By Natalie L. Smith (East Tennessee State University) & Kerri Bodin (University of Ottawa)
Great choice! You are headed to NASSM’s Annual Conference for the first time, and we’re sure you’re excited to learn new things and meet new people. But we’re guessing this is also somewhat intimidating. As one of the largest and oldest conferences in our field, the NASSM Annual Conference can be somewhat overwhelming for first time attendees. Here is a friendly guide to the conference itself:
First thing first, read the program schedule ahead of time. Pre-plan what presentations you want to go to. Make sure to build in breaks to let your mind process all the information. You do not have to try to go to every session available. When you do go to sessions, ask questions during the sessions, this is an opportunity for researchers to hear suggestions or new ideas that may improve or build on their current research. If you want to speak to the presenter afterward, make sure to go outside the room to do so, as the presentation timeline is tight.
Reach Out Early: If a topic or a person really sparks your interest from the program schedule, reach out to them and ask for a meeting or simply say you look forward to seeing them at the conference. Those scheduled break times are a great time to chat for 20 minutes in a centrally located area. Be flexible about it, some of these more senior NASSM members have dozens of old friends to reconnect with as well as committee or leadership responsibilities.
Add the app. Be sure to download the Attendify app then search NASSM for the official 2019 NASSM conference app (sponsored by Sports Travel Academy. Event Code: nassm19) or click here.
Practical Tip: If you are presenting, bring a flash drive and presentation remote (via @DocJamesWeiner)
What Are All These Events? (This only covers events with a social component or opportunities to learn more about NASSM)
Past-President’s Workshop (Wed 4:00-6:00pm, Nottoway, 4th Floor) – Every year, the past-president hosts a workshop on a different topic.
Opening Reception (Wed 7:00-9:00pm, Armstrong Room) – The first event of the evening, this is the time to chat with someone new. You see your colleagues and friends all year long, now is the time to engage with peers elsewhere in the field. Use the drink line as an excuse to chat with the person behind you. Meet new people in groups of 2 if you’re too shy to go on your own. This is a very unstructured time, so use it to have new conversations. Dress code: Business casual usually.
NASSM 101 (Thurs 8:30-9:15am, Napolean A1) – A great way to learn about NASSM itself and how to get involved.
NASSM Annual General Meeting (Fri 4:00-5:00pm, Napoleon BC) – Learn about the state of NASSM, keep informed of changes, updates, and general concerns. Become more familiar with NASSM’s Executive Council. Every member is welcome to attend!
WIN (Women in NASSM) Meeting (Fri 5:30-7:00pm, location TBD) – An unofficial but long-standing event that brings together any woman in NASSM interested. A great way to meet new people.
Diversity Breakfast (Sat 7:00-8:00am, Napoleon B1) – Hosted by the Diversity Committee, an informal breakfast to network and chat with those interested in diversity topics. Everyone is welcome, even if you don’t do diversity research. Again, another great way to meet new people.
Founders’ Awards Night (Sat, Cocktail Reception 6:15-7:00pm, Dinner 7:00-9:00pm, Napoleon Foyer & Ballroom) – A more formal affair that includes a cocktail reception beforehand. The cocktail hour is another great opportunity to meet people (seeing a trend?).
What are all these committee meetings on the schedule? Sounding a bit too much like a mafia boss, “eh, don’t worry about it.” Maybe you’ve noticed on the event schedule a few meetings such as “Executive Council Hand over” or the “SMEJ Editorial Board Meeting.” They are for folks on those boards or committees. Go ahead and ignore those parts of the schedule (unless you are on that board or committee!), but also take note of any committee that sparks your interest. Reach out to the chair and ask about opportunities to get involved. You can find standing committee chairs’ contact information here and the Executive Council here.
What do I wear? This for me, is always the toughest. Maybe as a former sports business professional or maybe as a woman, I always stress about dress code. I’ve found NASSM attendees dress in a range from full business to, what I call, outdoor recreation business casual (outdoor shirt short-sleeved button down). The Founders’ Awards Night tends to be more formal, the opening reception not as much. Everyone has a different opinion on this, but I will say, wear things that make you feel confident and comfortable, so you can focus on the exchange of ideas.
What is happening for students? That student board works hard for you, so take advantage of their efforts. I found student events is where I met future collaborators, new friends, and I’ve heard for some, future colleagues. Check out the student events here.
One last piece of advice: Not every conversation leads to a collaboration or a job offer, but every conversation at NASSM is worth having. Your To-Do list will always be there and your presentation will never be perfect. Instead, use this time to be curious, to engage, and to be inspired. The combined intellect, passion for research, teaching and/or service, makes for an invigorating several days.
Authors: Natalie is an Assistant Professor of Sport & Recreation Management at ETSU in Johnson City, TN. She attended her first NASSM conference as a PhD student in Austin in 2013. Kerri is a PhD student at the University of Ottawa in Ottawa, Ontario. She attended her first NASSM conference as a Master’s student in Denver in 2017.
Thank you to @Matt_Huml, @markaslavich, @morrsport, @ChadMcEvoy, @TimDeSchriver for your assistance in providing advice to first-timers!