Re: To Conference or Not
From: Craig Ragland (
Date: Thu, 20 Jan 2011 14:41:14 -0800 (PST)

The 2011 conference team just finished meeting and this email was held up at
the meeting with enthusiasm. Those of us who were also on the 2010
Conference team were just beaming about your words (at least their voices
were glowing).

It would be great if others in greater Washington, DC area could help us
out-of-towners get more out of our visit as we approach the upcoming June,
2011 conference.

Warm regards,

Craig Ragland
Coho/US Exec Dir

On Wed, Jan 19, 2011 at 12:33 PM, Sharon Villines <sharon [at]
> wrote:

> On conferences: When I retired from teaching I vowed never to attend
> another conference. They are chaotic, crowded, complicated, and frustrating.
> No matter how well run they are, and the Coho conference last year was VERY
> well run, there are still glitches and the maps are never clear enough to
> avoid wandering around.
> Tips for making conferences more palatable:
> Don't expect yourself to go to all sessions. Pick and choose. Even if you
> go to half the sessions you will still learn more than if you hadn't gone to
> the conference at all. And there are always interesting people sitting
> around outside the sessions that you can talk to, or just take a walk. Or a
> nap.
> Learn your limits — two days of rooms full of people maybe all you can
> absorb. Don't be afraid to attend your first conference for only 2 days, or
> if you are close by, a day.
> If you are an extrovert, find or take along a buddy. Start conversations
> with strangers. "Hi, I'm ___ from ___. Do you live in cohousing?" Usually
> that is enough to get things going. Remember to write down people's names.
> I'm still trying to remember the names of people I thought I would never
> forget from last year. I can only hope I run into them again.
> Take along the food you really want or procure it down the street before
> the conference begins. Conferences in hotels are easier but conferences on
> campuses usually have limited options. 5 days of Pepsi for a Diet Coke
> person is agony. If you need carrots, take them. If you like a special soap,
> take it.
> If you don't like a session, leave. If the room is small and it is obvious
> that you are leaving, excuse yourself nicely and apologize about a phone
> call you forgot to make. Or take a book and read — surreptitiously.
> Take along your knitting or football gameboy or whatever you do at home to
> relax. You will feel more at home.
> Ask the conference organizers questions. There are info tables staffed with
> volunteers, but there will also be an office or organizing room where people
> may be more knowledgable. If you don't know whether the banquet will be
> worth your time, ask. Acting dumb can get you a lot of information.
> Scout the city beforehand. The Takoma Village website has a lot of
> information for visitors — check out "Useful Links" to see what you might do
> while there. Walk around the hotel environs and see what is available close
> by. Take a Metro ride just for the hell of it so you will know how to plan a
> trip later in the weekend.
> Google Earth is a program you can download to your computer and tour the
> area where the hotel is and other areas of DC too. Great fun.
> Staying in the host hotel is always easier because there is enough running
> around just going from one session to the next, but don't be afraid to
> economize. Adjacent hotels are often cheaper. I have also found that you can
> sometimes get cheaper rooms in the same hotel by staying on a floor that is
> several floors away from the center of the action. Take food with you. Ask
> if the rooms have refrigerators. A room with a refrigerator in the host
> hotel can be cheaper than one next door without.
> Fresh air is usually at a premium. Go outside and you will feel better.
> Last year's conference was superbly well organized. No amateur production,
> so you don't have to worry about that.
> Sharon
> ----
> Sharon Villines
> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
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