By Corey Twitty and Charles Jennings Jr.
As you embark upon your first National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) conference, we realize that you want to make the experience a memorable one. The NACE conference can be an exciting event with so much palpable energy in the air, but it can also be overwhelming to some due to the enormous number of wonderful sessions as well as the pure size of the event. Your mind is probably buzzing with lots of questions which you are looking to be answered. Do not worry because we have taken the opportunity in this article to answer all your questions and provide you with 10 of the best tips for first-time conference attendees that will surely enhance your experience!
- First Timer Session – Once you step foot in Orlando, there is a session, at the beginning of the conference targeted to first-time conference goers. If your schedule allows, we HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you attend this session so you can get acclimated to the conference and it also serves as an avenue for you to get to know others that are in the same boat. The First-Timers Session will be 5 – 6 p.m., Monday, June 3, Ballroom Level, Northern Hemisphere, Salon B/C. (Sponsored by Enterprise Holdings)
- Plan, Plan, Plan – The conference offers a wide variety of sessions with content related to employers and career services professionals. In order to maximize your experience, it is critical to take a look at the schedule prior to the conference. There will naturally be sessions that conflict but if you are attending with a team, it is best to divide and conquer. That being said, the NACE Conference App is a game changer for the experience and we leverage that through the duration of the conference. The app helps us understand what is happening at what time, and if any changes or updates are happening as well!
- A Good Intro – Since you are attending the conference for the first time, your first and foremost job will be to establish yourself in it. For this you will need a heck of an intro. You will have to face a lot of questions: Who are you? Where you are from? Where do you work? What is your field of specialization? And these questions will be repeated several times by different people. So, it is best to keep an intro ready which you can confidently convey once you are bombarded with these questions. Just make sure it is short and sweet.
- Just Say Hi (Networking) – We all know the importance of networking, but it can overwhelming and scary for some. If you’re feeling insecure or find yourself in an elevator with a stranger with a NACE lanyard…just say hi! From our experience, everyone is incredibly friendly and is open to meeting new people. If you’re coming with a team, try to meet someone new. (We know it can be comfortable to stick with the people we know.) Conversely, NACE can also feel like a big reunion and you should use it as another opportunity to re-connect with those you’ve built relationships with. Lastly, keep an open mind—a budding new relationship or connection may be on the horizon!
- Take it Slow – Yes! We know that there are a lot of events being held at the conference, but it is not necessary for you to attend each one of them. Select those which really attract you and give your time to them. Make sure that if you choose an event, you stick around until it is finished. Running around from one event to another will only make you panic.
- Set an Objective – When you are visiting a conference, you must have some objectives which you would like to fulfill. Keep those objectives in mind and plan your visit accordingly, if it helps, you can also jot them down. If you are being sent by your boss, make sure to plan it out with him/her as to which sessions you are supposed to visit and what you are supposed to gain from those sessions.
- Reserve Time for Fun – It is but a popular saying “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Taking a conference too seriously will only make it a burden to you. The NACE conference has loads of fun to enjoy. Take it easy and have fun. You deserve it! The fun will only instigate the learning process and help you remember what you learned for a long period of time. Attending the extracurricular activities that have been organized will also help in building a network with significant people.
- If You’re on Time, You’re Late – Plan to arrive at those sessions that really excite you early! If you find yourself salivating over the sessions with attention grabbing titles, then please realize that others will too. In the past, we’ve unfortunately missed out on several sessions that we wanted to attend due to room capacity and simply arriving a couple minutes late. If you’d like to get a seat, and ensure you get a spot in the session, plan to arrive five to 10 minutes before the session starts. The conference is quite large so give yourself enough time in between.
- Keep Pen and Paper Ready – Ditch the technology and get back to old-school techniques. Laptops or smart phones may create problems or run out of battery creating a lot of problems for you. It is better to stick to pen and paper when you are planning to take notes in a conference. Also make sure you take down the contact information of the people you would like to keep in touch with after the conference is over.
- Follow up e-mail – Once you return to work, send e-mails to all the people and organization with whom you are planning to be in touch with. The follow up e-mail will help you to keep the contact alive and you can use them for future benefits.
We hope you find these tips useful and that you have a wonderful experience at the 2019 NACE Conference & Expo.