SLA Chicago: A surreal and wonderful experience

So it’s been about two weeks since the SLA Conference in Chicago ended, and I still don’t think I’m quite over it. What a completely wonderful, overwhelming, indescribable experience it was. But I will try to describe it.

However, the experience was just too huge to put down in only one blog post, so I will be writing a few posts with different focuses. This post will be an general overview of what I got up to across the pond, and my impressions of the conference, and I’ll blog in more detail at a later point. Also check out Simon’s excellent post on the run up to SLA 2012.

I was lucky enough to win an Early Career Conference Award to attend this conference, co-sponsored by SLA Europe and the Business & Finance Division, and I’ll be writing about my experience over on the SLA Europe blog soon.

The Journey

This was to be my first solo flight, a prospect which did make me anxious, as I sometimes get nervous during take off (my first flight was only four years ago, so I’m inexperienced!). However, those of us flying from Heathrow had arranged to meet up, which settled some nerves!

The view over Downtown and Lake Michigan

The evening of our first day involved a tour of the highlights of Chicago, which I attended with the other ECCA’s.

Despite a very long queue, made all the longer by our creeping jet lag, we ascended to the Skydeck of the Willis Tower. The view… Wow, what an introduction to Chicago!

The Conference

First impressions of the conference centre? ‘It’s so big! They said it’d be big, but it’s so big!’

My many ribbons – quite a talking point!

The most enduring memory of the conference is just how friendly everyone was, and how much fun I had. I would put this down to it being my first conference, but honestly even seasoned SLA conference-goers were excited to be there, and excited to meet first timers.

We first timers were, incidentally, easily recognisable, by both our deer-in-headlights expressions and our handy ribbons.

I was impressed with how ‘connected’ the conference was. Sessions often had their own hashtags, and there was a Social Media Lounge where laptops were provided. I used this quite a lot, since I’ve had my smartphone for two years and still don’t really know how it works.


Like I said at the start of this post, I’ll be writing in more detail about the conference later, but here are just a few highlights of my time in Chicago.

  • Receiving my award at the Business & Finance annual business meeting breakfast. Standing in front of a crowd whilst details of your career thus far are read out is a strange experience, but it was very nice to be made a fuss of!
My beautifully framed certificate survived its transatlantic journey
  • Getting to know my fellow award-winners and SLA Europe members. Although we all did try to make the most of the networking opportunities, it was nice to socialise and do some touristy things together too, like eating pizza and experiencing Macy’s.

    The ECCA’s, L-R: Giles, Sarah, Marie, Simon, and me.
  • The Open Houses, Receptions and Dance Party. The conference wasn’t just limited to the day time. There was always something going on in the evenings. These were great networking opportunities, but also great fun, as the atmosphere was more informal. I haven’t included a photo for this one, as the only relevant ones I have are of us all in 1920’s fancy dress, and I’m not sure how pleased the subjects will be if I post them for all to see!

So that’s a very brief overview of the craziness that was SLA 2012 and my ECCA experience. It was a surreal, wonderful whirlwind. I will definitely be posting more in future, hopefully with a bit more focus than OMG IT WAS AMAZE 🙂


  1. Great overview of conference, and some helpful comments for other first timers. Looking forward to reading the rest of your posts and descriptions of your experiences.

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