Making the Most of Your First FloridaACE Conference Experience

Alicia Smyth, FloridaACE Information Management Director

I can remember my very first FloridaACE (known back then as FCPA) conference like it was yesterday. The year was 2000. We were in Key West, and there was no such thing as social media. To network, you had to actually talk to people! As a new professional and introvert, I felt disengaged and disconnected because everyone already seemed to know each other.

Over the years, I started to get more involved. I dipped a toe in by serving as a room host for a few years. I got to know more FloridaACE professionals by getting involved with the Colleges of Central Florida Career Consortium. Eventually, I chaired the conference evaluation committee. 10 years later, I joined the board. Year after year, I got to know more and more FloridaACE professionals and today, going to the annual conference feels like coming home to me. I regret not getting involved with FloridaACE sooner because many of my FloridaACE colleagues have become close friends and confidants.

I share my story as a cautionary tale. The new member experience today is a completely different one, thanks to FloridaACE online system advancements and social media (ideal for introverts and extroverts alike), along with some great ways for new members to network and engage at the conference.

Here are some tips and ideas for ensuring your first FloridaACE conference experience is a productive and fun one:

  • Follow and engage FloridaACE on social media! We are on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Twitter gets especially fun during the conference.
  • Tweet and/or Instagram before, during and after the conference using #FloridaACE15
  • Log in to your FloridaACE account and start connecting with members by visiting the online social community (can only access if logged in). Update your profile, add a picture, and start connecting with members!
  • See who’s attending the conference before you go (must be logged in to view)
  • Join a conference committee
  • Set several goals or intentions for your conference experience – what do you want to get out of your time in St. Augustine?
  • Attend the New Member Orientation at the conference – this is crucial!
  • Get to know at least one seasoned member who can introduce you to people – our amazing Board is a great place to start! Connect with members through social media and the online social community before, during and after the conference.
  • Bring business cards – they will come in handy
  • Be engaged during the conference – attend the events, don’t be afraid to ask questions during and after sessions, and make it a point to introduce yourself every chance you get
  • Try to distance yourself from the office if possible. You can’t learn anything new if you are busy checking emails during sessions. Your work will be waiting for you when you get back, I promise!
  • If possible, stay at the hotel where the conference is being held
  • Share what you learned with your colleagues back in the office
  • Continue to interact with FloridaACE members long after the conference is over through social media, email, consortia, and professional conferences

If you are an introvert or just shy, think of this as a professional development opportunity. I cannot tell you how wonderful my FloridaACE experience has been since I became actively involved. It is empowering to get to know people in your profession who do what you do and share your passion for helping (or hiring) students. Regardless of where you stand on the Myers-Briggs, you will leave the conference with a renewed sense of purpose, ready to celebrate the triumphs and tackle the challenges that come your way in the semesters to come. And next year, you’ll be the seasoned member who helps show new members the ropes!

Articles Worth Reading:
10 Ways to Make the Most Out of a Conference (The Muse)
12 Ways to Get the Most Out of Attending a Conference (U.S. News & World Report)
Conference Attendees: How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck (HubSpot Blogs)