As strange as this may sound it has never occurred to most members to go to the BDPA Technology Conference. They know about it - they've been getting emails since joining letting them know about it, but it has never even come up as something to do.
This is how I felt when I joined. The conference was is in Dallas and I lived hundreds of miles away, and I already had my own summer plans.
As it turned out, my plans changed, I had some free time so I went to the 2004 conference in Dallas, Texas. I can honestly say it was the single best thing I'd experienced? with my BDPA membership since I joined in 2001.
There were a number of reasons the conference was fantastic - any one of them alone made it worth going:
- I was not a minority among attendees. Do you know what it's like to attend a conference where there may be one or two (.5%) other people who look like you?
- I networked with members of Chapters from around the country. I sat next to them in seminars, ate with them at the plenary luncheons and socialized with them during the corporate receptions.
- We talked about our careers, issues, challenges, opportunities, the companies we worked for and companies that we wanted to work for.
- We talked about our chapters; what we've done that was successful; mistakes we've made; and new ideas for how our chapters could move forward.
I walked away from the conference with a notepad full of action items for my personal development as well as ideas for the Chapter (enough to keep us busy the whole year if we wanted); a pocket full of business cards of peers, recruiters and decision makers; and a stronger feeling of optimism for my Chapter and what we could accomplish than I would have ever imagined.
Perhaps the most important thing I got from the conference was competency. I was amazed at how much tangible, real-world advice was given. There were talks on how to use technology, chapter building, closing the digital divide, leadership skills, team building, and much more. In short, I received a lot of information on developing oneself and everything necessary to know how to run a successful Chapter. I've attended dozens of conferences and this was by far one of the most tangible and beneficial.
So within a two-week span, I went from never attending a program meeting to showing up in Dallas not knowing anyone or what to expect, to meeting two new BFF's (Allstate employees: Marvie Barton and Kimberly Vaughn), falling in love with BDPA and the conference.
When I later became President of the Philadelphia chapter, the conference was at the top of our budget. Every year, we were going to send several of our members and students to the conference. We would take full advantage of BETF grants, but whether we get those or not, conference, airfare, and lodging fees, would be covered for that year. Our goal was to win the Chapter of the Year Award to cover some of the registration fees.
So if you haven't attended a Technology conference where you are one of the 99.5% and not the 0.5%, this is the conference for you. This is my personal invitation to you. I would love to meet you in Baltimore!