In 2014, I attended my first NACE Conference in San Antonio, Texas. Although I have been working in higher education for 20+ years, it was my first year as a NACE member. As I prepare to attend the 2015 NACE Conference & Expo, I thought it might be nice to share some things that helped me at last year’s conference.
Remember: The conference will be what you make of it. If you take the opportunity to meet new people, learn new things, and gather ideas to bring back to the office, then that is what will happen.
Preparation: Promotional Materials, Maps, and Apps
When conference information is sent through the mail, I keep it handy to help me get organized. The registration information booklet for the 2015 NACE Conference & Expo includes a folded handout that provides key information regarding keynote speakers, great ideas in 15-minute SMARTtalks sessions, and new events that capture the latest innovations. It is important to read the brochures, access the online resources, and research the large variety of concurrent sessions.
Then, download the NACE15 Conference app to your phone. (You’ll find it in your app store. Search for NACE15.)
I learn as much as I can prior to the event in order to decide what I want to attend and to help me build a roadmap for my journey.
Determine which sessions are important for you to attend. Get to know the conference layout (there’s a conference map in the program and on the NACE15 app) so you can find your way around between sessions, but also because a session may change locations or be cancelled. Check the app often for updates. Each time you leave your room, check that you’re carrying your schedule, room key, and name tag. Do not leave your room without your map and your app.
Remember, be flexible and prepared, and have a backup plan.
Participation: Divide and Conquer
If this is your first NACE Conference, plan to attend the newcomers’ session and try to arrive early. If you are traveling with other newcomers or experienced conference attendees, divide up to meet new people.
If you are traveling with other staff from your office, divide the sessions and attend different sessions. Determine what is most important for you to attend, then spread out and cover more ground. Be prepared to report back to your group. Do not try to do everything.
Are you competitive? Do you like to participate and win prizes? Be your own private investigator. Search within your conference information to find interesting challenges that take you outside your comfort zone. If you are nervous, you will find comfort in numbers because you are not the only one that is doing something for the first time. Take a chance, learn from others, and have fun while doing it.
Resources: What to Bring, Where to Go, What to Know
What is your learning style? Do you prefer to read about something or would you like to be able to see it, access it, and learn by doing?
Throughout the conference, there will be plenty of opportunities for you to see the latest career-related products and services in the Expo Hall. Take advantage of this! Pick up a brochure, watch a demonstration, or meet the people that work behind the scenes. The Expo Hall provides an interesting environment that combines rows of vendors with chances to win prizes, as well as a place to get a snack or eat a meal.
When attending sessions, ask questions. Introduce yourself to the presenters and other participants. Ask for a business card, website, or e-mail address, and when you return home, be sure you use this information to keep in touch.
Other Tips for First-Timers
Bring an umbrella, light jacket, and sunscreen. Remember phone chargers, medication, and comfortable shoes.
And finally, have some fun! Find a balance between doing everything and wishing you would have done more. Take a break every once in a while to meet new people. Think about what makes you more comfortable and then do something nice for someone else.
Make the most of your time and remember to drink lots of water. Hope to see you there.