Top 10 List: How to Get the Most Out of the OACAC Conference


By Jemison Foster & Tim Munnerlyn 
Jemison Foster                    Tim Munnerlyn   
Bangkok Patana School        American Comm. School – Abu Dhabi

Let’s face it, not all professional development opportunities are created equal.  Some are painful, but a necessity.  Some are engaging and inspire.  And some are OACAC!  With just over two weeks to go before this summer’s OACAC conference in Tampa, we thought we would share a few handy tips on how to maximize your experience.  


10.)  Attend newcomer Sessions/Events  
Mingle with other newbies while mixing it up with experience participants.   The unofficial start to OACAC is the First Timers’ Meeting slated for 2pm on Tuesday, July 8th.  


9.) Make a game plan for sessions/events you want to attend ahead of time There is no greater pressure in the world than trying to decide between “How to Make Naviance Work for You” or “How to Write the Perfect Recommendation Letter,” minutes before the start.  Agonizing between two sessions?  See tip #8.


8.) Can’t make a session?  Seek out the presenter later
Presenters love when delegates ask them questions about their session.  If you can’t find them, then ask others who may have attended for their notes!  Hey, it worked in college didn’t it?  Most presenters submit their presentations to OACAC.  You can find them on the website.


7.)  Nametags & School Shirts 
Most everyone forgets names, or could use a little help…  Wear your nametag, and if possible, adjust it a little higher on your chest so other can easily read it.  If the sectors are color coded, learn the code ie: blue for high school and red for university – this can help when tracking down a particular contact.  School shirts also help, especially if you have recently moved institutions.


6.) Meet New People 
It’s natural to get a bit panicky when you walk into the lunch tent and see a sea of people. Still, I L-O-V-E sitting with random strangers. I’ve never been disappointed by the interesting people and stories I’ve come across at OACAC. Try this: “Hello , my name is ____ . What did you learn today?”


5.) Make notes on the back of Business Cards 
As you collect business cards, write notes on the back. Note recent changes, potential visit dates, details about a new program, and anything else that helps you remember. Also, there have been huge advances in text recognition software which makes importing this information to Excel a piece of cake. Final thought: bring LOTS of cards. Running out after the first day is annoying.


4.) This is not the CIA, please share your experience.  
You may not be a Twitter user yet, but be ready to share your thoughts with the world. Maybe it’s a Google doc, an Evernote entry or a professional blog post.  Have you seen all the different College Counseling Facebook pages there are lately?  There is no shortage of ways to post, list or video your thoughts. Sharing is caring.


3.) Find one takeaway at each session.
Distill every talk down to one key takeaway.” There is a lot of information. To make your experience count, try to boil down what you hear at each session into one simple take-away. You will be asked “how was your last session” – have one thing you can share.

2.)  Go in with a goal – use the conference to become a expert.  
Before you arrive, reflect on the school year that has just passed.  Is there a recurring question students and parents ask you?  Do you know everything about FAFSA and the Net Price Calculator?  Make it a goal to become an expert on a topic that has eluded you before.  Think how impressed your colleagues or principal will be with your new found knowledge!


1.) Prepare a list of kids – Have data prepared in advance and ready to share. Either on the college or high school side, bring a matriculation list so that you can share where students ended up with your high school / college colleagues. Think about issues that came up in the previous year, that you can address face to face. Do your homework to make the most of your interactions. 


Bonus Tip: Bring some swag from your school or company to share with others!  Everyone likes a little something extra after they visit your table or attend your presentation.

The Bottom Line.  Professional conferences are a time for engagement, reflection and recharging.  Make the most of your OACAC experience by coming prepared to listen, learn, and share. 

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Comments 0-5 of 1

Alison Herget - Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Thanks for the post! Tip #5 is a great idea. I like storing business cards in my name badge too, easier to organize and get them out when you need.

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