|Do not approach|
- Leverage the technology to improve your conference experience. Twitter is a powerful (and for history conferences, under-utilized) tool to extend scholarly discussions and also to meet people.
- Bring a graduate student or two to the conference if you can. Encourage your institution to fund graduate student travel, even if they are not presenting. "As long as grad students keep showing up this organization has a future,” a friend told me.
- Avoid round tables, plenaries, “wither our field” sessions, and other sessions where the presenters are allowed to talk about themselves, because they will talk about nothing else. Some academics see the world as a movie in which they are both the star and narrator. Ugh.
- On a related note, don't try to approach or make eye contact with the senior scholars in your discipline--the silver backs. Though they might be nice enough if you met them anywhere else, at the disciplinary conference they must stay focused on their elaborate rituals--chest-thumping, mating displays, and grooming one another's luxurious academic coats.
- Also to be avoided are panels where all of the presenters are linked by a single institution or all of the presenters are graduate students.
- When in doubt, sit in back near the door so you can skip out to a different session.
- If you don’t know many people at the conference, the breakfasts, luncheons, and banquets are a good if expensive way to meet some. But once you have attended a few years, it is more productive and fun to go out to dinner with your conference friends.
- Dine arounds are good. A dine around is where a set of lists are created according to sub-disciplinary interest--women's history, mining history, advanced footnoting--and folks sign up to go to dinner with the group. If the conference organizers do not set this up you can do it yourself and put the word out through your disciplinary mailing list.
- Stay in the conference hotel if you possibly can. A lot of the best networking happens in the elevator, the book displays, and the conference bar. And by networking I mean drinking.
- Some presses sell their display copies of books at a steep discount on the last day of the conference--thought I don't see this as often as I used to.
- Explore the city! Don't hesitate to blow off the afternoon sessions and rent a bicycle or something. When you are on your deathbed you will not say "If only I had listened to more historians read their papers out loud!"
What about you guys--what are your conference rules of the road?