Attending a regional or national conference can be an action-packed, mind-boggling experience. So much to do — so little time. With tight travel budgets, it is imperative that your organization gets all that you can for the money you are investing. To get the most out of a conference, you must spend some time at home preparing for it. Delegates should know what to expect and feel comfortable about representing your organization and UW-Eau Claire.
SELECT YOUR DELEGATION
- Who will do the best job?
- Who has displayed leadership ability, initiative, stamina and open-mindedness?
- Who will be returning next year?
- Who can academically afford to miss classes?
- Who can work together as a team to best represent UW-Eau Claire? Selecting a graduating senior as a reward for his/her services to the organization isn’t the best investment of funds.
HOLD DELEGATE PREPARATION MEETINGS
- Review all aspects of the conference experience.
- Review the schedule.
- Review the nature and structure of the organization sponsoring the conference.
- Discuss your travel plans. When and from where are you leaving and returning?
- Discuss what clothes to take. Does the conference require dressy clothes? (Most conference closing banquets are dressy.)
- Discuss how much spending money will be needed. How many meals are provided? Where is the conference? Lunch in La Crosse is significantly cheaper than lunch in Chicago.
- Suggest that delegates leave ample room in their luggage for all the materials they will get at the conference. It’s a good idea to take an empty briefcase or backpack.
- Suggest that students contact all of their professors about the classes they will be missing and why they will be doing so. Ask your advisor to write a letter to professors explaining the educational experience you will be getting, as well as the honor you have been given in representing UW-Eau Claire. Give the delegates a telephone number to leave with family and friends so they can be reached in case of an emergency.
- Have the delegation agree on conference expectations. Strive to agree about all responsibilities and appropriate behavior.
TAKE INFORMATION WITH YOU
Bring materials about the projects your organization has sponsored. Many conferences have an exhibit hall for information sharing between schools. Check the conference schedule to see if pre-registration is required.
ASSIGN EDUCATIONAL SESSIONS
There will be more educational sessions than it is possible to attend. As a delegation you need to decide who will go to what sessions. If more than one person from UW-Eau Claire attends the same session, you are not getting the most for your money. Consider both individual interest areas and organization need areas.
- Take notes during the sessions.
- Collect all the resource material that you can. Compile this information into a conference notebook that you can share with members that were unable to attend.
HOLD DELEGATION MEETINGS
During the conference, set aside some time each day for your delegation to get together to discuss new ideas, educational sessions, and how the whole experience is going. You can hold the meeting over a meal or retreat to a room. It’s important for your delegation to keep in touch.
Conferences are also great places to network with students from other schools. Find out what they are doing at their school. Share ideas! Exchange e-mail address for easy communication after the conference.
Conferences are fun and they should be, but to get the most for your money, you need to remember the reason you are there. Your priority is to do the best job possible representing your organization and UW-Eau Claire. Conference schedules can be killers; try to avoid conference burnout. Pace yourself — Get enough sleep — Take advantage of scheduled free time to relax.