15. The Top 10 Excuses I Told Myself For Why I Shouldn’t Attend An ASCA Conference

Attending conferences during the summer is a great way to reset your mindset, set goals, and prepare for the upcoming school year. I’ve attended the ASCA Conference both as an active participant and presenter.

There is a unique energy, excitement, and inspiration that can be found at this event. However, it’s common to make excuses as to why you should not attend a conference such as shyness, missing family, not meeting anyone, cost, and thinking you wouldn’t learn anything new.

In this episode, I am going to debunk these excuses and emphasize the value of attending conferences for professional development and personal growth.

Topics Covered: 

  • My experience with attending the ASCA Conference as a participant and a presenter 
  • Common excuses people make for not attending conferences
  • Practical tips for those attending in-person conferences
  • Benefits of attending summer conferences both in-person and virtually 

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ASCA Conferences



[00:02] Carol: You're listening to the Counselor Chat podcast, a show for school counselors looking for easy to implement strategies, how to tips, collaboration, and a little spark of joy. I'm Carol Miller, your host. I'm a full time school counselor and the face behind counseling essentials. I'm all about creating simplified systems, data driven practices, and using creative approaches to engage age students. If you're looking for a little inspiration to help you make a big impact on student growth and success, you're in the right place, because we're better together. Ready to chat? Let's dive in.

[00:44] Carol: It's carol, thanks for coming back for another episode of Counselor Chat. I am so glad that you're here with me today. Well, last week we talked all about the reasons why going to conferences are so important, and today I just wanted to talk a little bit about the Ask A Conference in particular. Now, unfortunately, I'm not able to go to this year's conference, but I am no stranger to the Ask A Conference. For many years, I have been a very active participant, either just going as an attendee or going as a presenter. And I actually hope to go again next year. I'm getting ready to submit a couple of proposals already. But the Ask A Conference is if you're going to an in person conference, the Ask A Conference is the thing to go to. It's really unlike any other conference that I think I've ever been to. The energy, the excitement, the spark that you get while you're there, being around thousands of like minded people is really, truly inspiring. Now, for years I sat back and I said, there is no way I am going to a conference. In fact, when I was a really active blogger, when I first started out as the middle school counselor and I was blogging, I wrote an article about the ten reasons really why one should go or really not go to a conference, or what are all the excuses that I came up with? And I had ten good excuses for why I shouldn't go to a conference, and I'm going to just go over them really quickly with you. I looked them up earlier today. Number ten was that I'm shy. It's true. Believe it or not, I am actually quite shy. I don't like big crowds. I don't like being in crowded rooms. I don't like when there's a lot of talking going on and trying to follow just one conversation. Sometimes I don't like to go outside of my little own comfort zone. So going to a big event like this can be pretty intimidating, even for me. And I like standing in front of a group of people, give me 1000 people and let me stand in front of them, and I feel fine. But actually having those smaller, intimate conversations and talking to people, like deep, meaningful conversations with people that I don't know that well, or maybe not at all, I find that extremely, extremely intimidating. So that was one of the biggest reasons that I came up with for not going to an Ask A Conference sooner than I did. Now, my first one was about, oh, probably ten or eleven years ago. And I've been to, I think, maybe ten out of the last twelve conferences, so I've hit quite a few. The next reason that I came up with for not going was because I was going to miss my family. I mean, my kids are all in school right now, they're big kids and they're in college, but when they were younger, I didn't want to leave them. I felt like I was going to miss out on something. But really it was only a couple of days, and when I started going, they were still little, they still really needed me. But it was also extra bonding time for my husband and the kids or to spend some extra time with Grandma, and they absolutely loved that. So that was not a really valid reason, even though I tried to convince myself that it was. The next is with that, I thought I would really just be bored. When you're around that many people and there's that many things going on, plus the excitement of being in maybe a city that you don't know, it's really hard to be bored. So another really invalid excuse then it was well, for many years I wasn't a member of Aska. Well, guess what? If you go to the Aska conference, you can become an Ask A Member. So you don't have to worry about not being an Ask A Member. Plus, even if you're not, it's not an excuse. You will still find lots of great things to do. And Aska doesn't care if you're a member or not. They just want you to come and get professional development hours and credits that's really pertinent to what we do. And let me tell you, they have outstanding sessions. The next excuse that I came up with was that I wouldn't meet anyone. Well, once again, when you're in a room with thousands of people, it's really hard not to meet anyone. In fact, some of my best friends I really met at the Ask A conference. I'm hoping to present with one of my friends that I met at the Ask A Conference, my first Aska conference that I went to so more than ten years ago. I'm hoping that we will be presenting together next summer when the conference is in Missouri this year, if you don't know it's in Atlanta. And she's just one. I mean, I've made lots of great friendships going to Ask. In fact, some of these people I still talk to on a daily basis, and it's just great. They have become more like family than they are just people that I met at the Ask A conference. Another excuse that I came up with was that it was too expensive. And yes, most of my Ask A conference conferences I have self funded. So that means I paid for my flight, I paid for my ticket, I paid for all my expenses while I was there. But I also did a lot to do that. My first year, I skipped out on going to Dunkin'Donuts for coffee or the corner store for coffee. I made all my own coffee, and actually, I saved quite a bit of money just by doing that. And that actually paid just by making my own coffee and not buying it out. That actually paid for my whole entire conference, the ticket, my airfare, my hotel, everything. So it's amazing. If there's something that you really want to do, you could always find a way, I think, to do it. Not to mention it became such an important thing to me that another person, another counselor that I met through going to the Ask A conference was Jeff Ream. And if you don't know, jeff Ream is the counseling geek, and he and I actually sponsored up until this past year, a scholarship for counselors to go to that Ask A conference. And some years, we sign up to nine people to cover their registration costs. That's how much I gained. Not only did I self fund myself, but I actually helped to raise money to send other counselors there as well. And another excuse that I kept giving myself was that I won't learn anything new. And I think I was a little bit naive in my thinking back then. I mean, we are going 1012 years back, and as much as you think, I think there's a lot of things that you don't, and so there's always room to learn more. And I think that's the beauty about learning is that even if you think that you know something really well, you can learn more. Like, I have written several books, some curriculums on group counseling that are they're published. One is called Starbound it's through Youth Light, and another one is called Building Champions, and that's through Research press. And I did tons and tons of research on group counseling and the best practices and how a successful group is run. And it took me at least a year each to write these books, so I put a lot of time and energy. So I really considered myself an expert and I still do consider myself an expert on group counseling. But what I know is, when I go to an ask a conference or any conference, I always go to a session on group counseling. Because as much as I know, I'm still eager to soak in more knowledge about group counseling and making great groups and running great groups and new tips and tricks and things to try, so there's always more to learn. Another excuse that I gave myself way back in the day was that no one goes to these things anyway. I mean, there are hundreds of thousands of counselors I don't know how many there are, but there are a lot of counselors in the United States. If only 2000 or 3000 people are going, really? Not too many people are going to this. Well, that was wrong. There's probably about 5000 or so counselors that go to an Ask A conference. And sure, while not every counselor is going, there are a lot. When you get that many people in one space, in one location, and you start looking around, you're like, wow, this is definitely a lot of people. And especially when you're all excited about the same stuff, it's a really cool sensation. Another excuse that I gave myself for a long time was, I'm good for PD because I go to my district for PD days or I go to my state association. Well, ask us probably unlike any other conference. And so if you do get the chance to go, if there's extra money in your counseling budget or you have money for PD, put a request in for next summer to go to the Ask a conference. Or if you want to try to make your cost a little bit cheaper, sign up to be a conference ambassador where you're actually helping out while you're there. So it's kind of like a work program to help you fund your costs or sign up to be a presenter, put in a proposal. I mean, that's what I do. And it does save. Not a lot of money, but it saves, hey, look, I'm presenting at this national conference. Can you give me some money to help me fund my trip? It's another way to ask. And last but not least, the number one excuse that I think I gave myself for so long was that, well, I had better things to do. Summer was my better thing to do, and I wanted to take full advantage of it. I mean, after all, I had worked 180 days, plus I still had 20 summer days to work. And that was a lot of time. And, well, I didn't want to think about school counseling when I didn't have to think about school counseling. Once again, even though it's your summer, I think sometimes the time that you spend in relaxing and not thinking about the day to day's hustle and bustle and the busyness is a really good time to set yourself in the right mindset for the upcoming year. And so I think it's really great time to stop and think, wow, what do I want to accomplish? What are the goals that I have and how do I set myself up? What systems do I create? And what systems do I need to set up so that I can really set myself up for success? Because if you're doing that ahead of time, then you're not trying to build the plane while you're flying it. You're actually building the plane on the ground before you even take off. And isn't that what we're supposed to do? Build it before we take off. So going to a conference over the summer is a really great time to reset your mindset and to make sure that you are creating goals and setting up the systems to help you reach the goals. Because if we reach our goals, we feel more accomplished, and when we feel accomplished, we feel more satisfied. And when we feel more satisfied, we're happier. And that's what we want. We want happy counselors. So those are all tied in together, and it might be too late for you to go to the Ask A conference this year. And you know what? That's okay. I mean, we are having our own little conference, a virtual one too. So if you want to come to the 2023 Summer Counseling conference, I can hook you up with details on that. And that's also another great or professional development to get your hands on this summer. But if you are going to an in person conference, whether it's Ask or maybe your State Association conference this year, there's a couple of things that you should kind of prepare yourself for, and that's that you really want to go there to learn something. So really check out the program and what the offerings are. Before you even go, you have to kind of have a plan of attack for what am I going to learn? Why do I want to learn this, and how is this information going to help me better myself and my program? So you want to set yourself up to really learn something. You want to make it actionable. You also, if you're going in person, you want to dress comfortably. Now, at the summer conference, my summer counselor conference that I'm hosting, I will be dressing comfortably, and yes, it'll be in my own home, and so I can just wear my sweats or my shorts and my T shirt and feel right at home. But if I was actually going to an Aspen conference or my State Association conference, I would probably dress more I don't want to say professional, but I'd want to feel a little bit professional. So I might not wear the shorts and the T shirt, but I would wear a pair of Twills or capris with maybe a nice T shirt. I know a lot of people wear sundresses. I don't happen to wear dresses, like, ever at all, so I wouldn't be caught wearing a dress. But a lot of people will wear dresses or something pretty comfortable, but still something that you would wear, like maybe if you're going sightseeing or you're with your family, because it is a professional event. So you want to not look like you're just slumming it. So you definitely want to have a very casual, professional look. You also want to wear really comfortable shoes. So sometimes those sandals are super cute, but can you really walk around a lot in them? You want to wear something that you can walk for miles in because sometimes you might be walking miles whether it's within the conference hall itself or maybe you're going to be walking around town, maybe you're going to walk to dinner, you're going to go outside the conference center, outside the hotel. So you really want to be able to wear shoes that you can do some pretty heavy duty walking in. Other things to pack are things like aspirin or Tylenol or Motrin or whatever. Migraine relief stuff that you take. Tums or roll AIDS are another good thing to pack because if you're going to a new city, you might be trying some new foods and sometimes they'll agree with you and sometimes maybe they won't or maybe you overindulge just a little bit and you need some stomach relief. You also might want to pack some bandaids because cuts happen, blisters happen, things like that, as well as a battery pack for your phone or some sort of portable charger as well as the cords that you're going to need. You also want to think about things like a notebook and a pen that you can write in. Now I know a lot of conferences will actually give you like a notebook and pens and you can always go to the conference hall at the conference and pick up a gazillion pens, but you might want to bring one with you on the plane so that you're taking notes and different things like that. And you might also want to because not every airline has movies for free anyway without paying for the upgrade. So you might want to have some movies on your portable device, whether it's a tablet or your computer or your phone. So I always like to download a couple of games that don't require Internet and some movies that I can watch. Business cards are also a really great thing and you could just print out your own. Those are nice so that when you meet people you can just give them a business card. And I also usually bring a sheet of stickers with my name, my school name and address and my school phone number on it because when you go to the conference hall, there's a lot of things that you might be looking at and the vendors there will want to collect your information. A lot of times they can scan it based on the barcode that might be on your name tag, but sometimes they want you to write that stuff down so you could just put like one of those little mailing label stickers there. I always usually bring a sheet and one sheet is usually good enough and you want to have some extra room in your suitcase because you're going to be bringing back some chatskis, those little things that you pick up. I love the portable stationaries sets that they have. There's these little kits, they're little plastic kits and they have the little stapler and the rubber bands and the thumbtacks and the staple remover and tape. And they're cute. They're like maybe four x six. They're awesome. I use those like water or postit notes or stress balls. Or maybe you see this cute little t shirt that you're like, oh wow, I really love that. Or even books. The nice thing about going to the conference once again is the exhibitor hall because they actually have booksellers. You'll find youth light there. You'll see research, press. Go see if my books are there. That'll be really cool. Let me know if you find them and then go. If you're at research, Press, say hi to Judy. Say hi Judy. Judy is always there. She is the face behind Research Press and she is really awesome. And youth late could have different people. You might want to ask for Susan. Sometimes Susan is there and say hi. But those are a couple of great places as well as Ncy is typically there so many places to go and check out different books and once again being able to hold a book and flip through the pages and see if you like it, that is so great. And Aska has a bookstore as well with lots of cool stuff. I always get a t shirt or a sweatshirt and I can't tell you how many Aska monks I have. It's pretty embarrassing, but I have quite a few. The other things to bring would be besides extra room in your suitcase is really a smile. Because if you are stressing while you're there, like, I'm not going to meet anybody or I'm not going to know anybody, and you have this grumpy look, it's going to be harder for people to come up to you. So you want to make sure that you are approachable. And if you're a little scared and a little nervous, that's okay. I know when I went to the Ask a conference, like I said, I am pretty shy. I always look for the people that were like lost. Like I don't know what I'm doing, I don't know where to go, I don't know who I'm going to have dinner with. And I try to invite them with me and usually the group of people that I'm with. And when I go now, I have a pretty large group of people that I hang out with. Plus each state has lots of things going on. One of the first things that you do at the Afghan conference is you go to roll call. And roll call is where you sit with your state. And it's pretty fun to see all the different states kind of sitting together in this huge auditorium like room and they call your state and everybody cheers and they'll say a little something about it and you'll get to see not only the different states, but the different countries that people are from and it's just pretty amazing. So that is a pretty neat event to go to the other thing while you're there is to go to the keynote sessions. I know a lot of people think, well, these people usually aren't school counselors. Why do I have to go? But their messages are usually pretty inspiring and fantastic. I mean, I think they really vet their speakers, and they're really awesome. I haven't been to one that I haven't liked. Some of them will leave you crying and then laughing. They're pretty cool. So make sure that you spend the time and you go to the keynote sessions and go and eat lunch with everybody. I know we all like to have our alone time sometimes, but when you go to an event like this, you really want to be around other people. Ask them where they're from. Ask them how long they've been a counselor. Ask them their favorite thing that they love to do in their school with kids. Because it's just sometimes from those little conversations that you learn so many things to try in your own school. So once again, if you're going to a conference, the things an in person conference, the things that you want to do are you want to make sure that you're going to learn something, that you're dressing really comfortably, that you're bringing shoes that you can walk in. Oh, the other thing is maybe bring a tote bag. I like to bring a packable tote because the ones that they usually give you at Aska, they're kind of small. Everybody's going to be slinging them over their shoulders. So when you go to a really crowded session, you might think, wow, there's a lot of bags that look alike. So if you have your own bag, it might be easier to spot and find, especially if you sit it down for a second to look at something or do something. So bring one that's recognizable and that you can pack really easily. You want to bring your pen. You want to bring your notebook. You want to bring Aspirin, Tylenol, Toms, bandaids, a battery pack, charging cord, business cards, and the labels with your name, school name, school address, and school phone number on it. You want to wear your smile, and you want to have a plan. You want to know which sessions that you want to go have that mapped out ahead of time so that you know and if you get into one session that you think that you were so excited about, and then you get there and you're like, oh, this is nothing at all like I wanted to know about. Don't feel bad about getting yourself getting up and going to another one, because you are spending $399 plus airfare, plus hotel, plus maybe some dinners and things like that. So you really want to make sure that you are getting the most for your money. It's okay. Having been a presenter many times myself, it's okay. I'm not there to please everyone. I'm there to help people who want to learn more about whatever my session topic is, and I'm hoping to inspire people. So if somebody says, no, this isn't what I expected, I'm okay, because maybe they're like, yeah, I agree, or I know this is okay, or I really need to learn this other thing instead. So don't feel bad about getting up and moving. People totally understand, and I think sometimes it's even kind of expected. So I hope if you're planning on going to an Ask a Conference or an in person conference, that this was really helpful. If you've been debating about whether or not to go to an in person ask a Conference, I hope this gives you a little push to maybe try something a little different next year and go. And if you're inspired to go to a conference but feel like, oh my gosh, I missed my chance, what am I going to do? I'd love to do something and really amp up my PD game. I would love for you to join us at our 2023 Summer Counselor Conference. It's virtual. It's awesome. And like I said, if you can't go to Aska, this is a really great alternative. It is $49 for early admission, early bird ticket price, and you have until the 30th to get that. So, my friends, I really hope that you attend a conference this summer and I hope to see you sometime in the future. Anyway, if you are coming to one of the conferences, whether you're going to ask, I would love for you to contact me and say, tell me what you loved about it. What session was absolutely outstanding. If you were like, how do I get there next year? Please feel free to send me a DM on Facebook or email me at carol@counselingsentials.org. I'd be happy to chat with you more. And if you want to know more about our virtual conference, once again, just send me a DM or shoot me an email and we'll talk more. Anyway, friends, I had a great time chatting with you today. I can't wait until next week when we chat some more.

[27:29] Carol: Have a great week. Thanks for listening to today's episode of Counselor Chat. All of the links I talked about can be found in the Show Notes and@counselingsentials.org Podcast. Be sure to hit, follow or subscribe on your favorite, favorite podcast player. And if you would be so kind.

[27:57] Carol: To leave a review, I'd really appreciate it. Want to connect?

[28:01] Carol: Send me a DM on Facebook or.

[28:03] Carol: Instagram at counseling essentials. Until next time.

[28:06] Carol: Can't wait till we chat. Bye for now.