I have been fortunate to attend over 18 ACCED-I Annual Conferences as a staff member of ACCED-I. When talking about the Annual Conference with a member or prospective member I often list all of the benefits of attending this educational event such as inspiring keynotes, informative general sessions, a multitude of special interest sessions to choose from, roundtable discussions, topic expert sessions, pre-conference workshops and institutes. The educational opportunities offered at the Annual Conferences, within a three day period, is astounding to me. However, one thing often overlooked that is equally important are available networking opportunities.
Here are just a few examples when I have seen networking at its finest.
At a reception I was talking with a woman who was new in the collegiate conference and events profession and a first time attendee. I asked her where she was from, her title, etc. I got the feeling that she really didn't even know why she was here. Just then a member walked up to us and I introduced them. After only a few minutes of conversation, it became evident that not only were they both from a small college setting, but they had the same title and same reporting structure. I could almost see the relief on her face that she was not alone, and that there was a purpose to her attending this conference. To steal a quote from ACCED-I President Lisa Salazar, "She found her people!"
Even though I am not in the collegiate conference and events profession like you are, I love to hear the discussions that go on during meals at the Annual Conference. One discussion comes to mind at a lunch where two colleagues were discussing the difficulty of housing turning over the residence halls to conferences for the summer season. Shortly, others at the table joined in and contributed. One member also joined in and offered some great advice on how to approach housing so that they would have the much needed buy-in to work together, rather than against each other. Everyone at the table left with an invaluable piece of information to take back with them.
Here are some tips for networking within ACCED-I:
Attend industry events such as regional events, the ACCED-I Annual Conference and ACCED-I Educational Forums. In addition to the education you will receive, the networking opportunities are important as well.
Don't be afraid to talk about problems that you are having in your job or at your institution. Chances are the person(s) you are talking to have been through the same thing, or knows someone who has. Also, don't be afraid to ask questions - even those difficult ones!
Be open to conversations happening around you. You may not think that the conversation on Commencement will help you, but You just may get a piece of valuable advice on how to deal with difficult faculty.
Don't forget that networking can take place in may places - on the shuttle from the airport, in the elevator, and of course at planned functions such as receptions, breaks and lunches.