Conference choices: selecting a session

The LDSPMA conference is coming, dear reader. Other conferences are coming too (my wife has two education conferences between now and LDSPMA…) So, I’ve been thinking about conferences.

Many conferences (writing and other flavors) have a track system that organizes content for a particular group or interest group. It can be helpful. But… It can be really tempting to go out of your track and attend other sessions? Is that ok? Should we do it?

The answer is a solid, ‘it depends’.

Choosing a track

If you’re asked to choose a track, you’re being asked to define yourself. What kind of writer/teacher/professional/artist/enthusiast are you? Your track will be set up with sessions focused toward your group and the interests of that group. You’re identifying yourself as interested in a certain aspect of the conference content and helping the organizers to figure out the logistics of content delivery for all attendees.

Stay in your lane?

I’ve announced I’m interested in X content, so I’m obligated to stick with that right? It depends on the rules of the event. Often, it’s not a hard and fast rule, but there are reasons to ‘stay in your lane’.

You’ve already told them what kind of content you’re interested in. If people behind the conference are doing their jobs, they’ve made sure your track has relevant stuff for your interests and made those sessions, panels, and presentations relatively convenient to get to. You may be able to stick to one area of a building rather than having to scramble allover and you should have options that fit your interests for all sessions.

There are benefits to sticking with your track. It should make things easy for you. But sometimes outside content is really appealing. You might pay a price in terms of convenience and ‘risk of fit’ (the stuff in other tracks might not fit you as well). But that content could fill a gap and really be worth your time.

Going cross-country…

In conferences like LDSPMA, content is presented in clearly defined tracks. There’s a track for fiction writers. One for non-fiction writers. Another for editors. One for marketers. A graphics track. And, new this year, a music track. Staying in your track should deliver content relevant to your main interest area.

But, very few of us wear a single hat. Almost none of us are monomaniacs hyper focused on a particular area. That means tracks in other areas might be interesting. (One time, the Freudians at a psychology conference did a film festival… Yeah, those sessions were hard to get into…)

There is good reason to look at sessions outside your track. Maybe you’re mostly a fiction writer but want to write non-fiction (or a movie script) the sessions that can help you are often out of your track. Going ‘cross country’ to other sessions can help you explore interests and shore up places where you feel your skills are weak.

It’s fair ball. A conference track is kind of like a college major. It’s set up to contain content and help you progress in a particular direction. but, it’s not the be all and end all of your experience. You’re free to explore sessions outside your track (I encourage you to explore sessions outside your track). Don’t be random about it. Put in some thought. Attend the sessions that will best help you toward your goals.

And don’t forget, a big part of conventions is about networking. If you’re looking for someone in a particular area, adventure over to that track and “find ‘em where they live.”

That’s it for this one, dear reader. Remember, it’s your life and your choice. I’ll see you next post.


Published by Farangian

I'm a writer (fiction and non fiction) with a Masters in Psychology. I am also a sculptor, metal smith, lapidary, tutor/trainer, and eternal student. The name Farangian comes from the name of a fantasy world I created called Farangia. That name comes from Farang with is a term that the Thai use for westerners.

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