by Emily Flemming, MNA Director of Operations
I’ve experienced the MNA Conference as both a participant, and a staff member. I have come to love the energy and networking opportunities that the event provides, but leading up to my first conference I remember being nervous, unsure of what to expect. I have compiled a list of tips and tricks for first time attendees, things I wish I had known going into my first conference. I hope they will help you to have a meaningful and engaging conference experience. If you have any questions about attending the conference, from what to wear to which sessions to attend, contact an MNA staff member at 406-449-3717.
- Preconference sessions are WORTH IT. You’re already traveling, you’re already taking time away from the office, and the speakers are world class. It’s worth the additional cost, it’s worth the additional time, and frankly, you already had to change your email away message and voicemail.
- Bring your buds! Your coworkers, your board members, your staff. Going to conferences gets people fired up, excited and reinvigorated, and might get you all on the same page with the same priorities.
- Plan to be away. If you’re from Missoula, don’t try to go back to the office. Don’t try to finish a grant, or respond to every email you receive. Let everything except emergencies slide. Otherwise, you’ll miss good stuff. Come to the conference to invest in yourself and your org, and give yourself permission to focus.
- Network on breaks. The people at the conference can be the best friends, resources, and venting partners you’ve ever met. By supporting the same sector, you are part of the same tribe. Hang with your tribespeople.
- Bring your business cards. Makes it easier for your tribespeople to find you again.
- Think comfort. We’ve all been there. It’s 3 p.m., the room is FREEZING, and your feet are aching. While we do what we can to ensure the room remains comfortable for all, sometimes it’s impossible. Dress in layers, wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Besides, you’ll look snazzier if you’re not shivering.
- Bring SOME stuff. Your laptop, your water bottle, a snack. Not EVERYTHING. It gets old toting around your giant bag of supplies from breakout session to breakout session. Remember, this year efforts are being made to be Green, so the handouts are all going to be online anyway!
- Don’t miss the ending. MNA intentionally has scheduled the conference on Thursday so no one needs to travel on the weekend—don’t miss the closing acts. We have incredible keynotes this year, and I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be crying for days when you realize you skipped out on Vu Le just to get home an hour earlier.
- Most importantly, COME! Of all the conferences I’ve attended, this year’s is the one that I’m the most excited for.