I’ve attended CoSIDA Conventions in Philadelphia, Nashville, San Diego, Tampa, San Antonio, San Francisco, Marco Island, Orlando three times, Dallas, and now Washington, D.C. No matter how many I’ve been to a convention, I still get butterflies in my stomach before arriving on site.
So I can only imagine how somebody who is attending our convention for the first time must feel. The nerves, uncertainty and trepidation are normal as is the excitement and anticipation of a phenomenal week. It’s a fun convention that features something for everybody from outstanding programming, dynamic presenters, inspiring award-winners and fun activities.
Usually once I see a familiar face my angst disappears. However, I know it’s not as easy for a first-timer. So here’s a quick and easy guide to help navigate you during convention week.
If this your first convention, make sure to stop by the freshman orientation table on Wednesday and Thursday in the Maryland Ballroom Foyer to meet some of our board members, including myself, and get additional tips for a successful experience.
I know this sounds funny because it’s a convention. Planning ahead of time for panels provides a stronger sense of purpose and direction. Ten days before convention, I set aside about 45 minutes to plan my convention calendar. After meticulously navigating the schedule, I started placing the panels and socials that I thought would be impactful to me as well as my school. The early work will pay off once you arrive on site. Another pro tip if you have time before the convention begins is to walk around the hotel to become familiar with where the rooms that will offer programming are. In addition, flexibility is key too. If an opportunity presents itself that might lead you away from your schedule, do it if it makes sense for you.
During panels, don’t be afraid to engage in the discussion. Ask questions. It takes plenty of courage to stand up in a room full of people with all eyes on you to ask questions, offer suggestions or share a similar story based on the panel you are attending. Asking memorable questions is one way to stand out during the panel. Outside of panels, speak and smile. That’s another lasting impression that goes a long way and helps make you unforgettable.
Kevin DeShazo had an awesome tweet recently that’s so appropriate. There’s plenty of value in this: “Tip for those headed to #NACDA18 soon: as you meet new people and network, focus on being interested before being interesting. Listen to, value, and encourage the person you’re talking to. Don’t make it all about you.”
Exit Your Comfort Zone
As everybody is aware, the best things in life are waiting for you at the exit ramp of your comfort zone. Sit with people you don’t know during luncheons. I love doing this. An introduction of your name and school is always a conversation starter. Following that you may know a fun fact about a school or a school in that conference, their hometown, or you may have a mutual connection with that person. I met somebody from South Dakota State at a luncheon and had a great time learning about that part of the country. Turned out two years later, they reached out to me to ask me a question and referenced our meeting over lunch. Go and speak to people you don’t know at one of the many social functions. Always a fun time.
Beginning later this week, there will be #Convention18 Resources and Handouts HERE. There will be Power Point presentations, video links, PDFs, documents and infographics in advance of the convention. This is a major key in helping you become prepared. You can reference the recent convention webinar, which is archived HERE in CoSIDA Connect. It’s another great resource.
A final suggestion is to review what you learned each day – put it on paper, so when you go back to your office, you won’t forget the people you want to follow up with, the nuggets you picked up in a session. If you don’t write it down, you might forget it. Sometimes, athletic administrators may want a report of what you learned and how it will positively impact the department.
Conventions can be overwhelming. There will be over 3,000 attendees on site from all of the combined conventions inside of the beautiful Gaylord Hotel. However, if you plan ahead, be active, network, leave your comfort zone and check CoSIDA.com, you’ll make the most of your experience, create lifetime memories and enhance your network.