Jane Eva Baxter and Gordon F. M. Rakita
We have compiled suggestions made by established professionals in academia and cultural resource management as well as advanced graduate students on how to make the annual meeting a fun and rewarding experience. There are preparations you can make before the meetings, tips for behavior while at the meeting, and critical avenues for a post-meeting follow-up that will enhance both your professionalism and your meeting experience. While some suggestions may seem obvious or superfluous, your appearance and preparedness have much to do with the reception you will receive, and, consequently, the quality of your experience!
Archaeologists by and large are a flamboyant, rambunctious, and eccentric lot, and there is no reason why students cannot or should not share those traits. However, you are more likely to be treated as a colleague if you behave like one. Most professionals enjoy and seek contact with students who present themselves in a mature, responsible manner. They realize that someday you may be reviewing their article, book, or grant proposal, or that you may hold the answer to an interesting problem, or have a fresh perspective on a troublesome theoretical issue. Your appropriate behavior will inspire confidence in your professional abilities.
Although tenured faculty and reputable professionals have the luxury of dressing however they please, less well-established scholars should present a more polished image. Several professionals we surveyed commented unfavorably on students wearing "field clothes" or jeans and T-shirts where more "formal" attire would have been appropriate. Long days do demand comfortable attire, but select clothing appropriate to each professional venue.
Take pride in yourself and your work. Invest time in polishing your papers and posters for both content and style. Consult "Presenting--What an Experience" [Eden Welker, SAA Bulletin 15(1)], and "Getting Graphic: Making an Effective Poster" (Jane Baxter, SAA Bulletin 14(5)] for helpful presentation tips. Have copies of your paper available at the meeting, as well as business cards to hand out when you make a request for a paper or reference. Stores such as Kinko's and Office Depot make business cards inexpensively and probably have your university's logo in their computer. Copies of your curriculum vitae (CV) are also useful, even if you are not currently in the job market. Carry a briefcase or folder to hold your notebook, pens, paper copies, business cards, CVs, meeting program, and abstracts.
SAA distributes a preliminary program, outlining sessions, events, meetings, and receptions. Use it to schedule your time in advance. Sign up early for workshops and roundtable luncheons. Identify the days and times of sessions of potential interest and receptions you want to attend. Plan time for local excursions, either those organized by SAA or on your own. Most important, make time for yourself--having some "down time" is essential!
Once you schedule your "busy" time, identify your expected free time to arrange personal meetings. Professionals expressed a universal willingness to make time for students and suggested that students should make arrangements for their in-depth conversations with potential mentors ahead of time. Many faculty reported having all of their meal times booked well in advance--so act early.
Your pre-meeting email or phone call should convey more than "I am interested in your work." Let the person know what you are doing, specific aspects of their research that are relevant, and what you intend to discuss at the meeting. Time is a precious commodity for everyone at the annual meeting, so be sure to make your requests for time meaningful and appropriate.
Once you have the final program and abstracts, solidify your schedule and make sure it works. Where do you need to be when? Make note of your free times so you can readily suggest a meeting time without fumbling through programs to figure out whether you're coming or going!
Make it a priority to "case the joint" on arrival; familiarize yourself with the layout. Where are the events you are attending being held? Where are the rooms in relation to one another, and how long will it take to get from one to another? Find the message center, the exhibit hall, and centrally located restaurants and bars. Have a convenient location in mind when you set up a meeting!
Finally, be an active participant. Present your work, attend workshops, sign up for roundtable luncheons, and go to different receptions. If you have some free time, walk the exhibit halls, go see the poster sessions, or have a drink at the central bar. Be visible and create networking opportunities!
When you arrange a meeting, choose an appropriate location and time. Presenters prefer to have the hours before and after a presentation free for preparation and/or celebration. Grabbing someone in the hallway or interfering with a grad school reunion at the bar do not constitute appropriate times to discuss state formation or foraging theories. Identify a time when all parties would be unencumbered by commitments and distractions, and agree upon a suitable location. The availability of liquid refreshments is always appealing, but the noisiest bar in the hotel is not a good choice. Suggest as an alternative a quiet restaurant, since everyone has to eat. Limit your intake of libations so as not to impair your ability to communicate effectively. Save the heavy celebrating for a more informal event.
Take advantage of connections you have already made to ease introductions to others. Faculty advisors, committee members, or fellow students can facilitate introductions and conversations. Confirm plans with your pre-meeting contacts, and follow up on any invitations to "introduce yourself" at the meeting. SAA receptions are a great place for such informal chats and introductions, as people are there to socialize and mingle.
Finally, what about the logistics of meeting a particular someone in that sea of faces and name tags? Take advantage of the hotel operator and voice mail system, or of the SAA message center, where you can leave and receive brief messages, or obtain participants' registration information. While this is more passive than hunting the hallways, it allows for greater participation in the meetings while still making arrangements and contacts.
Jane Eva Baxter is a graduate student at the University of Michigan. Gordon F. M. Rakita is a graduate student at the University of New Mexico. Both are members of the Student Affairs Committee.