Don’t Overlook This Professional Development Opportunity!

by Sally Cameron
Bristol Community College
Fall River, MA

Looking to challenge yourself and to stretch a bit? Consider demonstrating your superpowers by making a presentation at NCMPR’s 2013 national conference, “Superheroes in the 2nd City.”

Making a conference presentation is an often-overlooked professional development opportunity, but it can have a lasting effect on you and our profession. And your chance is now! NCMPR is seeking proposals for breakout sessions and roundtables at the March 10-13, 2013, conference. Details are at this link. The deadline is May 4.

Now, I know a lot of people say they would rather spend two hours in the dentist chair than to make a presentation. In front of people. Who know way more than you and are just waiting to pounce on the chance to show how incompetent you are. (Those last two sentence fragments are just the voice in my head. Perhaps yours says something different!)

But not so fast. Tamp down that voice and consider the possibilities.

Making a presentation gives you the opportunity to synthesize and analyze and to really know your stuff. It gives you the chance to figure out why something is a best practice and how others can replicate it to be successful themselves. As you distill and craft your presentation, you participate in the age-old practice of mentoring and networking. Think about the presentations you have attended at district conferences or at the national conference. What spoke to you? How did you benefit?

Making a presentation is an opportunity to give back and to make our profession better. But you get something, too – the affirmation of your own professional skills for yourself and for your president.

I made my first presentation at a district conference. I was pleased when it was accepted, and my president was enthused that I was able to carry the Bristol Community College flag at a regional conference. But my nervousness grew as I considered standing in front of my peers as an “expert.” I had days and days of “Impostor Syndrome” beforehand. What do I have to say that anyone wants to hear?

Much to my surprise, it was a hit. My presentation focused on creating academic catalogs that faculty, students, and prospective students like. Right after the presentation, someone approached me to rave about how much sense my system made and how she was going back to put it into practice right away. I was flattered and thanked her.

Then, 18 months later, that fan came running across the room at the national conference in Orlando. “I put your catalog system into practice,” she said. And thanks to you, I am here because we got a Paragon award for our catalog!” I felt like a proud mom – especially when she won the Gold!

So step up. Don’t leave this professional development opportunity on the table. Consider a project that went well on your campus or think about your own area of expertise and propose it for the Chicago conference. If a breakout seems too much, offer to lead a roundtable (a very popular programming piece in our conferences). Tip: Make your proposal timely to the challenges of community college communicators and make sure you show how it can be replicated. Strong research and demonstrated value and ROI also strengthen the proposal.

Give it a try. Yes, it made me shake in my boots, but it was so rewarding.

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