BOULDER, Colo. –

Journalist and historian Sanho Tree called Boulder’s annual Conference on World Affairs an “intellectual safari, like dim sum for the mind.”

Film critic Roger Ebert refers to it as “the Conference on Everything Conceivable.”

I say: “Man, I’m lucky to live in Boulder.”

The free, public conference â which started Monday on the University of Colorado campus â includes more than 200 panels and performances on subjects ranging from international affairs to beat boxing to Twitter. Here are some tips for making the most of the experience, especially if you’re trying to balance it with your day job:

1. Don’t overload yourself

It can be tempting to want to take full advantage of this conference and schedule yourself four or five panels per day, but the paradox exists in that you will likely get less out of the conference if you do this to yourself.

I would recommend limiting attendance to two or three panels a day, and making sure you feel focused and fresh.

2. Bring a notebook/laptop

When you do attend panels of interest to you, make the most of them by jotting down ideas and statements that resonate with you. If you have a blog or if your company publishes a newsletter or regular e-mail updates, take advantage of this opportunity to get some high-profile thinkers’ thoughts on your industry to your customers, clients or readers.

Feel free to get excited and caught up in the moment while you’re there, but don’t let those ideas stay in the room.

3. Watching from the office/home is an option

This year, the Macky Auditorium and UMC Center Ballroom sessions will offer live streaming audio and video through the CWA’s Website,

If you’ve got a lunch meeting or work obligation that hinders your ability to get to campus, remember that you can still tap into sessions held in these two venues online.

4. Panelists talk back; bring questions

A lot of panelists open up a majority of the discussion to questions from the audience; at the very least, audience participation is encouraged toward the end of each panel.

If you’re attending something for your company, think about what knowledge might benefit your customers and go digging for it.

5. Know who’s speaking

Your experience will be greatly enhanced if you know who’s saying what.

This may seem obvious, but with some panels having five or six speakers, sometimes that brief introduction will drift out of your head in about 10 minutes.

Check out each participant’s bio, then quickly write down who’s sitting from left to right.

And finally …

My final piece of advice: Enjoy and appreciate what you’re listening to and participating in. Go in knowing the value of this completely free forum and let it benefit you in your every day life. Be there fully, take what you are given, and share it with others.

Conference on World Affairs (CWA)

Conference on World Affairs

The 61st annual Conference on World Affairs runs Monday through Friday on the University of Colorado campus.

For more news on the CWA, see’s Special Section and Archive.

For a full schedule of events and participant bios, visit