So you’ve had a week to recover and let all the information you received at the 2013 NRPA Congress and Exposition sink in; now’s a great time to reflect on your experience and start to sift through the business cards, presentation information, and more to apply your experience and make the most of your time spent in Houston.
To get you started, we asked three NRPA staff members — a first-time Congress attendee, a second-timer and a veteran from the field — to share their perspective and offer thoughts about Congress. And we have some special tips for making the most of the content and connections you gained.
Molly Andrews, Customer Service Coordinator and First-Time Congress Attendee:
This was not only my first time at NRPA’s Congress and Exposition, but also the first conference I have EVER attended. It was very exciting, to say the least, and was a total whirlwind of events. Out of all the responsibilities I had during the week of Congress, I would have to say that my favorite was being at the NRPA Membership Roundup booth in the Exhibit Hall. It gave me the chance to meet hundreds of members, many of them new having only recently become members as a result of their agency's Premiere packages, or having signed up as a non-member for the conference.
I am pleased to say that I was more excited than nervous and felt very comfortable among the bustling environment.
Julie Boland, Certification Manager and Veteran Congress Attendee:
NRPA Congress and Exposition…what an event! While I am currently working for NRPA, it is common for me to reflect on the years I spent in the field of parks and recreation. The first NRPA Congress and Exposition I attended was in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 2007! I would have to say I was hooked from the start. I have now attended six Congress events, and I have determined there are definitely endless benefits for attending professionals and citizens. These benefits include: applicable and timely education sessions, astounding displays of current trends in the exhibit hall and a wide variety of networking opportunities. It is still a pleasure for me to see all of the great sessions in the program guide, explore the new displays in the exhibit hall and experience the changes that take place from year to year.
I believe Congress is truly an event to embrace, and an awesome opportunity for professionals to absorb as much information as possible.
Danielle Taylor, Associate Editor Parks & Recreation Magazine and Two-Time Congress Attendee:
With 6,500 attendees, 270 education sessions and 380 companies exhibiting on the show floor, this year’s Congress in Houston was just as big and exciting as last year’s in Anaheim, but as a second-year attendee, I had a better idea of what to expect this time around. My main goal for the week was to gather material that could be used later for articles in the magazine, and after attending several sessions each day and talking with hundreds of people, I definitely have a lot of great possibilities lined up.
That said, it’s easy to come home after a big event like Congress, catch up on sleep, file away your notes and look forward to next year, but if you don’t follow up on the things you learned and the contacts you made, you miss out on half the benefit of the event. If there was a speaker whose presentation really resonated with you, follow up with him or her now to start a professional relationship and a dialogue. If you went to their session, you probably were looking for some insight that you could apply to something happening at your agency, and they probably have more specifics that they can share with you than they were able to present to a broad audience in an hour and 15 minutes. Follow up with exhibitors and fellow attendees as well, and give your notes and gathered materials another look.
It’s hard to fully process all that you took in at Congress, so make the most of your experience and don’t let your week in Houston end just because you’re now home.
Which one of these perspectives can you relate to best? What are your best tips for digesting all the information and great ideas from Congress? What’s the first thing you do after returning home from Congress?
It is never too early to start planning for next year! We’ll see you in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2014!