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My First Timer Conference Advice for Future First Timers

By Brenda Craig-Cherveny
Wilmington High School

Plan your schedule before the conference.
Access the schedule of sessions online; it is available about a month before the conference. I read the session descriptions early and chose one for each timeslot and then ranked them in order of preference. When you arrive, you will be provided with a small folding card (“cheat-sheet”) delineating the conference schedule. You can highlight your choices and slide the card behind your nametag. This is a great way to keep track of your chosen sessions.

Registration volunteersChoose at least one timeslot to volunteer.
Before the conference, I contacted the Raffle and Registration Committees to offer my service. The committees are listed on the web site. This is a great way to meet people. Also, most of the volunteers are not first timers, so I learned a lot about the conference by asking questions of the other workers.

Bring money for Split-the-Pot Raffles and the Basket Raffle.
Split-the-Pot winners are drawn at mealtimes. The first 2012 winner took home about $1,200!! To participate in the Basket Raffle, you purchase tickets and write your name on them. You put your tickets in the containers next to the baskets. The more tickets you put in, the better your chances to win that particular basket. The Raffle Committee gathers some great donations including college wear, gift certificates, liquor baskets and movies.

Bring your business cards.
Some vendors collect business cards and there was a card drawing sponsored by the Raffle Committee too. However, the best reason to bring plenty of business cards is to give others your contact information. One of the biggest benefits of the conference is learning from others. I made reminder notes on the cards that were given to me. These will help me remember people and the topics we discussed. I may want to follow up with questions about some of the ideas I intend to implement.

Look through your packet right away.
There is lots of useful information in your registration packet. You will want your instructions for free access to the wireless service, the conference schedule, contest information, etc. After asking for directions to a room, someone pointed out the map in the conference booklet. Next year I will read all the contents of my packet when I arrive.

First Timers LunchAttend the First Timer Luncheon.
Everyone at your lunch table will be as anxious as you are to meet new people. Also, the icebreakers are fun!

Arrive early to sessions.
I like to get to sessions early and sit in the front. This guarantees that I get copies of all handouts and my questions are always answered. At a couple of the sessions I had conversations with the presenters before or after the presentation, and of course, I took copies of their business cards.

Sit in the public areas between sessions.
I met several people by hanging out in the hotel lobby. This seems to be protocol for people who are attending for one day and for those who are alone. I met several other counselors in this way.

ExhibitorsVisit the vendors.
I had some of my best conversations with vendors. Many of them are, or were, in our profession in some way. Also, most of them hand out freebies – who can resist free stuff? I especially appreciate free access to check out computer tools and applications.

Bring thank-you notes and your IACAC Member Directory to the conference.
You will meet presenters and colleagues that you will want to appreciate more formally. Having thank-you notes at the conference will allow you to fill them out right away. I write better notes when my enthusiasm is fresh. This year’s speaker talked about networking, and thank-you notes are a great way to stay connected to others.

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