Asking a question at IRE Las Vegas (2010), photo by Ben Welsh
Can you believe it? The annual Computer Assisted Reporting conference (also known as NICAR) is about three short weeks away.

Of all the events I’ve been to, this is the one I get the most out of. All of the sessions are meant to teach you skills you can apply immediately and reveal deep insights that will help you grow as a journalist.

Like years past, I’ll be collecting links to the tutorials, presentations, slide decks and video from NICAR13 and posting them here. In preparation — especially for new attendees — here’s some stuff you should know:

  • There will be 5-minute lightning talks. You could give one. In fact, IRE is taking talk proposals and votes right now. The most popular talks will be presented on Friday, March 1, at 4 p.m.
  • If you want one-on-one mentoring at the conference, sign up by Feb. 7. Organizers will then pair mentees up with mentors. Mentees: Bring work sample and story ideas. Mentorship slots fill up quickly, so apply today.
  • If you’re taking any hands-on training sessions or Hadley Wickham‘s data science masterclass, you might receive emails insisting you install a bunch of software before you arrive. Take the instructions seriously. Do not wait until the last minute or you will be very sad and very, very lost during class.
  • Ersi is offering a free ArcGIS for Desktop license (worth $1,500) if you attend all four of their 50-minute training and demo sessions. If you’re doing a lot of cartography and GIS work, you might want to consider it.
  • There’s Q&A after almost every session, and there’s always a pause before someone speaks up. So prepare a question (and please, not one of the “see how I’m smarter than you?” variety) and use your first-mover advantage.

NICAR is really friendly. If you’ve got a question or you have a reporting problem you’re trying to solve, just ask someone for help.

And if you want to be really prepared, Chris Fralic of First Round Capital has great advice on how to work a conference.

(Photo from IRE 2010 by Ben Welsh/Flickr)