshops and an excellent learning opportunity. In a similar vein, many of the conference vendors provide free training sessions — these are great opportunities to get insider tips on various products and services. There is a special session for first-time conference attendees where they get to practice their elevator speeches and learn tips for getting the most out of the conference. Each class of first-timers bond and have even started holding reunions at subsequent conferences.

AIIP member Mary Ellen Bates suggests setting aside $30 a week in a savings account over the course of the year. That’s enough to cover travel, hotel and registration for the next conference for most interested attendees. I highly recommend the investment!