For anyone who has registered for a large conference featuring many “tracks” for attendees to follow and countless session options, you will be able to relate to the registration process for the National Conference on Volunteering and Service (NCVS). It takes a lot of time to comb through session descriptions, deciding which sessions of many will be the best to attend. Like any robust conference, putting together a session itinerary can be daunting.
In preparation for my attendance at the 2012 NCVS at McCormick Place in Chicago, I put together a great itinerary. I was excited about my session selection and went ready to go learn new things to apply to my work. What I found once I got there was a bunch of great sessions but also a unique experience to network with other likeminded individuals, hear questions other attendees were asking, and get a sense of the wide scope of work being done in communities throughout the country.
More than any conference sessions I attended, the time I spent listening to the inspiring things happening with other organizations, discussing my past service as an AmeriCorps*VISTA, and sharing recent projects started with the Volunteer Centers of Michigan (VCM), made my first time attending the NCVS invaluable. Having the opportunity to listen to the questions being asked in sessions gave me new perspective on the resources organizations need to work effectively. This gave me ideas on how to improve future trainings and the outreach VCM does to the field.
By the end of the three days spent in McCormick Place, moving from one session to the next, it was clear that the best learning didn’t happen because of a well constructed itinerary. The greatest learning moments took place between sessions, over meals, and during the discussions that were part of session presentations. It was great to return back to Michigan with new ideas, new connections, and prepared to implement things I learned.
Submitted by Chelsea Martin, 2012 Sara Ballard Scholarship Recipient, Capacity Building and New Media Consultant
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