10 Tips for Conference Success

The #NonprofitSTRONG Summit is a jam-packed day of learning new things, expanding your professional skills, and meeting new people. It is both exhilarating and exhausting. To help you make the most of the conference, and to ensure you have an amazing time, check out these ten tips to optimize your #NonprofitSTRONG experience.

Make sure your workplace is paying for your ticket. If you haven’t already, turn in the receipt from your #NonprofitSTRONG Summit ticket to your boss as a work expense. Investing in staff development will help your organization better meet its mission. (And surely a $35 conference ticket, which includes breakfast and lunch, can squeeze into the budget.) Check out this blog post to get some tangible tips for how to ask for professional development funding.

Identify at least one concrete goal for your conference experience. Have you been struggling with a challenge at work that you’re still not sure how to solve? Write it down and bring it to the Summit. Make it your mission to find someone(s) who know the answer to your problem. Whether it’s a technical problem with your website, a question about a grant application, or a struggle to make your organization more equitable, keep it in mind when you are choosing which breakout sessions to attend. Also look for people at the conference who you think might be able to help. Ask around to find those people who have experience working on your website platform, who review grant applications, or specialize in issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion. You should be able to walk away from the conference with a big check mark next to that item on your list. It will help you be productive during a day away from your desk, and, of course, help you solve your problem.

Make new friends. A big part of the Summit is the opportunity to network with your nonprofit peers. Our YNPN community is so supportive, impressive, and cool, that in my experience, our networking goes beyond a simple exchange of business cards. Know that the people at the conference are genuinely interested in who you are, what you are working on, and how they can help you. Many of my best friends here in the Triangle have come from the YNPN community. So open yourself up to meeting your new BFF!

Remember to bring your biz cards. And scribble notes to yourself on the back of the cards you collect from others. With 200 people in one room, the day can get a little hazy. If you wait until you get home to sort through the business cards you collected, you won’t remember whom you met or what you discussed. Every time you meet someone new, write a few notes on their business card to help you remember who they are and what they do. For example, if you meet me, you could write on the back of my card: “Communications, social media, YNPN, and Beyoncé.” (I really like Beyoncé.) That way, you will know what to say and which questions to ask in your follow email to them after the conference.

Dress comfortably. Dress at the Summit is business casual (with an emphasis on the casual). We want you to be comfortable in the environment and feel your best. Bring layers in case the room is chilly. And if you get nervous at events like these, and sweat a lot when you are nervous, plan for that. Wear light layers, a sleeveless shirt, or a fabric that won’t stain.

Tweet and post to Insta. And prepare the gifs. The #NonprofitSTRONG hashtag is very active during the conference on both Twitter and Instagram. (Last year we totally trended.) Engage with your peers on social media. It’s a great way to not only share your Summit experience but to learn from and connect with others.

Throw everything you know out the window and walk in with an open mind. Tear down the walls—the walls around your organization and the walls around yourself—and envision your work in a different way. It’s easy to think “I could never do that in my workplace.” While that may be ultimately true, it is worth the exercise to imagine your workplace radically different. Use your time at the Summit to reflect on your organization, on your career, and think critically about what could be different. You must push yourself to recognize your own biases and assumptions. This will help you learn new things, move outside of your box, and allow yourself to shift, think differently, and care about something new. Be curious and work hard to #StayWoke.

Immediately after the conference, write down some quick reflections. Something you learned, something you want to share with your team, and something you will do immediately when you get back to your desk.

Schedule post-conference debrief time. Mark off time on your calendar for the Monday after the conference to email those biz cards, follow up with people, and share your reflections with your team. If you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen.

Enjoy the awesome day. Appreciate the opportunity to learn new things. Enjoy the time away from your desk. Have fun and feel re-energized. The Summit only happens once a year!

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