I’m going to WMCCAI’s Conference & Expo this year to learn how to be a better community volunteer. I’m a homeowner and an HOA board member. Hundreds of people like me will attend the Expo and I expect their agendas will look like mine. No one is forcing us to be there. No one is paying us. We’re going because we want to help our communities. Personal satisfaction is all we have to gain. But that’s why we became community association volunteers, isn’t it?
The previous two Conference & Expo events I attended were highly educational – enjoyable, too. Seminar presenters overall were articulate and knowledgeable. Chatting with vendors in the exhibition hall helped me learn about the range of services and contractors available to HOAs like mine. Below I have outlined how I think community association volunteers can get the most out of their Expo experience:
Conference & Expo is a full day. Review the schedule before you go. Multiple seminars will be offered concurrently in three different time blocks, but none will be repeated. Choose the seminars that interest you most. Expect the first round of seminars to start at 8:30 a.m. and the last to end at 3:30 p.m. The schedule is available online at www.caidc.org/conference-expo.
The online floor plan will show you the companies exhibiting at the show, so you can create a list of “must see” vendors before you arrive and plan your route.
Register early to get helpful email updates from WMCCAI. These emails include information about exhibitors, activities on the show floor, education opportunities, and resources to make your conference day successful. The Conference & Expo App link will be included in those emails. Be sure to click the link to download the app. Use the app to build an itinerary with the sessions you plan to attend, consult the app’s show floor map to locate any exhibitor’s booth, and more!
Arrive early. Pick up your registration materials and put on your name badge. Wearing badges is mandatory, but they are also a social courtesy that will help you meet people.
Seminar presenters often bring handouts, but rarely enough copies. Look for handouts at the back of the room when a session starts. Some presentation materials can be downloaded via the Conference & Expo App as well and saved to a cloud service. If you want a copy, ask the presenter after their session. Or, get their business card and request it later. Many speakers will happily email their material if you ask.
Do make time to visit the exhibitors. NEW in 2019, sessions will be held in the Exhibit Hall, so you can maximize your time between education and meeting exhibitors.
Talk to vendors. Learn about their companies and industries. These conversations will make you better informed about essential community services. They may help you ask smarter questions about your board’s next improvement project or contract award.
Be friendly. Ask questions. Look for opportunities to talk with people. Collect business cards or swap contact information on your smart phone.
Review what you learned at the education sessions and consider how to apply it in your community. Last year, I attended an excellent seminar about holding effective board meetings and went home with helpful tips for my board.
Share your experience with other board members soon after Conference & Expo. Email them a short memo summarizing key points from seminars you attended. Distribute a handout that you found valuable.
Update your contacts file with the names from those business cards you collected and reach out to the exhibitors you want to learn more about.
Send thank you notes to presenters and follow up notes to other people you met. Expressions of gratitude are good foundations for new relationships.
Last, place this reminder on your late November calendar so you can register early for the 2020 Conference & Expo!
By Doug Carroll
Doug Carroll is a homeowner in Alexandria, VA. He is a board member of the Windsor Park Home Owners Association, a community of 386 townhouses near the Franconia-Springfield Metro Station. Doug was a business reporter and later a business editor at USA TODAY for nearly 30 years.