LM Extras Feb 28, 2022

How to Get the Most from the ALA Annual Conference & Expo

The key to a great conference is good preparation and planning.

ALA’s 2022 Annual Conference and Expo in May 15–18 will provide opportunities to track the latest trends in law firm management, discover new services, and make productive contacts with colleagues old and new. It’s all about education. 

Phillip M. Perry

“Over the years, research has indicated that the number one reason for attending industry events is to learn something new,” says Peter LoCascio, a Salem, Oregon-based event management consultant. “The goal is to engage creatively and share what is learned with other people in the organization.”

The downside, of course, is cost. Traveling anywhere in today’s world involves a serious outlay of cash. How can attendees ensure they get the most bang for the buck invested in air fares, car rentals, hotel rooms and restaurant bills? The answer is to plan ahead. “The best conference follow-through begins before you leave the office,” says LoCascio. “Each attendee must have an answer to the question: ‘How will I maximize the contacts I make with show exhibitors and other individuals I meet?’”

LoCascio segments a successful conference plan into the following steps:

  • Decide on the mission: Specify topics to research at the conference.
  • Coordinate: Apportion conference tasks among attendees.
  • Follow through: Share information learned with colleagues upon returning home.
  • Dialogue: Keep the conversation going with people met at the conference.

Before anything else, attendees should identify the most promising conference activities. “The organization has already posted information on its website about workshops and seminars, presentations, keynote addresses, and so forth,” says LoCascio. “What are the ones most likely to provide information that meets each attendee’s goals?”

LoCascio calls such activity the “intelligence aspect” of the event. The second aspect is the exhibit floor itself. “Once again, attendees can review the preshow program to identify exhibitors they should see,” he says. “The first group would be current [business partners] . How can ongoing relationships be strengthened? The second group would be new exhibitors. What products and services does the firm want to consider using?”

The conference benefits don’t stop once the sawdust has been swept away. “The last aspect of a successful conference is the activity that occurs when attendees return to the law office,” says LoCascio. “What will be done with the information gathered? And who will do it?” Attendees should share what they have learned with their colleagues. What were their impressions of the show? What did they learn from exhibitors about new products? From seminar speakers and colleagues about critical trends in the industry? What interesting discoveries merit follow up?

Good follow-through includes reflections on how well the attendees utilized their time, and how they might improve their time management techniques the next time around. And the law firm needs to decide whether to send more or fewer people to the next event.

Attendees should also follow-up with important business partners. Trying to reach out to everyone will seem overwhelming — concentrate on those with the greatest potential.

So enjoy the exciting events at the forthcoming ALA conference. Just remember that enlightened networking and smart follow-through can make the investment in time, money and human energy pay off.

Will you get the most profitable return possible from your attendance at the ALA conference? Find out by taking this quiz. Give yourself 10 points for each “Yes” answer. Then total your points to see how prepared you are.

  1. Have you decided on your general goals for attending the conference?
  2. Have you listed specific steps you will take?
  3. Have you identified the seminars and events to attend?
  4. Do you have a protocol for collecting and recording information gathered at the conference?
  5. Have you practiced your networking techniques?
  6. Have you coordinated all the above steps with colleagues attending the conference?
  7. Have you drawn up a list of the most important colleagues to see at the conference and have you contacted them in advance if appropriate?
  8. Have you drawn up a list of exhibitors to see at the conference, and contacted them in advance if appropriate?
  9. Have you set a date and time for a staff follow-up meeting to share what was learned at the conference?
  10. Have you set a date and time for a separate post-conference discussion about staff performance at the show?

What’s your score? Over 80: Hooray! You are ready for your conference. Between 60 and 80: Time to fine-tune your planning skills. Below 60: It’s a good idea to re-tool by instituting ideas from the accompanying story.


Mark your calendars for May 15–18. You won't want to miss all the speakers, education sessions and exhibitors that will be showcased this year at our Annual Conference & Expo! Download the full agenda and register today