Caveat: The “top ten” are truly not in any particular order, but are definitely important things to consider when “mixing it up” at NACA. As an associate, there are so many things to think about when preparing and planning for the conference and this list could truly be a whole cookbook. But it’s a blog post, so let’s keep it concise like a PB&J sandwich. Throughout all of your experiences be sure to ask lots of questions and share your ideas with other associates. I guess that could be considered the first bit of advice… but I did not list it as one of the ten, although it’s still important and should really be in the top ten. By writing it here I was able to sneak 11 important things on my list. That was a daring move on my part. It was like adding an ingredient to my dish that was not in the recipe. It’s a tasty addition so let me sprinkle that idea back at ya, “ask lots of questions and share your ideas with other associates”.
Now to the 10. Here you go:
1. Attitude – The way you approach the whole weekend will have a huge impact on whether or not you have a successful conference experience. Believe this – The conference is going to be fun and productive. You are a nice person. You will make friends. Your business will grow. You will create a yummy networking cup cake filled with delicious and friendly ingredients. That might sound funny but I am trying to go with the “mixing it up” theme.
2. Stay Healthy – Rest up before you get to the conference. The weekend is a joyous marathon and you do not want to show up to the starting line already worn out. Drink lots of water. Eat good food. Take care of your body. Once the starting gun has gone off keep a healthy pace that is right for you. That was a running metaphor. Totally out of place here but still good advice.
3. Read The Program – Look at the whole weekend’s schedule and get an overall understanding of the event. A broad perspective of what everyone is doing and experiencing will help you understand the students and staff. Their conference is bigger than just the hours that we spend in the Campus Activities Market Place (CAMP). To the students and staff, this is more than just a “talent buying” conference. It’s a networking opportunity, an educational event, and professional development weekend as well. So, get to know what else is going on. You will gain some good perspective by reading the program.
4. Attend Everything – Your opportunities to build relationships do not start and end in CAMP. You can attend educational sessions, hang out in the lobby, go to lunch with a school group, and make yourself available to chat with whomever happens to walk by. You can even make new friends on an escalator. The thing to remember, so you don’t break the rules, is that you can only “sell” your products in CAMP. You can “mix it up” all day long, hanging out, chatting, and sharing recipes (as long as your recipe is the shape of a business card and you are only giving it away in a non-selling manner). Seriously, meet and chat with lots of folks. It will help broaden your perspective on what the schools really need. They want to create great events for their students and you can help.
5. Prepare Your Promo – This will lower your stress level. Make sure that you have everything “ready to go” before you arrive on site. Packaging, labeling, making copies, stuffing CD cases, and anything done ahead of time is smart planning. If you try to get it done while trying to set up your booth it can be stressful and prevent you from just hanging out and having fun. In addition, know your schedule ahead of time. Bring a prepared calendar, which includes the dates when you or your acts are available to perform. In short, show up at the picnic with your food basket well organized and prepared.
6. No Need to Give Your Promo To Everyone – Most school representatives are divided into committees. Some folks are there looking for lectures, some for comedy, some for novelty games, etc. It’s OK to ask a student if your material is relevant to their role on their campus. As an artist, if you are a “crooning Sinatra-singing stilt walker,” you do not need to give your DVD to the “movie chairperson.” They are not the ones who will bring you to campus. If you are a singing stilt walker… I would like to meet you. Your leg extensions are great tools when mixing up huge batches of cookie dough that we will then share with everyone at the conference. We should be friends.
7. Own Your Talent – You are so amazingly talented. You (yes, you) will be the most talented and amazing person at the conference. The guy next to you thinks he is the most talented. But it’s actually you. It is definitely OK to talk big about who you are and what you have to offer. But find a humble way to do it. Use video, live recordings, or written recommendations to “show” what you can do instead of just “saying” what you can do. Definitely be honest and find a way to share your awesomeness while being humble all at the same time. Always remember that you are working together with the attending students to create great events on their campus. What can you do to help them? Why would your act be good for their campus?
8. Be Nice – Everyone likes nice. Make sure you ask questions and find out the needs of the schools. Even if they are not buying what you are selling you can still be nice. The students you are talking to will be talking to other people who will be talking about you if you are not nice. So be nice. You may get frustrated every once in a while because your dough is not rising as quickly as you had hoped. Save it. Vent to a friend when you are alone and far away from students and staff. I can be your friend. Complain to me. Remember what I said earlier about this being a marathon? Sometimes the delicious baked cake finish line can be 3, 6, or 12 months in the future. This is not a microwaveable hot pocket. It’s a slow cooker. You need to be nice to everyone so they will be willing to enjoy your cuisine in the comforts of their own campuses.
9. Accept Defeat Gracefully – When a student or staff member walks past your booth and turns the other way when you are trying to engage them, it’s not your fault. They probably have an allergy to the food you are making. Don’t take it personally. They will break out in a rash if they enter your booth. You would never give a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to someone who is allergic to peanuts. Would you? Be resilient and remember to focus on the folks who really love peanuts. Yeah, I know you are not actually making food but this works with the theme. The point here is to be resilient. Not everyone will love you and it has nothing to do with whether or not you are lovable. You know you are awesome. I know you are awesome. Why do they just walk by? Allergies.
10. Wear Comfy Shoes – You will be standing a whole lot over the weekend. Comfy shoes will make you more patient, happy, smarter, and open-minded. You will also be more considerate and respectful to those around you. If there is a whole lot of cushion in your shoes they will make you taller. Comfy shoes are good. When the “talented act” in the booth next to you has forgotten their comfy shoes you can cheer them up and say, “Hey, you should go change into your comfy shoes”, and then offer them a piece of candy. Wear comfy shoes. Comfy shoes help your attitude. Attitude is the first ingredient on the list. Comfy shoes moisten the cake. No one likes dry cake. Everyone loves comfy shoes. Have a great conference.
See you soon!
Jason LeVasseur lives in Nashville, TN, and is one of the most awarded music performers in campus entertainment. He is also a keynote speaker, workshop and big games facilitator, summer camp counselor, husband, father, and the creator of “The Rock Star Project.” Visit www.jasonlevasseur.com. He is represented in NACA by Bass-Schuler Entertainment in Chicago, IL.