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Top 4 reasons to attend your professional association’s annual meeting


Are you debating whether or not to attend your professional association’s upcoming meeting? Perhaps a long to-do list at the office or a tight budget is making you question your participation? Don’t make excuses. Go. You won’t regret it.

I recently joined the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and attended their Convening Leaders meeting in Chicago earlier this month. I found this to be an incredible experience on so many levels and here’s why.

It was top notch. In fact, there were so many great sessions to choose from that it was hard to pick! The opportunity to learn from my peers was priceless. I walked away with countless key takeaways and simply felt inspired overall. What a great feeling!

There was a perfect mix of both educational and networking opportunities. Becoming aware of the importance of building a professional network of fellow meeting industry gurus was quite possibly my most valuable takeaway. The educational sessions themselves are crucial, but developing relationships to eventually have a “go to” group of peers to bounce ideas off of and learn from on a day-to-day basis is just as vital as attending the educational sessions.

Professional Development
It was very interesting to experience an event from the attendee perspective rather the planner side. For example, seeing how other groups utilize the latest technology or manage the overall logistics increased my motivation to positively impact attendees in the meetings I organize. Obtaining CEUs that will count toward my aspirations of earning the CMP designation was an extra bonus, too!

Personal Growth
It goes without saying that attending a 4,000+ person meeting can be intimidating, but as you can see it was a very worthwhile “push” out of my comfort zone.

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Tips and tricks for attending your first conference

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When I was brought onto the AMPED team in January, one of the first things we did was book my flight for the annual conference of one of our clients. It was several months away, and I didn’t think much of it, as I was trying to learn and retain everything about my new position as quickly as possible. It really wasn’t until the week before that it occurred to me that I had never been to a conference of any kind, and I had no idea what to anticipate. So if you plan on attending a conference for the first time, here are some tips on how to prepare, what to pack, and what to expect.

How to prepare:
Determine what you hope to accomplish there. Making a small itinerary or schedule gives you an idea of just how much time you have available. Plan to meet with colleagues whom you’ve only ever talked with over the phone, as it will put a face to the voice and help you connect better. Put aside time for programs and presentations that you would not normally have access to outside of a conference venue. And if you are giving a presentation yourself, have duplicates of your visuals handy, whether it be on a thumb drive or in the cloud.

What to pack:
It’s hard to anticipate everything you will need once you’re there. Pack your essentials, of course. Plus, I suggest packing an extra day’s worth of clothing. It’s always good to remember that with your clients, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed, so having several nicer outfits is important. Also make sure that you have everything that you will need to accomplish your goals at the conference: business cards, notepads, phone charger, etc. And comfortable shoes. I don’t think I can stress that enough.

What to expect:
There will be a copious number of people to meet and names to remember. Business cards will help, but following up with connections afterwards, and sometimes writing notes on the card itself will help you remember who they were. The days will be early and long, but fun and informative. Make sure you meet new people, as everyone will be a part of the conference and will have several things in common with you right off the bat. Who knows – the person you sit next to at lunch could be a potential business partner down the road.

The most important thing to remember is to enjoy yourself. Though it’s a whirlwind of activity, the days are long and the work is hard, remember to step back and appreciate the experience. People are there to enjoy themselves and to connect, so you should do the same. I thoroughly enjoyed my first conference and look forward to more down the road!

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