As I prepare to attend the 2015 NACE Conference & Expo in Anaheim, CA, I thought it might be nice to share some thoughts that helped me with last year’s conference.  In 2014, I attended my first NACE Conference in San Antonio, TX.  Although I have 20+ years of experience working in Higher Education, this was my first year as a NACE member.  To save time, I have divided my thoughts into categories: preparation, participation and resources. 

Remember: The conference will be what you make of it.  If you want to 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. Wear your name tag, be on time, and be naturally curious. 

PREPARATION: Promotional Materials, Apps, and Maps

When I receive CONFERENCE information through the mail, I like to keep it handy to help me get organized. The Registration Information for the 2015 NACE Conference & Expo includes a folded handout that provides key information regarding keynote speakers, great ideas in 15 minutes, and the promotion of new events that capture the latest innovations. It is important for me to read the brochures, access the online resources, and research the large variety of concurrent sessions. 

Keeping up with the latest technology, it is important to download the NACE15 Conference App on your phone. I highly recommend this.

Everyone needs a good road map.  Review your conference materials and get to know the main buildings.  Get to know the layout and determine what you want to do.  As a navigator, I know that things may change or cancel at the last minute, and it is important to keep up with the latest information.  Check your APP often for any updates.  Each time before you leave your room, check for your schedule, your room key and your name tag.  Remember to be flexible, be prepared with a backup plan, and go with the flow. 

PARTICIPATION: Staff – Decide What to Do, Get Involved, Divide and Conquer

If this is your first NACE Conference, plan to attend the FIRST-TIMERS SESSION, and try to arrive early.  If you are traveling with other newcomers or experienced conference attendees, try to divide up and meet new people, and think about attending different sessions.  Determine what is most important for you to attend, spread out, and cover more ground.  Then, 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 little 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

Trying to decide what items you must bring?  Be sure to pack an umbrella, light jacket, and sunscreen.  Remember phone chargers, medication, and comfortable shoes.  Don’t leave home without it.

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 who 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 the participants.  Ask for a business card, website, or email address.  When you return home, be sure to utilize this information.  Only bring back what you plan to use or put into action.

ADDITIONAL NOTES: Have some fun!  Find a balance between doing everything and wishing you would have done more.  Try to take a break every once in a while and meet new people.  Think about what makes you more comfortable and then try to do something nice for someone else.  Make the most of your time and remember to drink lots of water.

Hope to see you there!!!

Debbie Boles | Assistant Director | University of Oklahoma Career Services