1. Plan to participate to the fullest extent.
NAA conventions offer many different exceptional learning opportunities, in a variety of structures:
The Idea Swaps each morning are a low-key time to share ideas in small group discussions, while sipping on complimentary morning coffee. Get up early—you won't regret it!
Beyond the 170 captivating workshops available, NAA also offers Poster Presentations—a spectacular visual display of projects, programs, and best practices to view at your own pace and ask questions of experts.
At the end of the day, if you're looking for quick takeaways, attend Express Sessions—45-minutes that provide you just the right amount of information to add value to your experience.
The Learning Expo is filled with opportunities to learn about afterschool products. Visit the Learning Labs to learn more about STEM and HEPA-friendly afterschool learning environments.
2. Get the most bang for your (or your organization's) buck.
The NAA convention offers top-notch opportunities, so planning should be well underway before you leave for your trip. Set a few key goals for the convention, and then plan tactics to meet those goals. Review the "Schedule at a Glance," the workshop options, and exhibitors in advance at www.naaweb.org, and download the NAA app to plan your experience. This game plan allows strategic selection of first and second workshop choices for each session, and exhibitors you want to engage with to ensure opportunity to meet your goals.
3. Take advantage of the available networking opportunities.
Get ready to encounter a variety of outstanding afterschool professionals—prep two or three focus questions to use as you network with others. Questions might pertain to an issue you've been experiencing or to a new initiative you have been considering. As you attend workshop sessions, spark a discussion early by asking a focus question at your table group. Get ready to jot down all of the insight and advice coming your way, to use to when you get back home.
4. Have a system for organizing your thoughts and notes.
Use a "conference template" to organize your thoughts. Document the session title and presenter contact information, notes, and ideas gathered from the session that would benefit you and your colleagues. This format will help you retain information for reflection and implementation meetings, and prevent you from becoming overwhelmed by the new concepts you're introduced to at the convention.
5. Schedule reflection time—and then let the enthusiasm drive you!
Thinking and learning is abundant at the convention. Allow time each day and at the end of convention to process your thoughts. Think about the most important things you learned or encountered. Determine the key takeaways and contacts. Plan immediate action items, put other ideas in a "someday" file, and let the enthusiasm gained at the convention drive you toward your goals!