"A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines."
– Frank Lloyd Wright
Volume 74 | Issue 3
May 2006

From the President:Seize the Moment(um): 10 ways to capitalize on your conference experience

Robert Mindrum

You know the feeling. You get all "jazzed up" by a keynote, and you're certain that the message will make a difference in your life. You get inspired by an educational session, and you plan to share the content with your staff. You meet a student who expresses interest in our field, and you make a mental note to offer encouragement and support. Suddenly, the closing banquet is over, you catch your flight back home, there are 374 e-mails in your inbox … you get the picture.

Perhaps we need to be more intentional about capitalizing on the annual conference. If that speaks to your experience, here are some suggestions that you might find helpful:

  1. Share the information that you gather: There's a reason why we give out those conference delegate bags, and it's not just as carry-on luggage for the trip home. Leverage your investment in the conference by gathering information for yourself and others, and when you return to work, grab some routing sheets and circulate the materials. They won't do any good sitting in the bag under your desk or chair!
  2. Apply something that you've learned: Good ideas won't accomplish anything if they don't get implemented. Commit to making at least one concrete change in your area of responsibility as a result of something you learned at the conference.
  3. Provide feedback to a presenter: On-site evaluations are fine for basic assessment, but they are no substitute for a personal note of thanks for a session well delivered. Take a few minutes and write such a note to someone whose session was particularly meaningful to you.
  4. Network with a new colleague: We like to list "networking" as a major benefit of attending the conference, but why stop when you leave the conference hotel? Send a note or an e-mail to someone you met for the first time in Kansas City, and know that by doing so, you are building community within the Association.
  5. Encourage a student conferee: Surely at some point you met and were struck by the potential of a student attending the conference. Remember that the health of our profession depends on the interest of new generations. Send a note to a student that you met and offer yourself as a resource as they refine their career goals.
  6. Review the ACUI strategic plan: Sure, you've heard about it, and you've probably even read certain sections. But have you taken time to review the Association's entire plan? If not, set aside a few minutes, read the plan from beginning to end, and jot down some notes on the margins about things you don't understand or suggestions you may have. Then, send a quick e-mail to acui@acui.org with your thoughts. Your feedback may be critical to our success.
  7. Read this Bulletin: The ACUI Bulletin is one of the most often cited benefits of membership, but when was the last time you read one cover to cover? Devote an hour to this endeavor, and you will rediscover the depth and breadth of what the Association really accomplishes.
  8. Check out the Web site (www.acui.org): Like The Bulletin, the ACUI Web site is an important membership benefit. But again, if you only use it occasionally to extract specific pieces of information, you are missing out on a valuable resource. Set aside an hour in your busy schedule and "click your way through" the Web site. You'll be amazed at what you find.
  9. Join an ACUI Forum (www.forum.acui.org): Are you aware that the ACUI Forum has been enhanced to include listserve-like capabilities with the benefit of archiving discussions? Benchmarking with peer institutions is now a way of life in our profession. Make this activity a regular part of your day by joining one or more of these forums, and then you can decide each time you receive an e-mail if you want to participate in the discussion.
  10. Think about a new volunteer experience: Now that you've familiarized yourself with our strategic plan, as well as our current portfolio of services and programs, I hope that you have found some aspect of the Association that has sparked your interest. Make a commitment to volunteer a portion of your time to ACUI, and then contact a member of your regional or international leadership team. Those contacts are available on the Web site, or you may inquire at volunteer@acui.org.

I often (but never often enough) hear colleagues ask what they can do to assist the Association. It occurs to me that if each of our members took the time to complete the 10 items listed here, the results would be phenomenal. By my reckoning, I think it would take approximately eight hours to accomplish all 10 items - or roughly one full day's work on behalf of ACUI.

This reminds me of a story that I once heard about a talented young baritone who sought out the most famous voice teacher in all of Italy. However, at his first lesson, the young man was discouraged because the teacher only assigned him breathing lessons. Each day he was to spend hour after hour in front of a lighted candle, taking slow, deep breaths, and then slowly exhaling into the flame but never allowing his breath to extinguish that flame. The student was faithful to the task, but finally asked the teacher, "When may I begin my voice lessons?" The teacher replied, "My son, you are now the best baritone in all of Italy." The lesson we gain from this anecdote is that change does not happen overnight and sometimes it takes a lot of small contributions to a larger cause.

While that analogy may be somewhat of a stretch, I hope you see my point. That is, the success of ACUI is much more closely aligned with the routine, individual efforts of its volunteers than it is with any major program, event, or initiative. And like the young protagonist in the story, you have the opportunity through your steadfast volunteer efforts to make ACUI the best association it can be.

Take a deep breath, keep your eye on the flame, and seize the momentum.