In our current economic climate, getting approval and funding to attend conferences and conventions may be more challenging than it has been in the past. To obtain funding, you need to show how convention participation will relate directly to the objectives of your institution and your professional development.
Make Your Case
All too often, people who want to attend a convention simply submit a request and cross their fingers. Below are tips on articulating the need of continued professional development from both the institutional and personal perspective.
- Write down the three to five most important issues facing your institution/department right now.
- Think about how you personally can affect these issues. Make a list of personal contributions.
- Look through the convention program and note the sessions/events you want to attend that relate to your list of personal contributions.
- Also make a list of the people you would like to personally meet at the convention.
- Write a short “business case” for how attending these sessions and meeting these people will help you contribute to and influence the issues facing your institution/department.
Example: Our department is highly focused on creating a mentor program. My personal contribution to this program will be to act as a mentor. There are several NCA convention sessions about mentoring and mentor programs including:
- Diverse Perspectives on Mentoring Students of Color
- Mentoring Adjuncts-Stabilizing our Changing Faculty
- Mentoring of Tenure Track Faculty
- Discourses of Stability and Change: Effective Mentoring in Traditional and not so Traditional Mentor-protégé Relationships
Professor Lori Zakel appears on several of these sessions and I would like to meet with her privately to get her perspective and guidance on setting up a mentor program.
Prepare for the Convention
Once you get approval, you should prepare thoroughly for the convention because you are going to need to demonstrate that you received the benefits that you outlined in your “business case.”
- Plan your convention schedule to ensure you can attend the sessions and meet the people outlined in your business case. Also include “white space” in your schedule for pop-up meetings and sessions.
- About one or two weeks prior to the convention, contact the people on your list. Introduce yourself and share with them why you are interested in their presentation or why you are interested in meeting them. Plan a specific time to meet with them to grab coffee, meet in the NCA lounge, and much more.
- Plan to take materials (audio recorder, notebook, etc.) that will help you capture the experience and take notes.
At the Convention
While at the convention, remember your business case and that you received approval to meet specific goals.
- Stick to your schedule as much as possible, but be sure not to ignore the benefits posed by meeting someone new and unplanned.
- Take notes, collect business cards, and write notes on the back. Take photos with your cell phone. Anything to help you capture the experience will help support your business case.
After the Convention
Your responsibilities don’t end with the last session.
- After the convention (perhaps on the flight home), write a concise summary of what happened at the convention and how you will use the information you received and the contacts you made to benefit your institution/department. It’s important to write this one-or two-page summary soon after the convention when the experience is fresh in your mind. Use the notes, photos, or business cards you took at the convention to help you.
- Submit the summary to the person who approved your attendance, along with a note thanking him/her for the opportunity.
- If the knowledge you gained might also be useful to your colleagues, you might consider posting your experience summary as a blog or Twitter post.
The purpose of these tips is to make your next convention or conference request even easier than the first. Once your administrators understand that you mean business when you attend a convention, they’ll be more likely to approve your participation!