My second full day of the convention started with one of my favorite events. Zone 7 hosts a breakfast. We meet at 7 a.m. and often have more than 100 attendees. Although I am partial to my zone I have been told that no other zone pulls this off quite the way we do. The breakfast is important to me because it is one of the first places I began expanding my pool of national peers. These aren't just people that I see once a year at a convention, but they are folks that I can call or email when I need advice. The candidates for national office are also allowed time at the breakfast to introduce themselves to the voters. Unfortunately there are not a lot of NAESP members that voice their opinion through the election process. Some say that they don't know who these people are. By attending the zone breakfast I am able to put a face with a name and hear what those candidates think is important.
Following the breakfast I attended the Zone 7 Meeting. This is another important stop during the convention experience. I encourage everyone to get involved with their zone, and the Zone meetings are a great place to start. Each of the zone directors is looking for feedback to bring back to the national board. This is a great way to have influence at a national level.
My last stop was the Expo Hall. Making connections with companies I already do business with as well as finding new vendors is really easy to do at the conference. The revenue that is generated from the vendors is an important part of the annual conference's success and helps to bring in top-notch speakers.
I will offer one more suggestion on making connections. Line up a time that people from your own state can go out and eat and gather. Often you only see these folks a couple times a year. We had the first ever Zone 7 reception on Wednesday night which was a great event! The setting was very conducive for getting to meet and greet and get to know even more peers.
The connections I have made over the years at this convention are equally as important as the content. Take advantage of the opportunities to get to know your own folks better and to make new friends across the country.