“Honey! I’m Home!”: Making the Most Post-Conference

I am fresh off of the NASPA Region 1 annual conference right now. (For the record, I had a GREAT time. I love  NASPA. I consider Region 1 Conference to be one of my favorite holidays of the year). It’s only been 5 hours  since we finished “Honoring Our Mission” in Mystic, CT and I’m probably safe in speaking on behalf of all 500+ conference attendees in saying that I’m pretty darn tired. I already took a power nap, in fact. But I’m still thinking hard about how to make the most of my conference experience because it doesn’t end when you go back to campus.

That’s right. The conference is not over. The point of these conferences, of course, is that we bring something back with us (by “bring back”, I mean more than a sweatshirt, t-shirt, coffee mug, PEZ dispenser, and 2 strips of photo booth pictures). I just spent 3 days meeting new people, reconnecting with friends and colleagues, thinking about the field, my career, the future, and the past. The amount of reflection, inquiry, discussion, and relationship building I did at this conference is rarely present in my day-to-day life, and I have no intention of just letting all of that effort fade away.

I’m going to hold myself to some expectations for making the most out of my Post-Conference experience, starting right now, and I challenge all of you to do the same. Here are some of my tips for doing so:

  1. The road to hell is paved with ignored business cards.  Does anyone ever give you a business card at a conference and say “Hey, here’s my card, I hope that you throw it in the bottom of your bag and accidentally find it next August during RA Training and think about how you never emailed me”? No? Well then, don’t do that. If you had a good conversation with someone, follow up. Do it now before you forget what the heck you talked to that person about. Shoot them an email just to say “Hey, it was great to meet you/ see you again/ talk about (_______)”. Look them up on Twitter or LinkedIn. Short conversations at conferences can be the beginning of great relationships that expand your network, help to make friends, and benefit you throughout your career.
  2. Read your notes and your program. I take lots of notes during sessions. I jot down questions, answers, important points, and valuable information. Now is the time to go through those notes, match them up to the name of the session and presenters from the program, and consider if you have any further questions or want more information or resources. Don’t wait until you have a vague memory of hearing a great idea somewhere but have no clue who said it or in what context. Make the connections now.
  3. Fill out the Evaluations. Seriously. Do this. I’m looking at you, Mystic attendees who said “I’ll do the online session evaluation on my phone/laptop/tablet” and never actually got around to it. I know you’re out there! The feedback on sessions is extremely valuable to this year’s presenters and will help to improve the quality of sessions provided in our region each year. Also, make sure to fill out the conference evaluation when you get it in your email.
  4. Volunteer for something that interested you. This is especially important as a new professional. Join one of NASPA’s 26 Knowledge Communities. Contact the Regional KC Chair and say you want to get involved (they are probably going to say “Yes”). Actually go to the Volunteer Central website and fill out your profile. Do this now before you forget about the cool stuff you found out about at the conference, because if you don’t, you’ll regret it when you are reminded at next year’s conference.
  5. Share your learning. Not everyone in your department went to the conference, which means that you now have some awesome knowledge to share with your colleagues at home. Suggest a new approach or program and back it up with the information you learned at the conference. Approach your own institution with a fresh perspective. Make sure that the learning and reflection you experienced at the conference doesn’t just go to waste.

What tips do you have for making the most of your post-conference experience?