In our busy, crazy world we often forget the importance of being in a live face-to-face setting with others from the industry community. Because of this, many excuses are formed: budget issues, cannot get the time off, cannot find coverage, no support etc.

Being active in your industry trade association, specifically the National Association of Activity Professionals can bring with it many benefits. There is power in being connected to other people who are active in your line of work, but it can also be easy to talk yourself out of committing to that annual meeting year after year. 

Many people think that joining the organization is enough, but to capitalize on the return on your investment you need to be engaged and participate in the meetings, trainings and opportunities that present themselves.

Activity departments are busy, so the thought of taking a few days away from the office to participate in a conference, trade show, convention or seminar can seem like a waste of time. However, these live meetings might be just what you need to uncover new ways to growing your business, impact your residents, and elevate your professional acumen.

Many think that being around competitors can be a waste of time, or worse, a chance for others to steal their ideas.  But not everyone in your business is actually a competitor, as many can be allies and friends.  The mindset you choose about participating in events will impact your results and create a powerful network that will reap benefits toward the people you serve.

Right now we are going to break down and provide 5 reasons you must attend the NAAP Annual Conference. It will be April 4-7 in Denver. 

Educational opportunities.  No matter how experienced you are at your job or career, everyone can learn. If you are not growing yourself, you are stagnant, stuck and providing outdated, out of touch programs for your residents. Working in a bubble can often be isolating, and without exposure to a variety of points of view, we can miss new ideas and trends that can impact future results. The educational aspect of a conference can expose you to new ways of conducting your business and help you discover how to be more productive.

This year we have added more educational opportunities for you to participate in. Numerous topics are on hand such as: Leadership, Program, Resident Well-Being and Team Building. 

These sessions are facilitated by the best of best within our industry and are waiting to give you as many “take-aways” that you can handle. Sessions range from Men’s Programming to Technology, Hospitality, Leadership and Culture Change. 

Beyond our speakers, we are also offering pre-conference trainings such as Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia Care Training Seminar on April 4. This is a required 8 hour seminar for those pursuing certification as a Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP). 

Networking with peers.  Industry conferences provide a great opportunity to network. Often peers from other regions of the country can become valuable resources for creativity, ideas and best-practices.  Avoiding peers for fear of others discovering your competitive advantage can actually limit your own success.  

Collaboration is the way to approach networking.  While there are those whose intentions can be suspect, NAAP Members help each other uncover ideas and spark inspiration when they get to know each other on a personal level.

The NAAP Annual Conference provides numerous structured and unstructured opportunities to build your network, reconnect with old peers and meet new friends. Some of these opportunities include; the annual flag ceremony, the awards banquet, small group discussions and more.

Remember, the conversations you are having are much more valuable than any session you attend.

Encounter new vendors and suppliers.  Too often people shy away from the trade show exhibit hall at conferences. They think they have seen it all or they fear that they will have to talk to salespeople, but these industry suppliers are some of the best people for you to get to know if you want to learn more about the current industry climate. 

Discovering innovative products and services for your business is necessary to stay competitive in today’s fast-paced world. Plus, these vendors who sell to your industry fully grasp what is happening inside your competition.  Invest time with the sponsors at the event and turn them into your friends and allies. The NAAP conference provides opportunities to visit these outstanding industry leaders through an exhibition hall as well as a vendor showcase.

Position yourself as an expert.  When you are active in your industry, you can develop a reputation as an expert to your peers and your clients. Those who are engaged over the long term are often asked to speak at the events and to write articles for their industry publications.  

Like it or not, others like to associate with the experts in any industry.  Clients feel good about doing business with those that are celebrated by their peers. If your strategy is to be the best-kept secret in your business community, you will be missing a valuable opportunity and the business will pass you by.

Have fun.  Being in activities should be rewarding and fun. All work and no play can get old fast. The NAAP Annual Conference can add a layer of enjoyment to managing your career growth by mixing a social aspect into your learning and industry branding efforts. 

This year’s NAAP Conference is held in Denver, so numerous fun activities such as Themed Awards Dinner, tasting the local food, and tours of the local area where the event is hosted are provided.  

Taking an extra day at the beginning or end of the trip to explore or visit friends in the region is also a great way to maximize the investment in travel.  Never underestimate the power of a little fun mixed with some interesting people!

Don’t underestimate the importance of meeting in person. Value comes from the human-to-human connections that occur. Often people cite the serendipitous “hallway conversations” that they have with other attendees as the most valuable parts of attending an event.  

While these are not on the agenda, or mentioned in the breakout sessions learning objectives, when two or more people begin to discuss topics on a deeper and personal level, the success of the event to those involved becomes irreplaceable.  It is the people that bring the ROI (Return on Investment) to your time at a conference.

And of course, your leadership should be supportive and encourage your attendance at the NAAP Conference as you bring value back to your organization: Focus on bringing key learnings, industry updates, or contacts back to your company. Prove that return on investment by sharing with your colleagues and manager within the first week back at the office.

To learn more about the conference, click here. See you in Denver! 

Michael McCann, M.S., is a NAAP Conference Chairman and director of lifestyles for Friendship Senior Options