This article was written by Margarita Cuizon, senior director of Member Services and Support
One of my favorite things about working for ACSA is the opportunity to meet and greet the members we serve during our conferences. These events allow us to showcase many of our strengths—our staff, our innovation and ability to connect you to knowledge, resources, and our networks. It's a great reminder of the value our organization can bring to a member's career.
At the 2018 Leadership Summit in San Diego, I thought it would be a good time to share some practical tips and reminders for getting the most out of the conference.
1. Have a goal.
There are so many reasons for investing in a conference and it varies for everyone. Is it to dive deeper into a specific area or to learn a new model? Is it to grow your professional network? Or are you attending to simply refresh your energy and your enthusiasm for leading? Whatever the reasons, be reflective and clear about your goal and be intentional with the way you plan to reach it.
2. Download the ACSA App and plan ahead.
We've gone green, so there will be very little paper to meet you when you pick up your name badge on site. While hard copies of our conference program will be available at registration, they won’t have full session descriptions, speaker bios or presentation links. You can find this on our ACSA mobile app, at the bottom on a button marked "Leadership Summit.”
Download the free app from iTunes or Google Play and you can begin browsing the interactive schedule. Simply select the sessions and special events you plan to hit and the app will automatically send you a reminder notification when it's time to go.
3. Tag team the sessions.
This year's Summit is packed with interesting sessions that may make it hard to choose just one in the same hour. If you're coming with a team, take advantage of your numbers by splitting up for the sessions. Not only will you meet other people, you'll get more bang for your buck. At break, you can regroup with your team and debrief in the Membership Lounge so no one misses out. This is a great way to ensure maximum coverage of all that the conference has to offer.
4. Participate and be an active attendee.
Ask questions, challenge an idea, or offer a solution to whatever is being discussed. When you're sitting in those sessions, do what you would expect of your own students—engage. It's been said that much of the learning that happens during a conference is through peer-to-peer sharing.
Try to hit up the social events, too. Early arrivers get a chance to mingle at a spectacular reception Wednesday evening aboard the U.S.S. Midway, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Your badge is your entry ticket, but if you're unable to check in at registration beforehand, you can pick up your badge at the Midway. Tickets for guests will also be on sale for $40. We've planned such a fun kick-off that we're expecting you to burn the midnight oil, so we’ve made sure there is plenty of caffeine to jump start your networking in the Exhibit Hall Thursday morning. We’ll provide the coffee, you provide the conversation.
If you’re new to the Summit, then you should have also received an invitation to the First Time Attendee Breakfast, where you can meet ACSA leaders, key staffers and learn more about the program. Other fun ways to network include the Thursday night Gaslamp Scavenger Hunt. Team up with attendees from your region and explore the Gaslamp area together while collecting points to win some cool gift card prizes.
Do you need advice about how to get up the leadership pipeline? Then be sure to stop by the Membership Lounge to chat with knowledgeable mentors, former school administrators and legal experts, who are ready to answer any of your career questions. Finally, Saturday’s Every Student Succeeding Fun Run/Walk can be a great way to burn off some of those conference calories. If you didn’t pre-register for the Fun Run, you can still register at the Summit Bookstore until Friday at 3 p.m. Your $25 entry includes a 2018 Fun Run t-shirt and benefits ACSA's Every Student Succeeding program.
The conference planning committee and staff have made sure that the 2018 Leadership Summit is a well-rounded event for you, so be sure to take advantage of it.
5. Visit the Exhibit Hall.
Free coffee and pastries at 7 a.m., and plenty more. You may well discover new resources around every corner, because our exhibitors are also education experts and might have just the solution you're looking for.
Need more motivation? You can win some great prizes, too. We've been known to raffle off iPads, $200 Amazon gift cards and other great stuff donated by our wonderful vendors. So be sure to thank them for their support by making the time to browse the Exhibit Hall.
While there, you can even do a little shopping. The Summit Bookstore will offer books from this year's speakers along with recommended titles, as well as a wide selection of ACSA gear and logo wear for both men and women. As an added bonus, keynote speaker Tim Wise will be signing books on Friday morning at 11:30 a.m. This will be a great opportunity to engage with him in person and check out what the bookstore has to offer.
And don’t forget to stop by the Membership Lounge to drop off your unused hotel or travel sized soaps at our Donation Station for the homeless. You can also charge up your tech, meet ACSA staff, learn more about membership, and pick up your Leadership Summit Survival Kit and some other cool made-for-Summit-only swag. Or just take five and drag your friends into our “Selfie Station" to post on your social networks (hashtag #acsasummit).
6. Network and mingle.
It's human nature to stick with who and what we know. But if you want to make your conference time count on every level, challenge yourself to make new contacts. Make it a goal to meet at least three new people while you're at the Summit. If you are on the shy side, then have an extroverted friend (doesn't everyone have one?) help you with introductions. No friend? Find a staffer. In Member Services, we are happy to help make connections for you, it's one of the things we do best. You can always find one of us hanging out in the Membership Lounge.
7. Get on social media and use the event hashtag.
These days, you can begin your conference networking long before you get there. By using the event hashtag, social media can help jump-start event connections. Use it to chat with presenters and other conference attendees, and even set up an on-site group meet-up.
Social media is a great tool for sharing what we are learning and capturing what is happening around us. Have fun with it; just make sure you get the hashtag right so those following can re-share/retweet your golden nuggets. The hashtag for the 2018 Leadership Summit is #acsasummit.
8. Take home what you learn.
Act like a delegate for those back at the ranch who were not fortunate enough to attend. Distill your notes into action items that you can implement when you're back at the job. Develop a presentation around what you learned for the next staff meeting, or keep it simple and email your notes to colleagues who might benefit from the information. I bet they would appreciate it.
9. Follow up and connect with your new contacts.
Remember those three new people you were supposed to meet? Now that you've got those business cards, stay in touch. Your new connections could become your next collaboration partners or your go-to network for information. You've made the effort to make new friends, so make it a point to keep in touch and build those relationships.
That's my advice for making the most of your conference experience. We look forward to meeting those of you who are attending. Here's to a few days of learning together, making connections and having a little fun.
What would you add to this list? Let us know your thoughts and suggestions so we can continue to share the best that Leadership Summit has to offer.
Find out more about the Summit and register at www.acsa.org/leadershipsummit.