Too often, it seems, many of us attend Muslim conventions with little to no advance preparation. This obviously affects how much we benefit from the information and contacts we gain from them.
We may drift from session to session, catching part of a lecture here, part of a workshop there, flitting through the bazaar, chatting here and there with friends, but this method does little to really enhance our knowledge and experience at the convention.
Planning in advance is not something for super-organized individuals. Anyone can do it. Below are seven tips on how you can maximize your trip to any Muslim convention.
1. Plan a Budget
Budget planning in advance can help you decide how you’re getting to the conference, where you will stay and if you’ll have enough for extras (like the Bazaar). Some budget questions you should answer are:
- How much will it cost to fly down there?
- Would you rather rent a van with a group of others and drive down? If so, how much is it to rent and for how long can you rent?
- How much is registration at the conference?
- Will you eat using the conference’s meal plan or at nearby restaurants? How much will you need for this?
- Where will you stay and how much will this cost? Is it cheaper to stay at the convention site, or do you have a friend or relative living nearby with whom you can “crash” during the conference? Do you have easy access to the convention site if you stay elsewhere?
- Do you plan on buying goodies like books, Hijabs, Jilbabs, tapes, carpets, etc. at the conference? If so, how much do you think it will cost, and how much are you willing to spend?
- If you are going alone, do you want to bring back a gift for your parents, spouse and/or kids? How much do you want to spend?
2. Plan Your Route
The benefit of this is that you can take the shortest, easiest and least tiring way of getting to the conference, instead of taking connecting flight to connecting flight after two hour stay, etc. The sooner you book, the better opportunity to get the easiest way to get there.
3. Pack at the latest three days in advance
Even go so far as putting the suitcase at the door, so if, for whatever reason you’re running late, all you have to do is grab your suitcase and your on your way to the airport.
A note on packing: most labor day conferences are three days-not three weeks. You don’t need that many clothes and books for instance while you are there. And if you want to buy things at the conference, you need to make space for that in your suitcase(s) as well.
4. Get special school supplies for the convention
Don’t rely on the slim but attractive file folder you’ll probably get at the conference.
It’s school supply season, so buy a special binder or notebook for the convention and some new pens/pencils. This will give you the scholastic mind set needed to pay attention and take notes at the conference lectures and sessions, and you can even keep a travel journal in this, making it a souvenir of the convention.
5. Plan which sessions you want to attend in advance
Some conventions have their schedules for the event online, giving you ample opportunity to decide which sessions you would like to attend.
Print out a copy and circle the ones you want to attend.
Or make your own schedule of those sessions you plan to attend.
But remember, some activities may be canceled or times and rooms may change, so be flexible. Perhaps you can select two sessions, one being your first choice, the second being the one you fall back on if the first is canceled.
6. Call or e-mail old friends who may be going
This is a much better way of meeting up with others at a conference instead of in the middle of a hallway, where you might lose each other in the sea of other convention goers.
You can plan times and places to meet at the conference. Or you can share or e-mail your schedule, so if you do lose each other, they can possibly find you at a session or lecture you’ll be attending.
7. Suggest an article about the convention for your local paper
Writing an article about the conference is an ideal way to get Islam and Muslims some publicity and do some Dawah. Find out how many other Muslims are going from your city. The more the better, since the story will be more localized.
As well, writing about the conference can subconsciously force you to pay more attention during lectures and workshops, instead of passing notes to your long-lost Muslim brother or sister, or mentally checking out during a session after meals, for instance.
Find out if there is a specific activity at the conference which could be of relevance to your hometown. Maybe a Muslim who used to live in the city and has moved on to success in his or her professional sphere. Or a problem specific to your local community which will be discussed (i.e. elder abuse, domestic violence, etc.).
Put that fancy notebook to good use!