How to Make the Most of NAFSA
By Abby Baric, Co-Chair
We here at the NAFSA Marketing & Communications MIG believe that conferences are a wonderful opportunity to share ideas, meet new people, and learn new perspectives, however, it can also be a little intimidating. Whether you’re new to the field, or you’re a veteran, networking at conferences can seem difficult, especially if it’s your first time attending.
NAFSA is one of the largest conferences in our field, but it has something to offer for everyone. While scrolling through the number of presentations available, workshops, and networking events you may think where do I even begin?
Don’t worry, we’re here to tell you it doesn’t have to be hard, or scary! Planning, having a purpose, and opening yourself up to possibilities can help you maximize your time and opportunities.
Below we’ve gathered a few helpful tips for how to make the most of NAFSA.
Identify Your Intention and Goals
Think about why you’re attending the conference and what you’re hoping to get out of the experience. This well help you to identify the appropriate sessions to attend, and who you want to meet.
Find out more on how to define your goals with NAFSA’s Guide to How Prepare Before the Conference.
Be Prepared: Don’t Forget to Pack What You Need
Be sure to pack enough business cards–always bring more than you think. Also, be sure to have the conference essentials such as the NAFSA Conference app on your phone, notebooks and pens, a portable phone charger, good walking shoes, money (cash and card), and a positive attitude.
It may seem obvious, but you should also know what your organizations key messages are, and what your core function is within the organization. This will allow you to speak confidently about who and what you are representing.
It may also be useful to look at the NAFSA FAQs for general questions you may have about the conference.
Make a Plan
Browse the available sessions, plenary speakers, workshops and spotlight presenters on the NAFSA online planner. This will allow you to centralize all of your conference activities in one place! You can also view, search, and filter the conference schedule and exhibitor list, which will be accessible on the NAFSA 2019 Conference App (when it is available, which should be soon).
Schedule Meetings Before You Go
Review all the organizations who will be exhibiting. If there’s an organization or a person you’d like to meet with specifically, you can see if their contact information is available in the “Attendees & Networking” section on the NAFSA Conference Website.
Write a simple email introducing yourself and why you’d like to meet. People’s schedules are usually pretty packed. Suggest meeting for 15-30 minutes at the person’s booth or your own.
Network, Network, and Network Some More
Whether you are introverted, extroverted or an introverted extrovert, networking can be hard. First, set a realistic goal for yourself and commit to meeting at least one new person and exchanging business cards with them. This could happen at a booth in the conference hall, during a presentation, or at a specific networking event. After you do it once you will see how easy it can be.
Remember, everyone you meet at NAFSA has a passion for international education, so you already have something in common.
Also, don’t forget to take advantage of the Marketing & Communications MIG. This is a welcoming group and a helpful resource.
This year we have two of our MIG chairs in attendance at NAFSA 2019:
- Janka Pieper, Director of Communications, Office of International Relations, Northwestern University
- Frank Camp, Director, Marketing & Communications, The University of Arizona
Check out our Facebook Group to see if you can make any connections beforehand.
Write it Down!
Did you see something at a booth you liked, a brochure that caught your eye, or had an interesting conversation? Write it down as soon as possible so you don’t forget. If you meet someone new, write things down that stood out about the person and the conversation you had so you will remember them when you’re reviewing your notes later.
Follow-Up in a Timely Manner
Whether reporting back to your organization about your experience and what you learned, or re-connecting with people you met and/or action items from meetings, do so in a timely manner. Try to follow-up no later than a week after the conference.
Breathe, and Make Time to Rest
Because you’re “on” almost the whole time you’re at a conference, be sure to schedule some you-time. Take a moment to grab a coffee or take a walk by yourself outside–this will really help recharge your batteries. There are some wonderful evening events to take advantage of and we encourage you to attend! Of course, there is always the temptation to stay out late so you don’t miss anything, but be sure to get enough rest, drink enough water and eat a proper meal. Your tomorrow-self will thank you!
Happy conferencing! We can’t wait to see you there.
Head to our Facebook Group Facebook Group and let us know if you’ll be attending NAFSA.