Ten Ways to Enhance your 2006 ACPA Annual Convention Experience!

Kirsten Freeman Fox
University of Maryland

Spring’s arrival means many of us will soon pack our bags for ACPA’s Annual Convention. A large convention such as ACPA can sometimes seem overwhelming. This compilation of helpful hints and strategies may assist you in your planning to make the most of your Convention experience.

  1. Before you Leave, Be PreparedMake sure to tie up loose ends at work before you leave! While internet access is available it can be crowded; plus, with so much activity going on at the Convention, who has time for work! Take time to talk with your employer about mutual expectations. What do they want you to take from the convention? On what are specific topics or issues should you be seeking to attend sessions? As you pack your suitcase, don’t forget business cards, a notepad, your Convention booklet, travel materials, and your hotel and conference confirmations.
  2. Plan AheadWith the convention schedule on-line, it is so easy to plan ahead! Just go to www.myacpa.org and click on ‘Annual Conventions.’ What sessions look good to you? What topic areas can you apply to your current position? Which receptions might you check out? Highlight program sessions of interest including the room location and time of each session. You don’t want to be flipping through the program right before a session.
  3. Early Birds Catch the WormThink about registering for a Pre-Convention Workshop. Obtain valuable information and explore new ideas during an in-depth workshop. The half-day and full-day programs take place on Saturday and Sunday before the opening gala. There are over 20 different workshops to choose from. Prices and program abstracts can be found at www.myacpa.org.
  4. Get Involved in Something NewThe convention offers something for Student Affairs professionals at every level! Are you a graduate student or new professional? If so, think about putting your knowledge of theory and practice to use by participating in the Graduate and New Professional Case Study. For more seasoned professionals, consider the Senior Practitioner Program (SPP). Think about volunteering at placement or attending a standing committee meeting. If you like to sing and perform for others, then contemplate being part of the ACPA AIDS Memorial Choir.
  5. Key to the Field…and it Just so Happens They are Convention Speakers!The Annual Convention offers a variety of major speakers. Take advantage of them all, including Dr. Merrow of PBS and narrator of “Declining by Degrees,” to round out your convention experience.
  6. Make New Friends, but Keep the Old.It is definitely appropriate to network during the convention. Meet business contacts and new colleagues at program sessions and receptions; together you can share strategies and techniques and learn new skills. In your pursuit of new knowledge, take time to extend conversations beyond convention sessions. However, don’t forget your roots — show pride in former institutions and take time to catch up with old friends you do not see as often. Take advantage of breakfast and lunch time to connect with former classmates or staff. You will see current colleagues and classmates almost daily when you return home, so take advantage of conversations with former colleagues and future connections.
  7. Think of Each Day as a Separate “Day Trip.”No one ever claimed that they caught up on sleep at ACPA! Days are packed full and often extend well into the late evening. Make sure to eat breakfast before your first session. Early morning workouts and fun runs/walks with the ACPA Wellness Commission is a great way to greet the day! As you prepare to leave your room for a good portion of the day, fill your briefcase, satchel, backpack, or shoulder bag with business cards, your previously highlighted/earmarked program, pen and paper, mints, money for meals, note cards to write inspiring notes to colleagues going through placement, a snack and a bottle of water. Wear comfortable shoes especially if you are walking back and forth in placement.
  8. Make the Most of Each SessionKnow which sessions you plan to attend ahead of time. Map out sessions of personal and professional interest. What are the goals and objectives you hope to take away from the session? Make sure you are aware of your own goals, as well as your institutions/organizations goals before the session. Come ready to explore possibilities and new ideas while focusing on how to apply those strategies in your own practice. Enter each session prepared to share your own experiences, but also to listen to others’. Even experienced professionals can learn new ideas. And yes, ask questions! Finally, stay until the end of the session and complete an evaluation.
  9. Meet the Cruise DirectorWhile thought-provoking and educational, the Convention is also always enjoyable. Take time to explore Indianapolis. Check out all of the resources and products in the Exhibit Hall and walk away with some cool give-aways! Learn more about other opportunities ACPA has to offer at the Convention Carnival and take time to experience art, music, and dance of the Cultural Fest. Plus, all those fun receptions! So much to do, so little time!
  10. It’s not Over when It’s Over.The closing speaker has spoken, you have checked out of your room, and the Convention is over. Upon your return to campus, think about what you will do next. How you will implement what you learned? Ask follow up questions to session presenters through email. Show appreciation and take time to thank presenters and new business contacts. Relay information and new knowledge to your staff at you institution/organization. Decide which new possibilities are worth exploring. Within your own professional development, might it be time to get more involved within the Association? Consider getting involved with a standing committee or volunteering as a member of the planning committee for next year’s Annual Convention. After all, it is never too early to start preparing for 2007 in Orlando!

This is a reprint of an article in the winter 2005 edition of Developments. Dates and other minor changes were made to reflect 2006 Convention.

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