The 2019 NCAN National Conference – "Racing Toward Postsecondary Success" – is right around the corner (Sept. 16-18). Three days might seem like ample time to learn, network, and explore Indianapolis a bit, but the conference is going to fly by.
To help you make the most of your time in Indy, the NCAN staff offers these seven tips.
Just say “hi.” Nothing is stranger than traveling all the way to a conference and not meeting new people. Take this small step: Say hi to the people sitting on either side of you at sessions, in front and in back of you on the buffet line, and next to you at the coffee shop. Saying hi doesn’t mean you’re their conference buddy or their best friend for three days, but we’re all here at NCAN because we want to help students. Find out how the folks near you advance that aim and you just might find the contact you didn’t know you needed.
Be present. Not to toot our own horn, but the NCAN team works incredibly hard to make sure attendees have a great conference experience. From reviewing hundreds of session proposals to finding outstanding plenary speakers, we take seriously our goal of keeping the NCAN National Conference the premier professional development event in the college access and success field. So be sure to engage with the lineup we’ve assembled by being present and asking yourself, “Can whatever it is I’m doing on my phone or laptop wait?” The answer is: probably.
Don’t railroad yourself. If you’re “the data person” at your organization or FAFSA completion is really your jam, that’s awesome, there’s plenty of topic-specific content in our myriad tracks. That said, branch out and explore something that’s not in your wheelhouse. Ever thought about how socioemotional learning intersects with the FAFSA verification process? No? You might if you’re coming with a background from either of these topics and decide to explore the other on a whim.
Connect with NCAN’s Member Services Team. Do you have specific questions about NCAN's resources? Do you have professional development needs you want to share? Is you organization/program implementing an effective practice you want to tell us about? We'd love to meet with you and learn more about your needs, challenges, and accomplishments! You can ask Jamese Carrell, Zenia Henderson, or Tong Lee specific questions about your membership account. Don’t be shy, find us at NCAN’s exhibit booth, the registration desk, the Success Gallery, and/or in the halls between conference sessions!
Attend a Learning Community. Join a learning community that best suits your professional role/function for an opportunity to meet new and old colleagues alike. You can share challenges you might be experiencing in your workplace and swap creative solutions to tackle those challenges. This is a great way to network and learn with your colleagues in a safe and professional space. There will be Learning Communities for: executive directors; funders; program directors; advisers; data anaylsts; and policy researchers. We know titles differ; just ensure your responsibilities align to make the most of these sessions. For instance, admissions professionals could choose to join program directors or advisers, and higher ed administrators could join executive directors or program directors.
Extend your network of college access colleagues. Make a goal to collect at least five business cards of people you didn’t know before coming to the conference. Perhaps you can even make a pledge with someone you meet this year to attend the 25th Anniversary NCAN National Conference in New Orleans in 2020 together!
Don't attend the same sessions as your colleagues. (Divide and conquer to cover more content.) There are so many interesting sessions at the NCAN conference, that you may find yourself trying to be in two, or even three places at once! Talk to colleagues – from your organization or even others – to develop a “divide and conquer” plan. Figure out which sessions you want to cover, split them up, and then compare notes at the end of the day or post-conference. Also check for materials and slides in the conference app to read up on topics you may have missed.