If you are reading this, congratulations! You’ll soon be off to an amazing adventure learning and growing as a school counselor! Attending a conference is a lot like going to the beach. It’s exciting and relaxing all at the same time. There are plenty of signs to take in and like the sun’s rays, you’ll be basking in an incredible amount of knowledge that will leave you with a sunkissed glow.

To get the most of your time, remember these tips:

1)  You are there to learn. The best way to do that is to talk to colleagues. Sit next to someone, attend lunches and social gatherings.  Meet new people. Some of my best friends I met at former ASCA conferences, and now many of them I now talk to everyday despite the fact we live in different parts of the country. I can’t wait to attend this year’s event so I can reconnect with them. I have learned so much from them, and they are always there to share a lesson or a tip, or lend a helping hand. If you are planning to attend ASCA, make sure you join our meetup. We’re even planning a gift exchange this year as part of the mixer and a way of getting to know one another.

2)  Wear comfy footwear. You will walk around a lot. You will also sit a lot. The dress code at the conference is casual professional. I’ll typically wear something I would wear to work. I have dress yoga pants that look great paired with a nice shirt, so I will be bringing every pair I own! You want to be comfy. There is nothing worse than sitting for hours in something that makes you uncomfortable. You’ll also want to bring some clothes for down time. It’ll be hot so bring some t-shirts and shorts with you as well. I always have something that I can wear to a nice restaurant too in case I go out with a group. If you are going to the RAMP awards dinner, they are formal,so dress your best.

3)  Save room in your suitcase. I always bring way too much stuff home with me. I tend to buy books and games, and I always bring goodies home for my boys. The conference exhibit hall is an exciting place to be. Lots of vendors and you can actually look through all those counseling books you’ve been eyeing in the order magazines that are shipped to schools (Stop by YouthLight for your copy of StarBound and Research Press if you’re interested in Building Champions–I’ll be signing copies!) The exhibit hall is also where you will pick up your conference t-shirt, loads of pens, stress balls, post it notes, and info. Plus lunches and snacks will be served there as well.

4)  Get the conference app. Knowing what sessions you want to see and having a schedule will be important. The conference app keeps it all together for you. It also has all the handouts so you have everything all in one place. I have the last four years’ on my iPad and they are always great reference materials.

iPhone Screenshot 2

I also like to keep a copy of where I will be going and where I am scheduled to be. The last two years I also was a volunteer so I had to be in certain places on time and early! Each year you get a nametag. I like to print my schedule out and put it on the back of my name tag as I wear it constantly.

Just click on the picture to get a PDF copy.    

5)  Other Stuff.  Other things that I bring along with me include a portable phone charger. I find myself taking a lot of photos, sending lots of tweets, and taking notes with my phone. I used to bring my iPad, but I was finding it too heavy to lug around, so I’m sticking with just my iPhone.  You do get a conference bag, but it is also handy to have a bag you can tote around with you. I also find bringing a raincoat (last year in New Orleans I forgot one, got stuck in the rain and ended up buying an umbrella for a ridiculous amount of money) and a sweatshirt or sweater is important. The conference rooms can get pretty chilly.

The last thing you want to remember is that this is an experience. Soak it all in. You will be re-energized, revitalized, and recharged. Enjoy every minute of it and be sure to look for me!

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