by Katie Yeaton
Conferences in the student affairs world are a wonderful opportunity to network and learn about new initiatives or strategies. A part of me feels like I am preaching to the choir because as student affairs and higher education professionals, conferences are like our classroom. We attend these conferences to learn and develop as educators, to further help our students. Even if we cannot go we are following the conference’s social media, reading the organization emails, and continuing to do what we can to help our students. Since conference season is upon us, I wanted to outline my top five things to pack for a student affairs/higher education conference.
- Business and Business Casual Attire: First impressions count when you are at a conference, so in addition to your best smile, be sure to wear/bring comfortable business shoes and attire. I like to show my personality with an added touch of school pride in my outfits--scarlet and gray--when I go to out-of-state conferences. My advice is to always go with an outfit that feels true to yourself, comfortable, and formal enough for an interview.
- Business Cards: Always pack your business cards. Having your business cards on hand will make it easier to network with people you meet throughout the conference. One strategy I do after receiving a business card is to write the date/time/details of my interaction with this person. This information helps spark my memory when I return home and follow-up with them via email.
- Travel Light: Travel light and keep it simplistic. Likelihood is that this conference is not more than a week long and you can keep your items to a minimum. If you are traveling a long distance to a conference, I hope you consider this point and only pack what is essential for your trip. If your luggage or belongings are going to be a hassle to carry to and from this conference, perhaps you do not need everything in that suitcase.
- Take Time for Yourself: Whether you are attending a day-conference at your institution or you are traveling to another country for a convention, remember to take time for yourself. Look at the conference schedule, plan ahead, and get an idea of when you can take a few minutes to reflect on your goals for this conference and what you learned from this experience. Recharge time is important and we all reenergize differently, so take this time to reflect.
- Prepare and Goal-Set: Why are you attending this conference? Before you go to the opening session ask yourself why you attending this conference. Set goals for yourself, perhaps something you want to achieve during this conference, like hosting a presentation, or maybe a list of networking connections in your research field. My overall advice for conference is to come prepared and come informed. Look at the conference schedule, select sessions that appeal to your interests and go into this event with questions. Challenge yourself to grow as a result of your participation with this conference.
As I prepare for my adventure to ASHE 2016 (Association for Study of Higher Education) in Columbus, I want to wish you all the best this week. Please share your conference excitement and suggestions on Twitter @SAFirstYears