A week from today, the 2013 ACPA Convention (co-located with NIRSA) will be kicking off at the Planet Hollywood Theater in Las Vegas, NV!  As a member of the Convention Planning Team (Technology Chair), it has been a great experience learning about how ACPA plans and executes their biggest program of the year.  Personally, I’m excited to see so many friends and colleagues as well as being at my first national convention with my brother Earl Cabellon, who is an active member of NIRSA and a solid professional at the University of Maryland.

While there are a ton of things planned, I wanted to share a few thoughts for those heading to the Convention as you prepare for your arrival:

1.  Have a Plan for What You Want To Learn:  Sure, you can pick the Educational Sessions you want to attend in Guidebook and plan out your social calendar before arriving in Vegas, but that simply isn’t enough. Assuming your home institution is footing some or all of the bill for your travel, make sure that you identify the things you need to learn more about and seek those people out at Convention to get your questions answered.  Too often, we look at these events at places where we are “given” information. This year, play an active role in your learning and get the answers to the questions you (and your campus) needs.

Action Step: Talk to your supervisor to find out what information your campus could use right now.  Forecast future projects that may be on the horizon and see what complimentary information could help in that planning.

2.  Connect With Three New People You Want To Meet: There are over 3,700 student affairs professionals from ACPA descending on Vegas!  Make the most of this time by reaching out to those whom you’ve always wanted to connect with and invite them to connect with you over coffee (or your chosen beverage!) Along with this, don’t be shy if you happen to see them walking around. Walk up and introduce yourself!  Convention only happens once a year so you must take advantage of every opportunity you can!

Action Step: Send emails and/or tweets to SIX different people you want to connect with by Wednesday. Follow up with them by Friday if you don’t hear back (be pleasantly persistant!) 

3.  Pack a Comfortable Bag or Backpack: Its very likely that you won’t see your hotel room very much during Convention, so you will want to have a bag or backpack that can carry your most essential items. Mine includes my iPad, reusable water bottle, lip balm, hand sanitizer and lotion, healthy snacks, gum/mints, business cards, pens, and various chargers.  Don’t forget to bring any university or special “flair” to flash on your name badge as well 🙂

Action Step: There are many convenient stores within walking distance of our hotel properties. So while you may want to pack a lot of snacks in your luggage, know that you will have opportunities to stock up in Vegas.  Buy bottled water at these convenient stores as they are MUCH MORE expensive at the hotels.

4.  Download These Apps:  You probably already have these, but its worth repeating:

a.  Guidebook:  Our 2013 ACPA Convention hub of information will be found here. ACPA purchased a full license of it for this year’s Convention, and we’ve activated some really great features you’ll want to check out (e.g. taking/sharing photos, quick evaluations, etc.)
b.  Twitter: Whether it is the actual Twitter app or using third party ones like Seesmic (iOS & Android), Hootsuite (iOS & Android), Osfoora (iOS) or Plume (Android), using Twitter at Convention will help keep you connected to the latest information.  If you still haven’t signed up for Twitter, do so and read my Teaching Twitter series to get you started.  Once you get going, follow the @ACPAConvention twitter account and the #ACPA13 hashtag.
c.  Foursquare: At an event like ACPA’s Convention, if you are the type of person who “wants to be found” or help remember all the great places you’ll be visiting while in Vegas, sign up for Foursquare and check-in ACPA events or your favorite Vegas Places! (if you want to remember all the great places you visited in Vegas, but don’t want to be ‘found’, check-in as you leave 🙂 )
d.  Evernote:
 If you plan on taking digital notes during formal educational sessions, use Evernote on your mobile device.  This app has become my main note taking app which not only lets you take note traditionally, but also via voice and photos and easily sharable.
e.  OpenTable: Want to dine at some of the best restaurants Vegas has to offer? You’ll want to use OpenTable to secure reservations.  Its super simple and completely accurate.  You may want to start making reservations now for some of Vegas’ more popular restaurants.
f.  Convention Mobile Website: OK, so its not an app, but worth bookmarking in your mobile web browser 🙂

5.  Pace Yourself: Whether this is your first ACPA Convention or national Student Affairs event (or your 10th+), take it easy and don’t try do to everything.  Listen to your body and get a nap in when you need it, consume nutritious food, and drink plenty of fluids.  If you can sneak a few runs or workouts in as well, do it.  It will help your overall energy and health for the longevity of the Convention experience.

Finally, I would be remiss if I also didn’t share the two educational programs I’ll be a part of! I hope you’ll consider adding them both to your Convention schedule:

1.  Featured Panel: The Use of Technology in Student Affairs (Tuesday, March 5 from 10:30am-11:45am in Planet Hollywood Celebrity Ballroom 4):  I will be moderating an all-star panel focusing the conversation on the many uses of technology in student affairs.  Excited to share the stage with Greg Heiberger (South Dakota State University); Julie Little (EDUCUASE); Thomas Ellett (New York University); and Kate Klingensmith (Apollo Group, Inc.).  (I will also be hosting a follow up session with the panelists immediately following the session from 11:45am-12:45pm for more questions and answers!)

2.  The Future of Student Affairs in Six Minutes and Forty Seconds (Wednesday, March 6 from 12:00pm-1:00pm in Planet Hollywood Celebrity Ballroom 2):  I will be presenting “Pecha Kucha” style with Paul Gordon Brown, Kristen Renn, and Patrick Love.  Paul did a great job blogging about our upcoming session, where my specific part is called, “Why Unconferences Are Better Than This One” 🙂  It will be a great session and a preview of what’s to come in Indianapolis for ACPA 2014 🙂

I’ll be arriving in Vegas on Monday, March 1st ready to go!  For those of you heading to Vegas, let’s make plans to get together, have coffee, connect at the Tweetup, or wherever else the ACPA and/or Vegas take us 🙂  It is going to be an amazing experience and I plan on taking advantage of as much as I can. How about you?

What is your best advice for those headed to ACPA’s Convention in Las Vegas? What do you have in your bag/backpack? What apps would you add to the list above?


  • I think the most important thing for any big conference is wearing comfortable shoes. I find that I am much happier and have more energy if my feet are happy. Save the cute, uncomfortable shoes for evening activities. Or never! (This advice is probably more helpful for the women. Men don’t seem to have any problem with wearing sensible shoes!)

  • I agree with Deborah! Ladies- save the high heels for later. With the conference being split between 3 hotels you might be doing a lot of hurrying and you don’t want your shoes to slow you down. Also, if you are purchasing new shoes for the conference- break them in first (I’m doing that right now).

    For our #SAgrads attending: make sure to bring your padfolio and copies of your resume! It’ll be good for just networking (if you are not job searching)!

    Have fun and I’ll see you all at #ACPA13!

    PS: If you want me to be one of the new people you connect with (Ed’s #2 tip), let me know! I love meeting new people!!

  • I am getting ready to put on my photographer hat and offer some very reasonably priced headshots – because we should all have a great one!

    I’m also making a giant packing list, preparing my schedule on the Guidebook app, and making plans with friends. I “marked” several sessions during the same time slot so that if I end up going to one type and not wanting to get repeat information, I can easily see what else interested me at the time. It’ll be a great way to go back and email presenters for any take-away information should I decide not to attend that session.

  • If you’re not sure where to start with the networking/introductions piece, I definitely recommend signing up to volunteer. If you are interviewing for positions, it will help you get a grasp on what to expect from C3. Also, it will place you alongside so many great professionals you may not have met otherwise– plus you’re giving back to your association. For introverted folks, it helps the conversation flow more naturally, because you are working toward a common goal during a short time frame.

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