by Lauren Brandeberry
Associate Alumni Rep, 2011-2012
The Sigma Tau Delta Annual International Convention is an incredible experience, but it can also be overwhelming. The convention features exciting events:
-Three outstanding and often surprising featured speakers who will give presentations, answer questions, and sign their work
-Informative workshops and discussion panels by and for students, faculty, and alumni
-Hundreds of presentations of poetry, short fiction, creative non-fiction, drama, and critical essays covering every aspect of literature, popular culture, critical theory, film and media studies, and English education
-Social events every night
-Regional and Society-wide elections
-Ceremonies and awards.
Clearly the convention has something for everyone. Add in the fact that this year’s convention site, the French Quarter of New Orleans, has tons of fun and interesting things to do, and it becomes easy for people to run out of time to do everything they want.
With so many options and so little time, many people miss out on some of the best the convention has to offer because they didn’t hear about an event until it was too late, or worse, they never learned about it at all. Whether this is your first convention or you are a convention veteran, here are some handy tips for getting the most out of your convention experience.
1. Take the time to do it right.
Yes, I know the convention is longer than most undergraduate conferences, and many people balk at spending so much time out of town in the middle of the school year. If the convention falls during your Spring Break, you may be reluctant to spend so much of it on a school-related event. If it doesn’t, you may be even more reluctant to miss that many classes.
I know most of you work, I know staying in a hotel and eating out is expensive, and I REALLY know how busy you are because I am just as busy. But the convention is not your average conference; it’s a unique and rewarding experience. Everyone I know who has ever gone agrees that spending time surrounded by so many other people who love the same things you love is incomparable. Convention is worth it.
Make as much time as you can; stay for as many events as possible. If you can manage it, come early Wednesday (or even Tuesday). Don’t leave until late on Sunday. Make sure there is time to see the sights, time to relax (or work on homework), and still time to attend as many convention events as possible.
2. Location, location, location.
Convention can be expensive, and I understand the desire to cut costs. Read my article on saving on convention costs, and also read these articles on fundraising for some good ways to manage convention costs. But be aware of the trade-offs of saving money, and don’t scrimp in the wrong places.
The convention hotel and overflow hotels in the area can be expensive, though we work hard to negotiate the best group rate possible. It can be tempting to cut costs by staying in a budget motel, but don’t just jump on the cheapest rate in town. Traveling back and forth from one hotel to the other becomes complicated, especially if the hotels are far apart, if you lack a convenient mode of transportation, or if there are a lot of people in your group. When possible, stay in the convention hotel. If you stay elsewhere, consider walking distance, public transportation options (a few trolley lines run right by this year’s hotel), and the impact on scheduling. Discuss in advance how people will be getting back and forth, who wants to be where when, and if people will be required to travel in groups. Use our Facebook page and Twitter account to find out if other chapters are staying at your hotel, and talk to them about sharing rides and making sure everyone has a buddy when they want to travel somewhere.
3. The more, the merrier.
Convention is a great bonding experience for a chapter, and a great personal experience for everyone who goes. It’s also a smorgasbord of experiences and information, and it can take several people splitting up, taking great notes, and reporting back to the group later for a chapter to get all of the information and inspiration it can. Convention can also be intimidating for people attending alone or in a small group, particularly if this is their first time.
Encourage as many of your members to attend as possible, even if they aren’t presenting a paper. Do everything you can to raise money to help cover their costs, and assure all of your members that the convention is a worthwhile experience. Encourage your Sponsors to attend with you. If you’re really ambitious, encourage prospective members or even NEHS members to attend with you (be aware of any requirements that you secure parental permission and/or provide a chaperon for travel, particularly if you are traveling as a chapter or with younger students).
If you are traveling alone or in a small group, contact me and the other members of the Student Leadership Committee. We will help you meet people at convention, figure out what events to attend, and negotiate the trickier aspects of traveling alone. We can also help you find roommates to cut down on hotel costs.
4. Make a plan in advance.
The schedule is already available. Everyone attending the convention should read the schedule before hand, make note of what each one wants to do, and co-ordinate with each other to make your own tentative schedule. Make sure to leave time for sight seeing and group meals.
It can be good to pair up so that you don’t have to go to a presentation alone and you can compare notes afterwards, but it’s also good for your chapter to split up and take in as many different presentations as possible.
Events you should take special note of:
-Presentations by your chapter: Provide moral support to members of your chapter by making sure there are friendly faces in the audience. The entire chapter doesn’t have to attend each and every one of the chapter’s presentations, but there should be at least a few people at each one if at all possible.
-Presentations by the featured speakers: Every year we have speakers that I have never heard of, and they are always as good as or better than the speakers I have heard of. Every one of our featured speakers is excellent and insightful, and their presentations and Q&A sessions are some of the best chances to learn about authors, projects, and issues you never knew about.
-The Student Leadership Workshops and Chapter Sponsor Workshop: These events are a major part of the convention experience. They are jam-packed with quality advice about a variety of subjects that matter to Sigma Tau Deltans, from recruitment and retention to applying to grad school, and they are a must-attend for members at every stage of their Sigma Tau Delta experience.
-The Informal Regional Caucuses, the General Business Meeting, and the Formal Regional Caucuses: These events are where you learn about what is going on with Sigma Tau Delta at the regional, national, and international levels, where you can meet and vote for the candidates for office (or run for one yourself), and where you can get all of your questions answered about this large and multifaceted organization.
-The social events: From Open Mic Night to the Bad Poetry Contest, the evening social events are a great way to cut loose, make new friends, and even win a little something.
-The Twitter Contest: Make new friends and network with other convention attendees, get
insider tips and tricks on the best convention events, and compete to
win fabulous prizes! Even if you don’t plan on trying to win, participating in this contest is a great way to meet people and stay “in the know.” Never miss out on free pizza or an impromptu flash mob again, follow @EnglishCon today!
For more information on what to do at convention, check out our Facebook page. Become a fan, join in the discussion, and then share your experiences when it’s over. See you in New Orleans!