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I've managed to get some sponsored places at conferences (CoFHE Conference 2009, LILAC Conference 2010) and been fortunate enough to receive funding to support attendance at events so I thought I'd share some tips:
- Look out for funding opportunities from different sources (professional organisations, special interest groups, suppliers, organisers), and if you are interested and eligible, apply. Get support from your employer or mentors (formal and informal) to read through your application and add their support if needed. The applications can be time consuming, but they are so worth it if you get to attend events you wouldn't otherwise be able to.
- Be willing to put time and effort into sourcing funding and making arrangements - it might take quite a few attempts and could mean leaving planning your schedule to the last minute, but if you really want to go it will be worth it!
- Don't be disheartened by unsuccessful funding applications - there is often really strong competition and a limited budget so don't look at it as a major failure. If appropriate, see if you can get feedback on why you were unsuccessful this time and use it as a learning experience.
- Be prepared to pay for some or all the costs yourself if you are able to - sometimes you're not able to do so due to the high costs involved, but I always try to set aside some money for event costs or travel costs to help towards that perfect event that I'm bound to find out about. That way you can also sometimes book cheap deals and see if you can recuperate some of the expense later with funding options.
- Offer to help out in return for a free/reduced rate - sometimes there might be the opportunity to help the organisers out, for example helping set up, supporting registration, or tweeting/blogging/photographing the event. I've offered to tweet at two events where this wasn't advertised but my offer was accepted in exchange for a free place meaning I only had to cover my travel costs. Without this I wouldn't have been able to attend at all. Some conferences offer free places to speakers too (though this isn't always the case).
- Be willing to use up some of your free time - I imagine most people doing the CPD23 programme will be doing some, if not all, of it in their free time. Some employers are able to allow you to attend events during work time, but sometimes it's likely that you'll have to use up some annual leave, or your evenings/weekends. It's worth it though I think.
- If the event is located somewhere you haven't visited before, try to schedule time to visit some local attractions. I haven't managed to do this much in the past, and always really regret not making time to explore the area.
- Make the most of the event if you are offered sponsorship. Get involved in everything you can - attend sessions and social events, network with new people and strengthen existing connections, share what you learn with others, write up blog posts or reports afterwards.
I've been very fortunate so far, and I hope I can continue to attend events - I find them one of the most valuable forms of professional development. I have applied for the Emerging Leaders program in ALA which requires attendance ALA Midwinter and ALA Annual next year, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for that. I'd also love to attend the IFLA conference at some point, and definitely want to attend CILIP's Umbrella conference.
Some upcoming events I am attending this year include Library Camp UK, LIS DREaM workshop, Internet Librarian International (speaking), and Online Information 2011 (tweeting).