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First timer?

Pace yourself with these pro tips

With nearly 200 seminars, 100 tours, 40 events, 800 exhibitors, and thousands of people, the AIA Convention is big. 

Here’s how to make the most of your experience.

Convince your boss

Need help justifying your trip? Our new letter template can help you build a business case that demonstrates the ROI of your attendance. 

Take advantage of registration discounts

Part of that business case is saving your firm money. Register early and you’ll save big with early bird and advance rates. Plus, see if you’re eligible for one of these discounts:

  • New AIA members register for free
  • Young professionals save an additional 30%
  • Students get in for $25

Book a room in our hotel block

Not sure where to stay? We already did the work for you. Book your room through AIA Housing to get the lowest rates at 20+ premium hotels, plus perks like free in-room Wi-Fi and shuttle service between hotels and the Orange County Convention Center.

Get help navigating

AIA Convention can be overwhelming for first-timers. Three new resources help you prepare:

  • Sign up for the First Timers Program, and we’ll match you with a buddy who will help you navigate convention and meet people. Just click “first-timer” on the demographics page during registration and we’ll contact you about next steps.
  • Register for a special session designed to help first-timers have a great experience. Sessions and program codes will be available closer to the convention date.
  • Check out our Meet to Eat program, which connects you with other convention attendees for dinner plans.  Sign ups will be available on-site for the cuisine and time slot of your choice; then join your fellow diners at the restaurant for a great time!

Secrets convention pros know

Plan your schedule well, and you can earn all of your continuing education credits for the year at convention, including HSW, ADA, GBCI, and RIBA credits. Also:

  • AIA automatically updates your member transcript when you take credit-earning seminars or tours.
  • If you got shut out of a seminar you wanted, there’s hope. Everyone who registers for a seminar gets a reserved seat—but you have to show up 15 minutes before the seminar starts to claim that seat. Unclaimed seats go up for grabs 10 minutes before the seminar begins. That’s when you make your move.
  • Continuing education on the expo floor sells out every year. Arrive 10 minutes early to make sure you get a good spot.


With thousands of attendees, chances are you’ll encounter at least one person who can make a difference in your life. Here are a few ways to increase the odds:

  • Experience local hospitality at its finest thanks to daily coffee and happy hours.
  • Take guided walks and get a free ground-level look at the city and surrounding areas.
  • Stay after a seminar and introduce yourself to a presenter. Visit the Emerging Professionals lounge on the expo floor.
  • Get a book signed and chat with the author at the AIA Store.
  • Have lunch with an affinity group that’s important to you—international, historic preservation, LGBT, and more. Browse last year's schedule to see the full list of events.
  • Ask a question during an ARCHITECT Live session on the Expo floor.
  • Attend the AIA Honors & Awards Celebration.

Give people FOMO

Fear of Missing Out is a serious condition produced when you see photos and hear about other people having fun, making more contacts, touring exciting spaces, and having their minds opened up to new ideas. 

Spread FOMO far and wide when you:

  • Go to The Party! Everyone’s invited for a giant good time at this event. Watch for more exciting details soon.
  • Go to the Emerging Professionals Party, packed with first-timers like you.
  • Hit one (or more) of the many happy hour receptions on the Expo floor.
  • Go out for fantastic food, creative music, amazing art collections, and city sites—whatever your interest.