My first student affairs association conference was the 2006 NASPA held in Washington, D.C. I was graduating from my master’s program that spring, and several of us were heading East to participate in The Placement Exchange.
As graduate students, we had taken the time to figure out many cost saving measures. We flew into the cheaper airport, fit nine of us in a shuttle into downtown, and me and my three closest cohort friends shared a $99/night room in the Days Inn. (No, it was not one of the conference hotels.) The room was “non-smoking” yet we all had a slight stale smoke smell to our interview clothes, and I am still not sure if something of a questionable nature was rolled up in the carpet that sat at the end of the hall all week.
I forgot pajamas, packed uncomfortable shoes, and spent more time agonizing over what sessions I should go to instead of actually attending the sessions. I can honestly say, my conference experiences have only gotten better as I have spent more time in the field. As I started planning my conference season, I thought it would be useful to solicit advice from others in the profession to share with those attending their first conference this year. Thank you to all who shared, I think we have a great collection of wisdom to pass along. If you didn’t get a chance to share your tips, please feel free to add them to the list!
My own advice from the D.C. conference years ago? 1) If you are able to, splurge on a conference hotel. Being in a comfortable space really makes the conference more enjoyable, and being in the midst of all the happenings gives you a chance to make some great connections. 2) Pack snacks and bring a reusable water bottle. 3) Take some time to explore the city and sights around the conference location. It’s a good mental break, and a great way to find good restaurants and unique souvenirs. 4) Everyone around you may be a potential colleague or supervisor. Be kind, be courteous, and don’t get too crazy at the regional receptions.
I wish you all a successful and fulfilling conference season!