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Katie's Top 10 Tips for Conference Prep

Can you believe it? We’re only four days away from the start of the 22nd Annual Administrative Professionals Conference! If you’re anything like me (and I’m guessing you are – organized and a planner!), you’re starting to prep for your trip to Washington, DC.

Part of my job is attending events, and over time I’ve created my own top 10 list for conference preparation. I thought you all might enjoy it, so here it is!

1. Create a packing list

I love checking things off a list so I have a packing list for every trip so I don’t forget anything. The last thing you want is to get to the airport without your driver’s license or passport, or forget business cards for networking at the event. A good packing list will help you plan that all out. As part of your packing list it’s helpful to print out the weather for the destination location (in this case Washington, DC). 

Don’t forget to have backup copies of your travel itinerary as well as key contact numbers such as the hotel for your carry-on. 

2. Determine how you’re going to take notes – paper or electronic

We all have a favorite way of taking notes, so decide ahead of time what will work for you – paper or electronic. If you’re taking paper notes, don’t forget extra pens or pencils. If you’re taking electronic notes set that up ahead of time. For instance, in OneNote I set up pages for each day of the conference ahead of time so I’m ready to go when I get there. 


3. Plan out your sessions, and know those plans might change

This is a great activity for the airplane. Go through the APC Preview and determine what sessions you want to attend. This will help you plan your days when you get to Washington, DC. Get out of your comfort zone and try something new – this is your time for training! If you’re not a techie but your boss wants you to learn Sharepoint, check out the tracks in the “Ignite your Tech Power” track. If you’ve always wanted training on financial management, now’s your time to learn them!

4. Determine what exhibitors you “must see” before leaving the Conference

I feel like this is something that we often overlook until we’re onsite, but it’s smart to think about this ahead of time. Time goes quickly at the conference so do this prep ahead of time. Thinking about your corporate gifting program for 2015? Now’s the time to scope out some new ideas.

5. Don’t forget your chargers!

I’ve got packed my chargers for my: 
Google Glass 
Samsung phone

I know not everyone is as heavily techie as me, but don’t forget chargers for any electronic device you’re bringing.

6. Bring business cards

Yes, this happened to me. I went to a large industry conference a few years ago and the one thing I forgot was business cards. Yikes. Here’s your reminder – pack those business cards.

7. Dress for comfort with a scarf and comfortable shoes

Conference rooms at any location are sometimes tricky when it comes to A/C. I’m typically too cold, so I make it a habit to always bring a packable scarf that I can pull out of my bag and pop on in a conference session if I get chilly.

And if you forget everything else (which I hope you don’t!) don’t forget comfortable shoes. I have a few shoes that I have deemed my “tradeshow/conference shoes” (my husband even calls them that) which are ultra-comfortable even after a long day of sitting, standing, walking, and networking.

8. Follow social media

I’ll be tweeting, blogging and Instagramming the conference, so if you want to follow along get those hashtag follows set up ahead of time: #apc14nationalharbor #apc14DC. And follow this blog as I'll be doing daily recaps for you here. 

9. Prepare to have fun!

There are plenty of great opportunities at the Administrative Professionals Conference for networking and socializing. From the welcome reception on Sunday night to the Tuesday evening party…and more!

10. See the town

Washington, DC is a fantastic city, and if you can, get out and see it! There’s plenty to do in the National Harbor area including seeing one of my favorite sculptures, The Awakening, which is within walking distance of the Gaylord.

Am I missing anything on the packing and prep list? Let me know! Add your thoughts in the comments below. I look forward to seeing everyone in just a few days!



Qualtrics Insights Summit Day 1: Celebrate Good Times

Want to be treated like a rockstar (and see some real rockstars)? Become a Qualtrics customer. 

The first day of the inaugural Qualtrics Insights Summit started was energizing, and full of learning and networking. 

The stage is set...
CEO Ryan Smith kicked off the day with an energizing, heartfelt and future-focused keynote bringing the audience on the journey of the company genesis story starting in not a garage but a basement, Smith's parents' basement. With a laser-focus on making data collection faster and easier for researchers, Smith has taken the company from the basement to the Summit. Qualtrics is in hypergrowth mode, quadrupling their engineering team to keep up with new customers and demand. With 5000+ corporate users, a million enterprise users, and "at least a thousand in this room, we're a long way from that basement when no-one would listen to us" said Smith. He also teased some new product updates to be announced tomorrow.

And just like Google, Qualtrics is fast on it's way to becoming a verb. Overheard at a business school recently (most of the top business schools are customers): if the answer needs to be sought out through customer feedback, "just Qualtrics it." 

Next up was Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, the founder of The Center for Advanced Hindsight and the author of New York Times bestseller Predictably Irrational. Ariely kept the energy going with stories ranging from pain testing (from burn units to vises to leg waxing) to manipulating behavior to combat obesity...and redesigning men's urinals (yep, you read that right). 

The theme throughout was honing in on those forces that shape our decisions or in some cases indecision. A key insight? When faced with a big decision, people can freeze...thus by default leaving the decision up to the person who designed the form (in his example an organ donation form). Ariely reminded us all that environment and details matter, and there are benefits to obsessively figuring out those barriers to good behavior.

Qualtrics has an impressive customer roster, and several were on stage this morning in a customer showcase: Lisa Wolfe from DeVry Education Group, Charan Nagaraj from Hewlett Packard, Richard Shakarchi from E*TRADE and Rebecca Crotts from eBay. 

Wolfe shared how DeVry has used Qualtrics' Research Suite to streamline their market research and build a full Voice of Customer platform.   Nagaraj shared his goal at HP, to "turn terabytes of data to byte-sized insights!"  He emphasized that business intelligence and measurement cannot be an afterthought and need to be considered during research design, and shared how HP has shifted to much more open-ended feedback via text boxes. We heard how Shakarchi was able to get a seat at the executive table through research and insights, and how Crotts and eBay are honing in on what drives employee satisfaction at eBay - a strong sense of the company's purpose.

After a break for lunch we headed into a variety of breakout sessions to take us through the afternoon. Sessions ranged in topic type from software-specific learning in sessions like "Advanced Survey Creation Recipes for the Research Suite Master Chef" and "Reporting Basics" to more industry-wide topics like "Voice of the Customer Best Practices and Key Trends" with Bruce Temkin and "The Mobile Survey Revolution."

What's was on deck for the evening? Nothing less than what the hashtag says: #partylikeaQstar! 

After dinner, the night kicked off with a concert by Boyz II Men, followed by Third Eye Blind rocking the house. This was definitely not your average conference entertainment! 

Boyz II Men and Third Eye Blind
Stay tuned for more tweets tomorrow, and a day two wrap-up from the Summit. 



Maine Ideas Worth Spreading - A Recap of TEDxDirigo 2013

"TED talks"

Just hearing that conjures up big names (think Sheryl Sandberg extolling women to lean in or Bill Gates releasing mosquitoes into the crowd), and big ideas (robots, exoskeletons, big data, vulnerability). 

Many of us have heard of TED talks, and it's likely that we're some of the millions that have watched TED talks - especially those that have gone viral on social media. The statistics are staggering. As of 11/13/13, TED talks have been watched one billion times worldwide

I've been a superfan of TED ever since the conference talks started to be released online back in 2006, and harbor a not-so-secret desire to attend the annual Long Beach conference. 

Here's a little background: TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is an annual conference in Long Beach, California, curated by Chris Anderson. Just like TED's mission of "ideas worth spreading" the TED brand has spread as well to encompass additional conferences including TEDGlobal,, TEDWomen, TEDMED, the TED Prize, TED Fellows, and the independently organized TEDx events. 

The TEDx events are "designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level" and follow the same structure of talks up to 18 minutes on a variety of topics, presented in engaging and innovative ways. 

We're incredibly lucky in Maine that we have a TEDx event in our own backyard! TEDxDirigo started up in 2010 to "celebrate innovation and creativity in Maine and to be a catalyst for positive change." 

I was thrilled this year to be invited to attend the fourth iteration of TEDxDirigo on November 3rd in Brunswick.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I'm no longer a "TED virgin" (yes, that phrase actually does exist). 

This year's TED event was held at the Cabot Mill in Brunswick in a space that was part art gallery, part restaurant (Frontier - yum!). The program went from approximately 9 to 5 and was staggered in three groups of around 6 speakers.  Yes, that's a lot of speakers and a lot of topics...and it was a lot to take in on a Sunday! If you attend a TED conference, be prepared to say "my brain is completely full" by the end of it. 

The theme was "Generate" and everything from the speakers' themes to the application process was along the lines of: "What do you generate and bring into the world/to life?"

Reminders of the Generate theme were abundant

Some of my favorite talks included: 

  • Alicia Eggert who creates amazing kinetic art that makes you ponder the existence of time, your place in the world, and makes you ponder how she engineers her artwork.
  • Yona Belfort, a product designer and founder of Vital Innovation, who asked us to think hard about the value of everyday items and shed interesting light on the differences between hoarders and minimalists.
  • John Coleman, the founder of The VIA Agency, who shared his vision for a more positive world...and steps as to how we can all get there.
  • Voot Yin, a geneticist at Mount Desert Island Biological Lab, whose talk on organ regeneration had attendees exclaiming aloud "how cool" and "imagine the implications." The video that accompanied his talk needs to be seen to be believed! (see below for Livestream link)
  • Rafael Grossmann, a medical doctor whose specific interests lie at the intersection of technology and healthcare.  He's was among the first Google Glass Explorers, and the first doctor to ever use Google Glass during live surgery.  Yes, Dr. Grossmann was wearing Glass during his talk, and yes, his talk was amazingly cool and had us all buzzing about the future of medicine. 
There were many more fantastic speakers, artists, and even aerial dancers!

But I want to focus on my very favorite talk of the day came from Mohammed Nur, a high school student (!), a Seeds of Peace ambassador (officially called Seeds) and a NAACP King Fellow. Mohammed's talk about being made to feel "different" and "foreign" in the state where he was born, how to generating change, and how to generate peace had everyone on their feet. Someone give this kid a national stage...and soon.

In between the talks were networking breaks and a delicious (vegetarian!) lunch, and with an attendee roster of community leaders, influencers and change-makers, the networking opportunities were fantastic! 

My contribution to the "I generate..." chalk wall

I left the event energized, exhausted, and inspired...and yes, with a new custom TEDxDirigo SeaBag in tow. 

My badge, and the very cool custom SeaBag created for TEDxDirigo 

I definitely hope to get an invite next year, and yes, my aspirations include speaking at TED as well as attending some of the other TED conferences around the country. Good stuff, brain expanding stuff, inspiring stuff!

Interested? All talks from TEDxDirigo: Generate were live streamed and the archived stream can be found here