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Want to hear the best speakers psychology has to offer? Looking to network with psychologists in your specialty area? Then book your trip to San Francisco for APA's 2007 Annual Convention, Aug. 17-20. The typical APA meeting is attended by roughly 12,000 psychologists and students and offers hundreds of sessions on just about every topic in psychology. The meeting's size means you'll be sure to find programming to pique your interest--but also calls for a little advance planning to maximize your experience.

A few tips:

  • Plan your days. Peruse the convention program well before the meeting to digest options and choose sessions, say convention experts. You can do so by cracking open the hard copy of the program, which is mailed to pre-registered conference attendees, or by searching the online version, which will be posted on the APA Convention Web site in July. Use the program's city map and hotel and convention center layouts to familiarize yourself.

  • Stop by an orientation. If you're a first-time attendee, go to an APA or American Psychological Association of Graduate Students orientation seminar on the first day of convention to learn meeting ins and outs.

  • Build your network. Seize the myriad opportunities to meet colleagues, future collaborators and potential employers, advise veteran convention-goers. Many attendees chat after sessions or gather at specialty-area social hours, which are listed in the program and are open to all attendees. Bring business cards, and don't pass up the opportunity to introduce yourself, invite a new contact to dinner or exchange e-mail addresses. That said, the idea is to establish contacts — not to monopolize someone's time. Presenters may have a line of people waiting to chat or another social obligation or presentation to attend.

  • Cast a wide net. Hit the key sessions in your area of focus, but then don't be shy about attending a talk by a big name speaker in another branch of psychology — or about stepping into a session with a title that just piqued your interest.

  • Capitalize on your free time. Pad your schedule with enough open time to grab a cup of coffee, peruse the exhibit hall or just take a brain break. Four or five sessions a day will make for a full but manageable schedule, many say. After that, meet up in Chinatown with that psychologist you befriended over lunch; see Alcatraz with your labmates; or head down to the Fisherman's Wharf to watch sea lions.

ENDNOTE: For more convention highlights, see the May, June and July/August Monitor on Psychology issues, or visit the APA Convention Web site. To learn more about San Francisco, visit the city's convention and visitors bureau.

Worth the trip?

Three students who attended a recent convention share what they got out of the meeting.