Attending a conference can be intimidating and overwhelming, especially if you are a new attendee. Other things might contribute to the uneasiness; for instance, meeting new people, feeling like you do not belong, or the ongoing pandemic. We hope this guide, curated by different people from various perspectives, will assist you as a new ACPA conference attendee.
Check your Logistics
You’ve figured out the registration, expenses, and traveling and made it this far! The next step is downloading the app, Guidebook, and searching ACPA23 Annual Convention. Then, sign up for the sessions that you would like to attend. The app automatically sends you 15-minute reminders for the next session. If you are a first-time attendee, definitely attend the first-time experience session, ACPA 101: A Beginner’s Guide to ACPA23, which is on the 26th of March, from 12.45 PM- 1.30 PM.
Focus on your development
The best part about ACPA is that there are many educational sessions, events, and training. It may also seem difficult to choose between sessions, so take some time to reflect on your goals. For example, if your goal is to expand your network, meet new people, and for opportunities, you should check out networking and job searching sessions and attend events about career wellness. If you have been in the field for a while and want to learn from colleagues in other universities, you should attend educational sessions that share best practices. If you are thinking of changing fields within higher education, you could attend the sessions for functional areas you are interested in.
Attending sessions is just one of the ways you can develop, and so does sharing your experiences with others. The conference space is a collaborative sharing space where we can learn from each other and contribute to each other’s career development.
It is easy to burn out when you fit in so many sessions and things to accomplish on your list. Please be mindful that you don’t have to attend all the sessions, as conferencing is also supposed to be a time to destress and rejuvenate. Participating in the socials hosted during the evenings is another good way to relax and get away from work. ACPA has embedded cultural components and relaxation into the convention experience, hoping that it provides space for folks to take care of themselves and be more in tune. There are also writing and mindful sessions hosted by ACPA; please refer to the program book for more schedule details.
Make friends and create a collaborative sharing space
Again, I know it is intimidating to network and meet new people, but the ACPA community is welcoming. As an attendee, I’ve been in presentations and stricken up conversations with my neighbor. Suppose you are attending the conference with friends or colleagues; starting a group chat and a OneNote together is highly beneficial to share knowledge from your various sessions. This also is helpful when you unpack the knowledge with your friends. ACPA has different entity groups that provide professional development, networking and focuses on social identities. If you want to find community, attend an open meeting hosted by the entity groups and meet them in CelebrACPA and Opening Reception on the 26th March, at 3 PM.
How to get involved: ACPA Entity Groups
After attending their open meetings, you should strategize which entity groups fit best with your purpose, identities and career trajectories. You should then reach out and/ or sign-up to become a member. I (Meena) was made aware of the Commission for Global Dimensions and Student Development during my first-year of graduate school and many of my friends were very involved in it. However, I was not ready for a commitment so, I decided to wait until it was the right time.
Bring your business cards with you, if you strike up a conversation that is interesting or would like to seek advise/ mentorship, exchange contact information. For those who are more introverted or shy, bring a partner to the networking sessions, this will help with having conversations and not feeling alone. On another note, be genuinely interested in what the other person has to say, networking is not about selling yourself, but rather to make a connection.
Explore New Orleans
Take this opportunity to also rest and explore! ACPA has put together a list of sites, foods, and businesses you can support at Local Recommendations. Learn more about New Orleans, home of the Houma, Choctaw, and Chitimacha people.
Reflect on your experience as an attendee and participant after ACPA 2023; the following questions should assist you with your reflections:
- What went well during your conference experience, and what did not?
- How did the educational sessions help you in your professional and/ or scholarly work?
- How will you utilize the knowledge, energy, and connections you’ve made to create changes?
The learning does not stop at the conference; ACPA and the entity groups host various developmental sessions, so follow their social media channels. Prolong your relationships with your new connections; check in with them occasionally. Finally, start thinking about your involvement with ACPA for next year! If you want to be a more active participant, consider submitting a proposal or submitting to become a member of one of the entity groups.