Whether it’s your first time going to NACAC or your 10th, this mega conference for Enrollment and Admissions professionals in higher ed is a great opportunity to get fresh ideas for the coming years, make new industry connections, and of course — have a little fun! With the sheer volume of people, amount of sessions, and large exhibit hall, NACAC can be pretty overwhelming for most conference-goers. Luckily, TargetX is a seasoned vet when it comes to this conference (we've been attending for over 15 years!), so we've got you covered with our top 10 pro-tips to make the most of your NACAC experience this year.
1. Divide and conquer.
Look at the session schedule in advance with your colleagues so that you can divide and conquer. By strategically choosing sessions that you can split amongst your group, you can devour more knowledge and maximize your takeaways throughout the entirety of the conference. Be sure to take notes so that you can share what you learned with your colleagues when you're back on campus!
2. Bring a change of shoes.
These conferences are designed to allow you to walk everywhere, but that means A LOT of walking. Ladies, what better way to save your feet than carry a pair of flip-flops or flats in your bag so that you can change in between sessions or on your way back to your hotel. And gentlemen, Dr. Scholl's can be your best friend in a pair of uncomfortable dress shoes. Trust us, your feet will thank you.
3. Treat yo'self and enjoy the happy hours.
What better way to unwind and have a little fun after a long day of sessions? But aside from the open bars and free food, attending happy hours is a great way to connect with colleagues and vendors in a more laid back environment. We can attest to the fact that the conversations from these after-hours events have led to valuable friendships and networks. Plus, happy hours create a space for more natural networking, so it doesn't feel as awkward or forced.
If you're looking for Friday night plans, TargetX will be hosting an epic happy hour at the Poplar Street Pub. RSVP now to join us for live music, signature cocktails, and great conversation. It will be the happiest of hours!
Find a few sessions that push you out of your comfort zone. Often times we look for sessions that fit what we're already doing, but challenging yourself to attend a few sessions that are outside of the box of what you're doing on campus can spark creativity within your Admissions office. One session you definitely don't want to miss is the 2018 Social Admissions Report on Friday at 10:15 AM in the Tech Lab!
5. Pack light, you only need the essentials!
Remember that you have to carry around whatever you bring to the conference the whole time, like your laptop or tablet, notebook, etc. Although these conferences typically give you a tote bag or drawstring upon checking in, try to limit what you're carrying around to save yourself the hassle.
6. Be present; utilize your 'out of office' responder.
All too often, we feel the need to constantly check our email and work simultaneously when we're at conferences. We know that the fall is an especially busy time for higher ed and thus, unplugging can seem impossible. However, it's important to remember that you're here to gain knowledge and make new connections, so if you're not fully engaged in sessions or making the most of the conference's extracurricular activities, you may be missing out.
7. Set time aside to check out the exhibit hall and visit vendors.
This exhibit hall can seem daunting, but it's actually the perfect way to learn about new products, ask questions, and connect with current vendors. Plus, this is the prime time to score some cool swag — just make sure you have enough room in your suitcase to bring it all home with you! Speaking of cool swag, you can find TargetX at Booth #1129 in the exhibit hall, right next to the Tech Lab.
8. Network, network, network... and did we mention, network?
When else do you have your entire industry conveniently gathered in one space? NACAC is the best opportunity to make new friends in higher ed, so introduce yourself and be open to talking to the people who sit down next to you in sessions. Go ahead and grab that coffee or meal with a vendor — you never know, you just might learn something new or even be introduced to colleagues on other campuses facing similar challenges. If you're hoping to secure some one-on-one time with a particular member of the TargetX team, you can make an appointment now and we'll be sure to follow up!
9. Dress for the occasion.
Wear clothing that looks smart, but is comfortable. There have been countless times where the convention center felt colder than Antarctica or we've seen attendees cursing themselves for wearing a necklace that inevitably got tangled in the lanyard with their name tag on it. You want to look polished at conferences like this without sacrificing comfort, so be prepared and maybe even bring a light jacket with you. Also, remember that you'll be standing and sitting a lot, so wrinkle free items are a major key.
10. Live your best life and have fun!
This is a time to reflect on the year so far and feel re-energized for another recruitment cycle. Not only should you step away from this conference with a few new ideas for the upcoming year, but hopefully you've made a few new friends and are reminded that you are not alone in the challenges your institution is facing today.
BONUS TIP: Stay connected by joining the #NACAC18 conversation on your favorite social channels.
If networking in person isn't really your thing, you can always join in on the conversation and actively contribute from your the comfort of your smartphone! For instance, the Twitter hashtag for this year's event is #NACAC18, so you will see a ton of tweets from attendees throughout the conference there. Feel free to follow and tag @TargetX if you have a NACAC pro-tip you'd like to share!