Attendee Guide

WMA 2018 Attendee Guide

You’ve registered for the Western Museums Association 2018 Annual Meeting! What’s next? With so many great learning sessions, social events, and other opportunities, it might be challenging to decide where to start. Use the Attendee Guide to help navigate the 2018 Annual Meeting and maximize your professional development. The theme of the 2018 Annual Meeting is INSPIRE, and will focus on the ways museums inspire action, change, and unity.  

From booking a hotel room, planning transportation, and preparing for the 2018 Annual Meeting, there is a lot to think about. Here are some things to consider as you’re making arrangements for Tacoma.

Getting There & Transportation

The closest airport to the Annual Meeting hotel is SeaTac Airport (SEA) which is 18 miles North of Tacoma. 
Below are several transportation options for traveling from the airport to downtown Tacoma. 
Shuttle Service
Towncar Service

If you want to travel by bus or train, those are great options too.

Several times each day, the Amtrak Cascades winds from Seattle to Portland and vice versa. If you have the time, it's a lovely way to see Washington. If you are coming from points South of Portland, the Coast Starlight is a route originating in Los Angeles. 

Hotel Reservations & Saving Money

There is a discounted hotel rate of $164. The deadline for this rate is September 7, 2018.

One way to save money is to share a hotel room with one of your peers. Connect with your fellow WMA 2018 attendees on the Hotel webpage and find a roommate.

What to Bring/Wear

Selecting conference attire can sometimes be a time-consuming process. WMA’s Annual Meetings are casual—fun is one of our Core Values after all. That said, it is important to make a good impression and business casual attire is recommended. The average high temperature in Tacoma in October is 60° F and the average low is 44° F . We recommend dressing in layers. However, it is best to check the weather the week of the Annual Meeting for more specific information.

Setting Goals

Consider setting some personal and professional goals before attending the Annual Meeting. The goals could be as simple as meeting three new people, or more complex like finding a strategy for a future program, exhibit, or policy, among other things. Think about discussing your goals with your friends, colleagues, or partner. Better yet, share your goals with one of your contacts also attending the 2018 Annual Meeting and you can help one another achieve them. No matter what your goals, being intentional about them will help you gauge how much you learned, determine if your experience was successful, and make the Annual Meeting more effective overall .

Who Is Attending?

Before the Annual Meeting, find out who in your personal and professional networks will be attending. Consider asking friends and colleagues directly, or using LinkedIn or Facebook to investigate. Additionally, those who have registered will be sent a pre-meeting attendee list prior to the conference. Then, make plans to connect with those contacts at the 2018 Annual Meeting, for meals, coffee breaks, or drinks—but be sure to allow flexible time in your schedule for whatever might come up!

Business Cards, Elevator Pitches, & Resumes

“What about business cards?”
It is always a good idea to bring business cards—everywhere. These bits of paper gold are a great way to start initial conversations with your peers, as well as follow-up with additional dialogues. You do no necessarily need to have business card related to a specific job, particularly if you are an EMP or between jobs. Consider creating a personal card that includes your name, contact information, and a vision statement about your museum work. VistaPrint is a great resource for economical cards. Also consider buying business-card-sized paper at your local office supply store and make your own!

“Is there any way to prepare for networking conversations?”
Yes, it is absolutely important to prepare for the personal and professional conversations that will arise during the Annual Meeting. Many times the first questions when meeting people are, “Tell me about yourself,” or “What do you do?” It is best to have a prepared response as this will help increase your confidence to engage on a deeper level. Your pitch should summarize who you are, what you do or are working on, as well as why you are passionate about museums.

“Should I bring a resume?”
Yes, bring printed copies, particularly if your are an EMP. You can provide them to potential employers, as well as ask your peers for suggestions about how to improve it. 

Choosing Sessions to Attend

With so many exciting sessions at the 2018 Annual Meeting, it can be a daunting task to determine which you want to attend! The Program includes a Key that can guide you as to which topic a session falls within. That said, it can be beneficial to attend sessions that are not in your direct discipline as they can expand your perspectives.

Next, take a look through the Program and see if there are any peers or institutions you would like to hear from or learn about. Then make sure to connect with those people!

Here are some other things to consider: What information will benefit your institution, particularly if they are supporting your attendance? What information will help you reach your professional goals? What are you passionate about within the museum-field? Are there discussions that you want to start or extend into a future Annual Meeting session?

Connect with Colleagues

After you have thought about which sessions you would like to attend, think about connecting with colleagues before the 2018 Annual Meeting. Do you have any peers that are attending? Start an email thread about sessions you are excited about. The WestMuse blog will feature Program and Local Perspectives leading up to the 2018 Annual Meeting. Comment on those posts and join in discussions!

Make sure to use #wma2018 when discussing the 2018 Annual Meeting on social media!

During the 2018 Annual Meeting

Here are some things to think about to maximize your opportunities at the 2018 Annual Meeting. Get involved, talk to your peers, and have fun!


Networking can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. WMA Board and Committee members, as well as attendees are all friendly, responsive, and enjoy conversations with new and old colleagues. Whether it’s drinking coffee at a break or perusing galleries at an evening event, don’t be afraid to start a conversation! Remember, fun, collegiality, and inclusion are some of WMA’s Core Values.

The WMA Board and Program Committee also have special, colored tags on their conference badges. Feel free to start up conversations with them—they’re looking forward to it! Try asking a Board Member about stimulating information they have learned about, or try asking a Program Committee Member about the in-depth proposal review process.

It is also important to remember that WMA Annual Meetings are gatherings of like-minded people who are all passionate about the same thing that you are: museums. As WMA Board Member, Anne Rowe explains, “WMA Annual Meetings are intentionally constructed to provide a safe and fun space where the foundation for social interactions is well advanced of where you typically begin when meeting new people.” Take advantage of that. Introduce yourself to the people you are seated near in session rooms and even ask for their business cards. Remember, these people are in the same industry and chose to attend the same session; they probably have something in common with you. Make sure to join in on session discussions, and then share what you found interesting with your fellow attendees.

Engage with Social Media

Another way to network and join in on discussions is through social media. We want to hear what you say whether it’s live tweeting or Instagramming during sessions, posting pictures to our Facebook page, or joining in on deeper conversations. Make sure to use #wma2018 when posting.


There are multiple free and paid events throughout the 2018 Annual Meeting. During the day there will be free coffee breaks and other networking events in the Exhibit Hall. We recommend attending the free Opening and Closing Receptions in the Exhibit Hall, as well as the free Shippers' Party, as they are fantastic gathering events that many participants attend. Did we mention the free food? On Monday there will be a free Networking Lunch immediately after the General Session & Keynote, while on Tuesday there will be ticketed Affinity Luncheons. On each night of the Annual Meeting there will be ticketed Evening Events. We encourage attendees to join as many events as possible, as they maximize potential networking opportunities and are the places where many meaningful conversations occur.

There will be limited tickets for Evening Events and Affinity Luncheons available to purchase at the Registration Desk during the Annual Meeting. Please check with staff. Additionally, there will be a message board in the registration area where attendees often post tickets to exchange.

Food During the Annual Meeting

“Where will we eat?” is always a looming question when traveling. The Hotel Murano has a full-service resturant, BITE. Additionally, there are multiple resturants within walking distance of the hotel. Selected events during the 2018 Annual Meeting will be provided to attendees, while other events will be ticketed; please reference the program for more information. 

There are also many delicious restaurants in Tacoma. We offer restaurant suggestions and other Tacoma tips here.

Key Takeaways

Consider developing a running list of key takeaways from the Annual Meeting—these could be programs that you want to know more about, ideas for new programs, or ideas for a conference session for next year.

After the 2018 Annual Meeting

So you left the 2018 Annual Meeting with lots of stimulating ideas that you want to share and discuss with your friends and colleagues. Great! There are multiple ways to engage with both WMA and attendees after the Annual Meeting.

Write a Blog Post

Did you learn something interesting during WMA 2018? Were your perspectives changed? All museum professionals need to listen, learn, and lead the way—how did your WMA 2018 experience changed your methods of engagement with colleagues and communities? Write about it in a blog post and share your thoughts with the Western museum community! Writing is a great way to develop your communications skills, while sharing your thoughts and getting your name out there.

View the WestMuse blog Submission Guidelines here.

Review Your List of Takeaways and Goals

Remember that list of takeaways you developed during the Annual Meeting? Review it and determine your next steps. Check in on your goals—did you achieve everything you intended at the conference? Why or why not? Consider sharing that feedback in the 2018 Annual Meeting survey.

Fill Out the Attendee Survey

Did we do a great job? Are there areas that we can improve upon? Do you have a great suggestion for future Annual Meetings? Let us know in the 2018 Attendee Survey! The Survey will be sent out to all attendees after the Annual Meeting. We use survey results to help plan our Annual Meetings—so be sure to provide your feedback. Make sure to keep an eye out for it.

Propose a WMA 2019 Session

Did you have an amazing discussion at WMA 2018 that you think the Western museum community should know about? Proposals that build on the conversations and offerings of WMA 2018 will provide future attendees with a rich, engaging diversity of sessions.

While you’re listening and learning in Tacoma, think about how you can be leading the conversation in Boise in 2019. Think about what challenges traditions, introduces innovations, refines best practices, illustrates rewarding connections, and expands on professional horizons.

The 2019 Annual Meeting Request for Proposals will open in October 2018. 

Connect with Contacts

You’ve got a stack of business cards from the 2018 Annual Meeting, what to do next? Before you file them away, connect with all of your new contacts on LinkedIn. Look how your connections have grown, just from one conference!