Reflections about the 2013 Professional Development Conference

By: Steve Ward
Sr. Licensing Specialist
Entergy- Grand Gulf

What does it take to plan a conference for over 400 people, including 50 speakers in 14 different sessions?  Emails.  Lots and lots of emails.  As a member of the NAYGN Professional Development (PD) Committee, I had over 1,000 conference-related emails.  My computer stopped counting and searching for them at 1,000.  Another PD member said she had over 400 emails in her conference folder.  That doesn’t even take into account the numerous conference calls, texts, and late night calls that were all part of life as a member of the PD Committee this year.

Planning a conference like NAYGN takes a great deal of time and effort.  We started planning for this year back in August during the NAYGN/IYNC Conference.  A small group of us gathered around a table during lunch one day and started talking about next year.  Led by our fearless leader, Bobby Ashworth, who is the PD Chair for the Core, we eventually grew to a group of over 30 people.  Every member of the team contributed to make the conference a success.  It is always amazing to see what a group of volunteers can accomplish when they are dedicated and passionate about something.

When you’re in charge of an event, it’s an entirely different experience compared to what it is like to just attend the conference.  You’re constantly thinking about all the details.  Where is my next speaker?  Is one of my speakers going to bring revised slides that they didn’t tell me about?  What if someone is trying to call me to say they are stuck on the metro and my cell phone doesn’t get any service down here in the conference rooms?  Then of course, there are the small victories that bring a disproportionate amount of happiness to your day.  Things like finding the speaker you were looking for make you so excited you want to jump for joy.  At the end of the day, the things that really make it all worthwhile are those moments when you realize that something you did made a difference for someone in the audience.  Hearing comments like, “That speaker was awesome!” or “This is the best session I’ve ever been to!” brings a sense of satisfaction that few can appreciate.  Personally, one of my favorite things to witness is when people go up and talk with the speakers after a session is over.  Often those conversations lasted all through the break.

In addition to the conference sessions and plenary sessions, committee members organized the Hill Day and the Scavenger Hunt.  These events provided great opportunities to meet other attendees and explore the exciting world of DC.  And I’m not just saying that because my team won the Scavenger Hunt.  Go Team 24!

The great thing about being a part of the PD Committee is the people you get to work with.  Many of us had never met each other in person but through numerous phone calls and emails we all became good friends.  It was exciting to arrive at the conference and instantly feel part of a group beyond just the people from your site.

I want to express my sincere thanks to everyone on the PD Committee and those who helped along the way.  We are especially grateful for the NEI crew, Liz McAndrew-Benavides, Liz Dean, Emily Rademacher, and Christine Csizmadia.

Our conference historians will be putting together a report on the conference so everyone can read about the different sessions and see pictures from the conference.  This will be available on the NAYGN website soon.  Also, the Leadership workshop will be coming out as a webinar series for all NAYGN members.  Whether you attended that workshop or not, look for those announcements coming soon.  Of course, we are always looking for interesting speakers and topics for PD webinars throughout the year.

If you’d like to join the PD Committee and help us make next year’s conference the best one ever, please contact Bobby at  Planning has just started so this is the perfect time to get involved!  It doesn’t matter if you’ve ever planned an event before or if you’ve attended an NAYGN conference before, everyone is welcome on the PD Committee.