Top Five Reasons to Attend Conference (Especially the Pre-Conference Affiliate-Only Sessions)

By: Amy Lytle, Executive Director, HandsOn Northwest North Carolina

# 1 “Me, Too!” Moments: In almost every community, your Affiliate is the only organization that does what you do. Conference is your one big chance to connect and learn from people doing that exact same work - a chance that usually doesn't exist in our home communities. Amy Poehler, in her memoir "Yes, Please," says that two of the most powerful words in the English language are, "Me, too!" You get to have a lot of "Me, too!" moments at conference.

# 2 Face-to-Face Connections: I don't know about you, but webinars just don't cut it as a way of creating peer learning networks. I have to see someone face-to-face, build a rapport, and share a meal or a drink before I feel I know them well enough to ask them how they do X, Y, or Z. Attending conference has given me the opportunity to build strong, personal relationships with other leaders in our field. I've picked their brains, "borrowed" their ideas, and learned from their experience. As an Affiliate leader, I've learned that creating and strengthening my peer network has been crucial to my success, both personally and organizationally.

# 3 Be a V.I.P: Nonprofit work is not glamorous. At conference, that changes. Conference will make you feel like the V.I.P you really are. Conference is all about service and nonprofits, and celebrating the impact of the work we do every day. I've shared some of the best macaroni-and-cheese I've ever eaten while being serenaded by John Legend at an America's Sunday Supper event. I've also met amazing volunteers and people doing incredible, inspiring work in their local communities. Going to conference never fails to reinvigorate me and make me feel like the work we do is important and deserves such a high-profile event to celebrate it.

#4 See the Forest Through the Trees: Look, I get it. Fall is busy and Conference is in Texas (and unless you are already in Texas, that seems far away). Too often we are buried deep in the weeds, unable to see the beautiful, grassy plains in front of us. Conference provides us a chance to see the whole picture, to discover where the work we’re doing fits into the greater service movement. Yes, the urgent will be even more urgent when we get back - but wouldn't it be anyway, even if we stayed home?

# 5 Build the Capacity of Your Organization: While Conference is a significant financial investment, we've found that our Conference ROI is really quite high. During Conference each year, I have the same goal: come home with at least one new idea I can instantly implement. In past conferences, I've gotten key advice about implementing technology solutions, learned how to build a managed projects program, and gained confidence in working with corporate partners. Our Affiliate has been able to improve service delivery, build new programs, and create new revenue streams all with those "one ideas" that I've brought back with me from Conference. By focusing on one idea, I've been able to focus in on those things that are easily implemented and truly impactful.

So, will I see you at conference?

In Service,