Making the Most of NACAC SLC

For those new to attending the NACAC Conference in Salt Lake City, UT the experience can be overwhelming.  There will be thousands of people in attendance - college admissions, high school counselors, independent counselors, sponsors, exhibitors, etc.  The conference centers usually take up several city blocks and it’s likely that you will walk several miles each day just to attend conference sessions (wear your fit-bit, you’ll far surpass your daily steps!).  The conference experience, however, doesn’t have to make you feel like a rural high school student entering a big city university.  There are ways to make the most out of this amazing conference.  Here are my suggestions:

  • Plan ahead – Review the conference session descriptions and highlight those you’d like to attend.  It’ll take a few minutes to map out your “plan of attack” for each day but it will be well worth it.  Finding session rooms alone may test your map reading skills!  The conference mobile app can help with this.
  • Depending on your arrival time at the airport, finding an Uber or Lyft ride to your hotel can be difficult if it is busy (aka Thursday morning).  Look around – you probably will be able to identify other conference attendees (we all have ‘a look’ about us!).  Don’t be afraid to ask to share a ride to your hotel or from the hotel back to the airport on Saturday/Sunday.  Much of this conference is networking after all!  The ride from the airport to your hotel will only be about 10-15 minutes. 
  • Once you check into your hotel, find the NACAC registration area and obtain your badge and lanyard.  Your badge and lanyard are your entry into all things NACAC.
  • Don’t pass on the Learning Lounges or Exhibitor Presentations.  Learning happens all the time at NACAC.
  • Attend our PCACAC affiliate membership meeting (Thu, Sep 27 from 4:45-6:15pm at the Salt Palace Convention Center, Room 250 ABC).  You’ll find out the most up-to-date information about what’s going on in our region and you’ll meet some wonderful people.  You can also connect with friends with whom you can go to the welcome reception!
  • Attend the Counselor’s College Fair.  Make connections with those from the “other side of the desk”.  Exchange business cards and follow up with them after you return home from the conference.  Network, network, network!
  • Attend the reception celebrating David Burge and Jayne Fonash. If you are still in SLC on Saturday, September 29, take a short walk to the Poplar Street Pub between 12-3pm for a special reception to celebrate members David Burge, current NACAC President, and Jayne Caflin Fonash, NACAC nominee for President-elect.  Please REGISTER HERE if you plan to attend.
  • It’s not all work:
    • Rise and Shine Yoga for those early risers.  Start your day off right!
    • Coffee – most coffee/breakfast vendors at the conference center will have long lines before the morning sessions.  You may want to pick up your favorite morning treat outside of the conference center. 
    • Social events – pace yourself!  There are events (both NACAC-sponsored and non-NACAC sponsored) every night.  While these events can be a lot of fun, remember that you represent yourself and your school/place of business.  Do so with professionalism and dignity.
    • Explore the city – Become familiar with the city before you leave home so you can enjoy local eateries, museums, parks, and venues nearby.  Our days are busy - it’s nice to know what’s available so you can make the most of your down time.

I think I knew maybe 5 attendees at the first NACAC conference I attended.  Finding those 5 people in a sea of thousands proved quite challenging.  I began talking with those in the conference sessions.  You’ll be amazed to find out that you have more in common with those around you than you think.  Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to many people, especially those at our PCACAC membership meeting.  I’ve met many great friends through both PCACAC and NACAC.  Take advantage of being surrounded by people who share your passion for helping students. 

See you in Salt Lake City!! 

Joel Lang
PCACAC President-elect