A First Timer’s Perspective on The Annual NAPO Conference
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Last week, we heard about NAPO 2010 through the Eyes of a Seasoned Conference-Goer. After asking Julie Bestry to cover the conference for my blog, I thought it would also be interesting to hear from someone who has never been before. I posted a request on LinkedIn, and Randi Hutton rose to the challenge.
I was probably the only NAPO member who was actually excited about the annual conference being held in Columbus, Ohio — where I grew up! And my High School Reunion was being held at the same time… does it get any better than that????? So, off I went with great glee to enjoy my hat trick – Annual Conference, Reunion and Family. I had put a lot of time into organizing for the trip. My daily itinerary typed up, each session’s descriptions put into a folder for that day and much thought was given to choosing sessions to attend. Would it be worth it?
I arrived in Columbus on Sunday to visit with family and friends prior to the opening of the Conference on Wednesday. I stayed locally at a friend’s condo and I went over to the hotel on Wednesday afternoon to pick up my materials and case the joint. As a first timer attendee (yet an experienced professional organizer), I had no idea what to expect, starting with the box of different ribbons one could wear proudly upon their jackets. Of course, mine said “First Time Attendee” but I was assured by an experienced conference attendee that that meant everyone would say ‘hi’ and welcome me. Note: she was pinning on multi ribbons as she spoke.
The local Ohio Contingency had arranged a kick-off entitled “The Amazing Race” which turned out to be different groups of attendees holding onto a rope and running around the exhibition hall looking to find the items on their scavenger lists. They all seemed to be having a fun time, laughing with glee at their finds, at their new camaraderie in the shared experience and the prizes won. This is not my type of activity and I had found my favorite organizer from NYC and we talked and then investigated the Exhibitors booths. That was kick-off enough for me.
Ah, the exhibitors booths – what an array of interesting and mostly useful products! From bagged storage items to storage boxes to calendars of all sorts (books, desk, wall, computerized) and books written by attending organizers, all sorts of technology driven organizational tools to closet companies and organizing related organizations, there was much to see, learn and some perhaps with whom one could partner. Great Exhibitors!
The Conference Sessions opened on Thursday with an enthusiastic Keynote Speaker who revved my engine and on we all went to our first session. All of the Special Guest Speakers were interesting and motivational in one way or another.
The Sessions: There were always at least five or more sessions to choose from and oftentimes I found myself having a difficult time choosing. Fortunately, they tape all of the sessions so my back-up plan was to buy the tapes to the unattended sessions of interest. Unfortunately, after all of my angst over choice, I was 50/50 and I think some improvement could be made. It would have been helpful to have a notation by each session re: entry, intermediate or experienced level of content. I never mind going to a session that might be advanced, however, to have wasted time in a couple beginning level sessions was a bit bothersome. Yes, you can walk out and I did so at one session but I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it.
I was lucky to have someone tell me about some of the speakers but that is a very subjective analysis. I enjoyed many of the sessions and took something away from each of them. I have always felt that if you actually take something away that you implement (still on my ‘to do’ list) then it is worthwhile.
There was this wonderful Information Board where people would list get-togethers, invites to dinner, etc. There was a posting for all business organizers to informally meet at a certain time. This turned out to be one of the highlights of my conference experience. Around one table sat a group with the same interest, all of whom had something to offer to the conversation… all of whom I hope to get to know better over time. We decided to have a Google group so that we could have continued discussions year round. I am sure there were other opportunities that I might have missed due to my outside night-time commitments, yet I am very happy with this experience.
Prior to my trip, I had contacted a few organizers from different parts of the country and very much enjoyed meeting them and hope to build on those relationships. Some were less experienced than me, others moreso. Either way, we all have something to share with one another and this conference brought us together – so another win/win.
As I write this, I realize I took away even more than I originally thought. Yes, I gained inspiration. Yes, I gained ideas and information. Yes, I met some nice and interesting people and yes, I believe some of them will become long distance friends and associates. I am thankful that the stars aligned so that I was able to go to the conference, go to my reunion and spend time with my family. I don’t know if I would have gone had not it all fallen in the same week.
So, I might not be your typical first time attendee, but I am a happy first time attendee and now that I know some of the ropes, I hope future first time attendees will lean on me.