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!