It may sound nerdy but I get really excited about the annual conferences of the American Counseling Association (ACA). My head spins when I think of the thousands of professional counselors gathering together to share insight, heartfelt stories, and groundbreaking research. The inspiring energy is palpable in the air.
State and specialized branches of the ACA also organize annual and bi-annual conferences. They are naturally smaller and limited in the number of sessions they offer. Sometimes it seems to me that they are attended primarily by professionals with years of experience and not so much by graduate students.
Do not discount smaller conferences. Here is why:
• You may spend the whole day in the same hall. You inevitably develop a friendship with the person sitting next to you. What a great networking opportunity!
• You are closer to the presenters and the presenters are closer to you. You have a better chance of having your questions answered.
I was in Germany for the 2012 Conference of the European Branch of ACA. It was my first time solo presenting a poster. ACA President-Elect Dr Cirecie A. West-Olatunji, also the keynote speaker, stopped by my poster. I was able to converse with her about my ideas and receive feedback. How cool was that!
• Smaller professional associations may not have the technical resources and/or organizational experience that larger associations do. Ask about opportunities to become involved. They may need your help.
• Be proactive and approach the presenters if you are interested in their topic area. You have a better chance of being remembered.
Maya Georgieva is a counselor with a keen interest in child maltreatment prevention. She is a doctoral student in Counselor Education and Supervision at Marymount University and a volunteer crisis worker.