In less than a month, we pack the FUN van and head to Madison, Wisconsin for the NACA Northern Plains Conference. Usually, I write something about a conference or a convention the week before it begins. Recently, I realized that we start preparing for a conference 4 to 6 weeks out and I bet many schools do as well. Knowing many of the advisors in the Northern Plains Region, I know that they are already reviewing the pre-conference materials, looking at the acts that will be showcasing and having delegation meetings. Here are a few things to think about, as you get ready for NACA:
Associate “FAQs” – Things we get asked all the time:
1. Is it the same group of you guys that are here all 3 days?
Yes it is. We hope that this will give you the opportunity to visit each booth and actually talk to the staff, in those booths, and get to know them. It is true that in one or 2 CAMPs you can get a bunch of printed material, but this is about building relationships and getting to know people.
2. How come everyone in our delegation can’t get a stuffed animal or something airbrushed?
Many associates (agencies/companies) offer what are called booth demos or booth demonstrations. These are intended to show you what they can do when they are hired to come to your campus. It is not a chance for you to load up on free swag.
3. I’m tired, these days are too long; do I have to stay in the CAMP the whole time?
In terms of going to or staying in CAMP that is between you and your advisor. We understand the days are long and that they are jammed full of activities but there is a lot to get done in the 2-1/2 days you are there. NACA is aware of these issues and is looking to make some changes in the schedule, so stay tuned.
4. Who picks the acts on stage; some of them aren’t very good?
There is a group of staff and students that do the selection and it is not an easy task. Hundreds of acts apply and the process takes 4 to 5 days to complete. During that time, the group is only required to watch 90 seconds of each video presentation, so let’s do the math. If 500 acts are submitted, the group will watch a minimum of 12.5 HOURS of video and that is just in the first round. Please keep in mind that the committee is trying to bring in a diverse group of performers to satisfy a lot of tastes and many programming needs. Something that doesn’t appeal to you may work for another college and something that others don’t care for you may love. It is not the easiest of jobs.
Here are some general recommendations:
1. Get out of, or at least on the edge of, your comfort zone. Try some new experiences and take the time to meet new people.
2. Network with other schools. They have a lot of information and ideas that I am sure they would be happy to share.
3. Use CAMP and the rest of the conference to practice your networking skills.
4. Introduce yourself to people with a firm handshake and look them in the eye.
5. Do some pre-planning before you get on site, and not just picking educational sessions and looking at showcase acts. Let’s talk about meals. Think about where you want to eat and the foods people in your delegation like and don’t like.
6. Set some measurable and attainable goals for you and for the group.
7. Get some rest before you get there and while you are there.
8. When you get back to campus, share what you have learned.
9. Put (at least) one thing you learned into practice.
10. Have FUN! This should be an enjoyable and invigorating experience.