Tips for First-Time Attendees


Contact your advisor, department, student government, or other student associations to find out if they provide travel grants for attending conferences. If so, apply! You may not receive enough to cover the full expense, but every little bit helps.

When booking your flight, depart on Saturday night. A full day of conference sessions takes place ending at 5:30 PM.

Register at the early rate for maximum savings. Register by December 15, 2017, to get the lowest possible rate.

Share a room with friends at one of the conference hotels. A discounted block of rooms has been set aside at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites exclusively for students (a valid student ID will be required at check-in). The Los Angeles Conference Center is the site of conference sessions and events. Other hotels include the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE Hotel and the Millenium Biltmore Hotel. Reserve your room early to secure your top choice. ( 

Figure out which sessions you’d like to attend and who you’d like to meet. Review the full schedule ( in advance to plan your time during the conference. Research the participants and drop them a line prior to the conference and schedule a meeting.

Carry extra business cards. If your institution doesn’t provide them for you, make your own using any word-processing software and business-card stock. Or use one of the many websites that offer low-cost design and printing.

Plan your thirty-second elevator introduction. In other words, be able to summarize who you are and what you do professionally in the time it takes to reach your floor—about thirty seconds.

If you’re coming to the conference on a job search, visit the Career Services for Job Seekers section of the website in advance. This page ( help you navigate Career Services events and provides answers to frequently asked questions. Know what to expect from conference interviewing and how best to prepare for a successful experience!

Consider registering for a Professional Development Workshop. Review the available workshops and register before they reach capacity. If you sign up, remember to pack the required materials!


Post on social media using #CAA2018. If you’re heading to a session of interest or enjoying a particular event, let other people know about it. Track the hashtag on Instagram to see a stream of conference photos.

Charge your laptop, tablet, or smart phone every night, and remember to pack your charger in your bag. You may find available electrical sockets at the hotel.

Dress in layers. The temperatures in conference session rooms can fluctuate, so be ready to change accordingly.

Have healthy snacks and keep a refillable water bottle on hand. Pick up nuts, fruit, a protein bar, or dark chocolate ahead of time and throw them in your conference tote for when you get hungry.

Arrive with plenty of time on the first day to pick up your Conference Program and badge. You can usually expect a line at registration—even for those who paid for the conference in advance—so plan to arrive at least thirty minutes before your first session or event. Even better, you can pick up your materials on Tuesday evening, February 20, from 5:30 to 7:30 PM at the Concourse Foyer in the Los Angeles Convention Center. You should also orient yourself to the hotel and study the floor plans in the program or on the digital app.

Keep track of your badge. Your conference badge allows you admission to all sessions, to the Book and Trade Fair, and to various museums around the city. Do not lose it—a replacement will cost you $50! 

Check meeting times closely. The conference app lists updated times and locations for all sessions, events, workshops, receptions, and exhibitions.

Session-hop. You don’t have to stay for the full length of a session. The speakers for each session are listed in the conference app and in the Conference Program, in chronological order. If you calculate about fifteen minutes a talk, you can estimate when to head to another panel. Remember that sessions are ninety-minutes in length, so plan accordingly. If you play “musical sessions,” grab a seat near a door so you can easily slip in and out.

Allow enough travel time between sessions. There are thirty minutes between sessions. Give yourself enough time to move from session to session—especially since you may have impromptu conversations with folks you meet in the hallways! 

You can use your laptop or smartphone during a session. Typing notes during a talk is okay; so is tweeting. Just be mindful of your neighbors and respectful of the speakers. And don’t forget to silence your phone and share your tweets using #CAA2018.

Ask a question. Chairs usually reserve time at the end of the session for audience questions. Write down your question in advance and make sure it’s related to the discussion. Don’t forget to state your name and your institutional affiliation so that people can remember you. If you’d like to respond to the presentations with your own comments, talk to a speaker afterward and get his or her email.

Introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you. A big part of attending the conference is networking. Before the session begins is a great time to introduce yourself and make a connection!

Visit the Students and Emerging Professionals Lounge. It is a place where you can network and relax, as well as find more information about CAA and the SEPC committee.

Get involved in the profession. Various CAA committees with special interests, such as the Committee on Women in the Arts or the Education Committee, and discipline-specific affiliated societies regularly host their own topical sessions. Attend these talks and introduce yourself to their representatives afterward.

Partner with friends or colleagues to cover sessions happening at the same time. It’s not possible to do everything, so decide in advance who will attend each session and take notes for each other. You could then meet after the sessions, or wait until you get home, to regroup and discuss. 

Don’t spend all your time with your friends. You’re at the conference to network, so leave your comfort zone and set a goal to meet at least two new people every day. Get their business cards and jot down where you met them and what you discussed so you’ll remember later.

Attend the Meet and Greet. First-time conference attendees, those interested in learning more about what the conference has to offer, individuals participating in a Composed Panel, and anyone who has arrived early are invited to attend an informal Meet and Greet on Tuesday evening. Get tips on how to navigate the conference and make the most of a full program. A cash bar will be available. The Meet and Greet will take place on Tuesday, February 20, 6:00–8:00 PM, room 518.

Saturday offers the biggest discounts on art books and supplies. Many Book and Trade Fair vendors offer reduced rates—anywhere from 10 to 50 percent off—on books, art supplies, journals, and other materials on the last day of the fair. Some publishers even allow conference attendees to reserve copies of books in advance of the Saturday sale—ask a booth representative how you can do this.

Some Book and Trade Fair vendors extend their discounts up to a month after the conference. Collect product catalogues and paper order forms from them and make sure to use the proper discount code when ordering later.

Mail your flyers, swag, and books from the Book and Trade Fair to your home address on the last day of the conference if you are traveling by plane. This will prevent your luggage from breaking your airline’s weight limit. Alternatively, bring a larger suitcase with more room or an extra carry-on bag for your purchases.


Follow up with your new contacts. Send an email to those you’ve networked with to follow up on a question or discussion—or just to say “It was a pleasure meeting you.” Connect with your new contacts on social media and extend your professional network.

Complete the post conference survey. About a week after the conference ends, CAA emails a post conference survey to all registrants. Please take a few minutes to let the association know about your experience. CAA carefully reviews survey responses as it plans future conferences and events.

Submit a proposal for a paper or panel for CAA’s 2019 Annual Conference in New York.  During the 2018 conference, think about a proposal for a paper or presentation you’d like to submit or speak with colleagues about a session you’d like to put together. CAA will open the 2019 Call for Proposals for next year’s conference in early March 2018.

If you’d prefer to submit a paper or presentation to a session that has been accepted for the 2019 conference, look for the 2019 Call for Participation in the summer. After reading the session descriptions, find a panel to which you’d like to submit.

Watch the CAA website and CAA News for information about the conference proposal submission process for 2019!

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