First-timers Tip Sheet

We are delighted that you will be joining us for your first NAI National Conference. Below are some tips and tricks to make the conference go smoothly and to give you some inspiration on what not to miss!

What Should I bring?

You’ll be receiving your name badge at registration but there are some other things you should consider having handy while you are attending the conference.

  • Bag to carry around any handouts or swag your pick up
  • Business cards (if you have them) – great for when you are making quick connections with people and want to give them your important info
  • Your smart phone – our Program Guide has gone digital this year! Download the conference app ahead of time (search for Whova in your app store and then type in NAI 2022 to find the conference) so you can start looking through the sessions and events and planning out your agenda. The app allows you to add sessions and events to your own personal agenda which will make it easier as you move from session to session
  • Notebook/Tablet – You will need a place if you want to take notes or get someone’s contact info for later!
  • Chargers – Don’t forget your phone and device chargers
  • Band/Concert shirt-- the Welcome Hang Out is at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so bring your favorite band or concert shirt to start the conference out fashionably
  • Snacks – NAI is providing lunch on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday but you’ll want to have snacks in between. You can either pack them in your luggage or stop on the way to the hotel. Pick things that are easy to pack and will keep you fueled up for the day: granola bars, fruit, energy bars, etc.
  • Reusable water bottle - A water bottle is great so that you don’t dehydrate. Forget one at home?  We have some for sale in our NAI Store near registration!
  • Comfortable shoes – You’re going to be walking a lot so bring shoes you’ll be comfortable in. Though it’s tempting to bring a pair of new shiny shoes, they might make your day too uncomfortable and cause blisters as you walk, so stick with your favorite stand-bys.
  • Comfortable clothes – Attire is business casual. Feel free to be comfortable in slacks, polo shirts, sweaters, jeans, blazers, blouses, and, most importantly, comfortable shoes. We do recommend you dress in layers as temperatures in meeting rooms can vary. You’ll see some presenters in business attire or uniforms, and if you are attending the Awards Banquet the dress is business attire or cocktail. Be sure to pack weather-appropriate clothing for any special evening events or educational offsites.

Quick Tips

The conference schedule is very full and interesting activities will overlap. It’s okay not to attend everything. The important thing is to avoid burnout by not over-scheduling yourself.

  • Follow the conference on the Whova app!
  • Go to registration shortly after you arrive at the hotel to get your nametag. Lines can be long so don’t wait until the last minute before a session!
  • Make sure to keep your nametag safe!  It is how you will get in and out of different sessions and events. It includes any additional tickets you have purchased so make sure you take a look when you pick it up at registration.
  • Walk around the hotel the night before or early in the conference. It is useful to remember how close the nearest coffee/pharmacy/copy shop/restaurant are when you’re in a rush during the conference. This is also a great way to prepare to recommend quick places for spontaneous meetups!
  • If you need caffeine to get yourself going in the morning, try to scope out java joints when you arrive and plot for alternatives.
  • Alcoholic drinks will be available at certain events. They will be cash bars, so plan accordingly if you plan to partake.
  • If you’re looking for a conversation starter, check out the ribbons hanging from a person’s name tag. The ribbons will denote a person’s role (speaker, Fellow, first-timer, board member, etc.)
  • Pay attention to pronoun buttons.
  • Attend the First-Timer's meetup on Tuesday, November 29th!

Sessions and Events

First-timers Meeting - Tuesday, November 29th at 5:00 pm
Meet newcomers and NAI leaders, and learn how to make the most of your NAI National Conference experience. 

Plenary Sessions 
Welcome and Keynote Presentations, Wednesday, November 30th at 8:30 am
Closing Keynote, Friday December 2nd at 2:40 pm
These sessions are when everyone in attendance comes together for special sessions given by speakers who are considered experienced in the topic. These are a great way to hear about important topics in our field.

Conference Sessions 
Picking sessions can be daunting. You might consider things like, the session relates directly to something you are working on, you are dealing with a particular challenge at work and there is a related session, or one of the presenters is someone you look up to or see as a mentor in the field when you are determining which session you should attend. After picking those sessions, then you can find the “fun” ones.  What grabs your attention or makes you curious? You never know what you might learn in a session that has nothing to do with your site or even your type of interpretation.

Attending a session with multiple presenters but are only interested in the first speaker? Plan ahead and sit toward the back of the room so you can exit gracefully. Feel free to duck out of sessions early. 

It’s okay to skip a session block if the topics to be presented aren’t of interest to you. This is a great time to take a break, visit the NAI store and yard sale, schedule one-on-one networking, or do some sightseeing.

NAI Community Meetings 
Regions: Wednesday, November 30th at 4:30 pm
Sections: Thursday, December 1st at 3:30 pm
All conference registrants are welcome to attend any of our NAI Community (section or region meetings). NAI’s membership is divided into two categories-- sections (which describe interpreters with similar affinities such as living history or interpretive naturalists) or regions (which correspond to geographic locations in the US). They are a great way to learn about the many different opportunities in NAI and to meet other professionals who share your interests or work in institutions in which you are interested. They also can be a great place to network if you currently live in one part of the country but want to relocate.

Networking Tips

Conference connections can turn into excellent contacts when you begin your next job search. The conference includes several built-in networking opportunities, including:

  • First-timers Meeting - Tuesday, November 29th at 5:00 pm
  • Welcome Reception - Tuesday, November 29th at 6:30 pm
  • Networking Lunches on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday - check the Whova app!

These times are great opportunities to meet new people while remaining generally anonymous. Here are some tips to make your networking more comfortable and effective.

If you are in a degree program, it’s a good idea to talk beforehand with your professors and your friends in the program to see who is going to the conference. Be sure to connect with your professors and peers while you are there, as they can introduce you to their colleagues. If you are out of school, try to find others going to the conference who might be able to introduce you to other archivists. But resist the urge to remain glued to your friends the entire week. Many professionals would like to reach out to new conference goers, but can find approaching a whole group intimidating. (Yes, networking fears can work both ways!)

If you happen to be in a group in which you know a number of people who may not know each other, take a minute to make sure everyone is introduced. Simply sharing a name and institution can often start conversations. This is helpful for those of us who struggle to start or carry conversations. As the connector, you will be known by more people and you get to stand in on the conversations and add points when you feel comfortable.

As you are standing in line at the Networking Lunches, try striking up a conversation with the person in front of you by saying something as simple as “How are you enjoying the conference?” or “What session did you just come from?” These can be quick conversations, or they may open up the possibility for a longer one after you’ve both gotten your food.

Even if you don’t want anything to eat, get a drink so you have something to hold in your hand. It’s often easier to approach people or stand by yourself if you have something to do to cover those conversational pauses, like taking a sip of soda, etc.

Don’t forget your business cards! Figuring out when in the conversation to offer your business card can be tricky. One easy way is to try to steer the conversation toward a discussion of the other person’s current projects.Once you’ve heard about a soon-to-be-released -program new acquisition, for example, you can say something like, “That’s really interesting. I would love to know how it turns out. Do you have a business card with you so I can follow up on the project?” This may seem forced, but I have used it many times and people usually are flattered that you care enough about their work to follow up. This exchange can be easier if you approach presenters after a session. You’ve heard about the project and can ask a question or make a comment one-on-one, rather than in front of the bigger audience. Then, ask for their card. If you have a minute, make a note on the back of the card to remind yourself how you met them. In the whirlwind of the conference, this is a good way to make sure you keep your contacts straight. You can bookmark people in your Whova app if you don't have a business card. Then you can refer back to their contact info after the conference is over.

If going up to strangers seems too daunting, try to participate in a discussion during an NAI section meeting or ask a question at the end of a session. You will begin to get your face and name out in the community, and that can be helpful down the road.

Once you return home, take a look on LinkedIn or Twitter for the people you met. If you connect in the days immediately following the conference, they will probably still remember you and accept your invitation to connect.

No matter what venue you choose for networking, remember that you cannot meet everyone who goes to the NAI conference. Some seasoned professionals treat conferences like reunions and don’t stray far from the colleagues whom they see only once a year. But many folks love meeting newer NAI members. If there is someone whose ideas interest you, do introduce yourself and discuss their ideas—or yours! NAI is still small enough that you can count on seeing these folks at receptions and in the halls. It’s okay if you meet just a few new people each year and then go back to your friends or your hotel room to recharge. What’s important is to make the effort where you can.


NAI 2022 Host Hotel & Venue

Hilton Cleveland Downtown
100 Lakeside Ave E (map)
Cleveland, OH 44114
216-413-5000