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Conventions--A Good Start to Get Ahead.

What is the benefit of attending a convention these days? I asked myself this question three years ago when I attended my first convention during my junior year of college. I was looking for a line of recognition, something else to tack on to my resume. I was an active member of the collegiate chapter of a marketing organization and was invited to attend their annual conference in New Orleans. I eagerly accepted. As an officer of my chapter and representative of my university, my registration was paid for. I jumped at the chance to see what it might be like to attend a national convention.

When I arrived in New Orleans, I was more easily lured into the city's social scene, rather than the events at the convention. Honestly, I bore a cynical approach and was not too enthused at the beginning. Typical Generation Xer, you say? Well, yes. But even typical Gen-Xers come around and realize the benefits of attending conventions. I was surrounded by students, many first-timers as well, who expected little until they started meeting others who were also drawn into this whole experience. As the event came to an end, I realized that whether I was a student or a future professional, I definitely would attend future conventions for several of the same reasons that industry professionals and leaders relate to in this age.

First of all, let's face it, we have needs. Whether it is a sense of belonging, a need to socialize and network with others, or a search for prestige and recognition, we all, in some way, shape or fashion, bear these intrinsic needs to feel fulfilled. I knew I did. I wanted to affirm to myself that I wasn't just sitting around doing nothing to get active in advancing my career. On top of that, I had other needs. I wanted to learn more, get first-hand tips on how to succeed and know the latest market trends. If that opened doors to a job opportunity, referral, or even ideas to start a business for myself, I would be on the right track to a better future.

Common Goals. Robert Frost wrote, "Men work together, I told him from the heart, whether they work together or apart." I wasn't quite sure if I shared any common goals with my classmates when I decided to attend the convention. I knew that travelling to New Orleans and getting to Bourbon Street was a goal for all of us. Despite our self-propelled reasons to party, we knew we all wanted to be there to represent ourselves well. We all wanted to achieve and that was our common goal.

Ever heard of the Field of Dreams movie's philosophy, "If you build it, they will come...?" It's relative to that good ol' "proximity and attraction" theory I picked up from one of my college textbooks. People are drawn to each other because of common interests and physical involvement in working within the same industry. Have you noticed how being at a convention, surrounded by your fellow peers and meeting new faces, gets you excited and more enthused about your profession? When I attended a roundtable session at my convention, I suddenly saw a whole new facet of the industry. When I shook hands with the keynote speaker and other moderators, I realized I was in the company of people who were actually going somewhere; and it got me motivated. Not only that, I was mingling with other students from other universities who were also experiencing the magic of group dynamics in a professional environment. Once we got to know each other more, we started sharing ideas and exchanged e-mail addresses to keep in touch .

And what about economics? Everyone knows that working successfully as a group can lead to greater economic benefits. Sizeable lobbying efforts and members supporting their organizations are good examples of groups who strive to achieve increased economic benefits and tend to affiliate with each other. The greater the economic benefits that are perceived, the greater the reason to affiliate. When my colleagues and I banded together to represent our university, our minds were pretty much centered towards our own economic futures--we wanted this experience to help us land a job and a steady paycheck.

Today, I realized that the same reasons I found for attending my first convention three years ago still apply today. Conventions are a good start to get ahead. As I remember my experience fondly, I find that there are many opportunities for individuals--students and professionals--when attending conventions. Whether you are a first-timer or are reconnecting with your colleagues and friends for a common goal or bond, conventions have always served the purpose of acting as a means for people to come together, to work, to communicate, to learn and even have fun.

Last year, I attended the 54th Annual Convention of the National Society of Accountants as a staff member and I got to see and know a different part of the whole convention experience. This year, I look forward to another year at NSA and supporting the society at its upcoming convention. In sharing my thoughts with you, I hope to rekindle your memories of good times with good people. See you at NSA's 55th Annual Convention in Puerto Rico!

Meg Ramos is the Executive Assistant at NSA Headquarters and a graduate of George Mason University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing.
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Article Details
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Author:Ramos, Meg
Publication:Camping Magazine
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2000
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