Getting the Most Out of Professional Development Conferences

Getting the Most Out of Professional Development Conferences

At the end of June, I spent a week in Downtown Detroit at the American Express Leadership Academy, Points of Light National Conference on Volunteering and Service (NCVS) and Michigan MSO Retreat. Talk about a jam packed week! With all the information flowing my direction, I had to make some adjustments to my plan to allow myself the time to process everything. I’m excited to be energized and have so many new ideas! I wanted to share a few of my tips from the week:

  1. Bring your own notebook. Yes, it’s nice if they provide paper for you, but having all my notes in one place made it much easier upon return to the office. I was able to quickly do professional development reports in the order of how I attended sessions. This made it easy to recall the speaker and session, and I even was able to add a few things I didn’t capture in my notes.
  2. Allow yourself time to process. In between Leadership Academy and NCVS, I ventured to the DNR Outdoor Recreation Center. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s essentially a plastic replica of the U.P. in a bug free, air conditioned building. I love spending time outdoors, but the 93 degree Detroit weather wasn’t for me. I found myself sitting by the replica waterfall for 20 minutes, taking in the sounds that were so familiar. It allowed me time to process all the things I had learned about myself during leadership academy in a way that was familiar and comfortable.
  3. Take advantage of conference perks. I learned the most from the two tours I did of Detroit. The tours were organized through the conference in conjunction with Detroit Experience Factory. Seeing the resilience of Detroit first hand was so eye opening. I learned about nonprofit organizations in the Northwest Neighborhoods and Downtown that are pushing their communities forward. Talk about inspiring!
  4. Volunteer at the Conference. I volunteered on the Michigan MSO Retreat planning committee and as a greeter at NCVS. Both of these experiences allowed me to meet peers that are doing work similar to mine. I also got to use my skills, making me more invested in both activities. I believe this is why I was so engaged in the retreat and conference, it was my time and energy that helped make it successful.

Now that I’m back, I’m working on the U.P. Nonprofit Conference planning. I hope to integrate these tips into the planning of the conference, and create space for everyone to learn something new, especially in ways you don’t expect.

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