How to Make the Most of Your NCDA Conference Experience
By Lakeisha Mathews
It is the most exciting time of the year for those in the field of career development! Time for the 2019 NCDA Conference, taking place in Houston, Texas from June 27 – 29. As the premier organization serving career practitioners and educators, NCDA strives to design a dynamic conference experience packed with learning, networking, and inspiration. Inasmuch, participants can be easily overwhelmed with the vast opportunities offered at the conference. Therefore, it is important for participants to map out their conference experience in advance. To help with pre-conference planning, we have compiled a list of recommendations for first-timers, new professionals, students, and anyone looking to maximize their experience. For complete conference details or to register online now, refer to the NCDA website at www.ncdaconference.org.
Map Out Your Experience in Advance
Be prepared beforehand and review the conference app or conference program book prior to your arrival in Texas. (The app and online program book will be posted online at the start of the conference month.) Be sure to review the daily schedules including keynote speakers and concurrent sessions to start mapping out your participation. You will also find helpful FAQs, highlights of new publications, and information on NCDA credentials when reviewing the app or program book.
Staying connected with the conference is easy with the use of social media and the conference app. Participants are encouraged to download the conference app through the APP Store or Google Play in order to create your own personalized electronic schedule and to receive updates directly from the NCDA Conference planning team. We are also excited to explore this year's themes of creativity and empowerment through our new Instagram account. Follow us @ncdaorg as we create a visual scrapbook of our NCDA community. Tag us in your posts so we can share and support your work in inspiring people to reach their goals. If you are not on Instagram, join us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as we gear up for #ncdaHouston.
Find Your Group
The conference provides a variety of ways to connect with other professionals. Kick off your conference interactions by attending the Welcome Reception to reconnect with colleagues, network with new practitioners/educators, and meet the NCDA Board. Also, be sure to attend your constituency group meeting to connect with professionals working in K-12, Higher Education, Private Practice, or Counselor Education. If this is your first conference, check out the First Timer’s Orientation. If you are interested in getting involved with NCDA, stop by the Committee Meetings session to learn more about volunteer opportunities. Lastly, you should definitely make time to attend the conference social events including the fun-filled, western-themed NCDA Party on Friday evening.
Rock the Vote
Attend the NCDA Membership Meeting to hear updates on the organization and vote for incoming officers. Both members and non-members are welcome to attend. Highlights include seeing the NCDA Board members, learning about new services and membership benefits, and hearing about association accomplishments and special initiatives regarding the field of career development.
Get Empowered to Break Barriers
This year’s speaker lineup is sure to please. David Whyte, author and poet, will open the conference with an inspirational talk on Conversation Leadership and the need to increase creativity and adaptability into the workplace. Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski, President of the University of Maryland Baltimore County and recognized leader in academic innovation and teaching, will speak at Friday’s General Session. And, well-known career theorist, Dr. Jane Goodman, will serve as Closing Keynote on Saturday. Be sure to get to each session early to get a seat and prepare to be empowered!
A unique feature this year is the pre-conference IAEVG-NCDA Symposium focused on International Perspectives in Career Development. The symposium will take place on June 26 and aims to bring together select groups of international specialists in the field of career development. Career professionals from diverse regions, countries and continents will be present. To learn more and register, visit the conference website at www.ncdaconference.org.
Learn a Lot
The conference will feature 240+ learning opportunities! Choose the right topics and formats for your learning preferences. Sessions are offered in four formats: Presentations, Roundtables, Professional Development Institutes, and Graduate Student Poster Sessions. Presentations are the most frequent sessions with approximately 95 choices over the duration of the conference. Roundtables are two 30-minute presentations which allow attendees to have an interactive experience with the presenter and other participants in a small group setting. Professional Development Institutes (PDIs) are in-depth learning experiences offered for an additional fee on Wednesday only. Graduate Student Poster Sessions provide an opportunity for graduate students to share their research or thoughts on the industry in a non-structured (i.e., stop by when you can) format.
Need a new book for teaching career development, discussing ethics, or enhancing supervision? Ready to check out the latest book on assessment? Visit the NCDA Book Store and pack your suitcase with the best options for you and your clients. Be sure to use your coupon in your registration bag! Don't sit all day. Walk the Exhibit Hall and talk with the vendors about how to use their products in your work setting.
Feeling shy? Participants who are new to NCDA or identify with being introverted may want to come prepared with networking strategies to reduce stress. Below are a few tips and strategies:
- Never Eat Alone: Whether you invite a new contact out to try a unique Texas cuisine or meet up with a former co-worker for coffee, use meal times for connecting with other professionals and conference vendors.
- Introduce Yourself: Take advantage of the sense of community felt at NCDA conferences. Always introduce yourself to the colleagues sitting next to you in sessions and do not forget to collect business cards.
- Take a Break: Learning and networking are hard work. Be sure to build in breaks and time to decompress throughout the conference. A stroll around the lazy Texas-shaped river on the rooftop should do the trick!
- Get to sessions early: Sessions can be packed. Try to get to sessions 10 minutes early to find a seat, settle in and connect with presenters and other early birds.
Once you return home, your conference experience doesn’t stop. Take some time to unpack your experience and ensure a return on investment using the strategies below:
- Follow-up: Reach out to connections made at the conference via email and on social media. Invite local colleagues out for coffee to continue conversations started in Texas.
- Be an Active NCDA Member: Make sure your membership is up-to-date or if you are new to NCDA, join online to access all the benefits of membership. You can click on Members Only Resources to maintain your membership profile, view the Program Book after the conference, and track your CEUs.
- Get Involved: Reach out to Board members and Committee members to learn more about NCDA volunteer opportunities. Your constituency group Trustee can also assist you with increasing your engagement.
A little preparation will help to ensure that your NCDA conference experience is a success. The combination of information, movement, and interpersonal connectivity will make this experience one of the best. We look forward to seeing you in Texas!
Lakeisha Mathews, CCSP, GCDF, CPCC, is the Director of the Career & Internship Center at the University of Baltimore. She has been involved in the field of career development since 2004 and currently serves on the NCDA Board as Trustee for Higher Education Counselors and Specialists. She earned her B.A. in Communication from the University of Maryland College Park and her M.S. in Human Resources Management from Towson University and is currently pursuing an Ed.D in Higher Education Administration from Wilmington University. Lakeisha is a Past-President of the Maryland Career Development Association (NCCDA) and an alumnus of the NCDA Leadership Academy. You can contact Lakeisha via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/lakeishamathews