ACSD Conferencing Guide - 2018 Edition

By Eric Fehr

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    Every year hundreds of Christian student development professionals descend on one college campus ready to fellowship, learn, be challenged, share, and grow.  Many of these individuals are from various different backgrounds.  Some are from faith-based institutions, some are not.  Some are new to the profession, some are not.  Some have been to an ACSD Annual Conference before, and some have not.

    No matter where you are from, what your background is, or how many times you have or not have attended Annual Conference, everyone could always do with a nifty guide to conferencing success.


    Remember the essentials! You will need items like deodorant, a toothbrush, your cell phone charger, socks, and a notebook.

    If you are flying into the state, remember airline guidelines for liquids.

    If you do forget something, do not worry!  ACSD provides a wonderful hospitality table that can help you with some of your basic needs.

    What do I wear?

    Be prepared for warm weather, standing or walking a lot, and excursions.  Business casual is perfect for networking and workshops.  Shorts, t-shirts, and sneakers are great when you are out on excursions.


    The conference app will have everything you need to know about workshops, speakers, and more!  To download, search "ACSD Biola" in the App Store on your phone or click here for the mobile download URL.  Download it and preplan what you want to attend before you arrive to maximize your conference experience!


    What an opportunity! Explore the host campus, meet the friendly staff, take notes, and learn from what others are going.  This is a great opportunity to see and dream about what is possible.

    We grow our programs and practice best by learning from others.

    So you do not have friends yet? Make some!

    Do not keep to yourself or the group you may have traveled with.  Bring some extra business cards, sit with someone else at a meal or two, and maybe go to evening entertainment.  Prepare yourself to be extroverted.

    There are so many rewards to reap from networking.


    Collaboratives are sub-groups within ACSD that allow professionals a smaller place to connect around common focus areas (e.g. first-year experience, multicultural, student engagement, etc…)  Each Collaborative Group sponsors a breakfast meeting during the conference.  Plan to attend one or two of these to get to know others around common focus areas.  Collaboratives are a great way to network, trade best practices, and find support for the work you do.  Click here for a full listing of the groups as well as links to their respective Facebook pages.

    ACSD is more than just a conference.  Collaborative provide great, free professional development opportunities all year round.  For a list of the ACSD Collaborative Discussion groups, visit the website.


    The exhibit hall is filled with a plethora of great organizations that want to provide you and your campus with wonderful resources to better serve your students.

    Go talk to all the exhibitors.  They are people just like you and desire deeper connections with professionals in student development.  They also sometimes get bored just sitting and waiting for someone to find their table interesting.  Ask them to share their story.

    In addition, pick up some cool swag; it would be rude to make them lug it all back to their home offices after the conference.  Think of the checked bag fees they could incur!


    So, you have visited the conference app and are overwhelmed by the number of workshops.  What now?

    Read the workshop abstracts, not just the titles.  Plan out which ones to attend, and maybe even a back up if your first pick did not turn out to be what you thought.  It is okay to leave a workshop a little early; we understand that there is a lot being offered.

    Presenters: do not be offended if someone leaves early, there is so much to choose from!


    Read up on the keynotes before you arrive for the conference.  Chances are you have not heard of all of them.  Exploring their background can help you better understand why they were selected to present, and can enrich your experience.

    Also, take time to introduce yourself.  This may be the only opportunity you have to meet them.


    Do not just stay on campus the entire time.  There are built-in times to allow you to explore the surrounding area.  When is the next chance you will have to visit the community surrounding the conference host?

    Excursions are wonderful opportunities to attend a preplanned activity to designated locations around the area.

    Be spontaneous and create your own adventure.  Do not forget to invite a new friend or two to go along for the excitement.


       Explore the host campus.

       Attend a pre-conference workshop or meeting.

       Visit the exhibit hall.

       Learn about Placement Meetings.

       Attend a keynote session.

    □   Attend a focus area workshop.

       Attend a non-focus area workshop.

    □   Participate in evening entertainment.

       Attend a Collaborative Breakfast Gathering.

    □   Join in the ACSD Fun Run.

       Attend the ACSD Business Meeting.

    □   Go on an Excursion.

    □   Make 5 NEW friends.

    We look forward to seeing you all in California next week!  In the meantime take some time to plan out how to make the most of your conference experience as well as how to have some fun.  

    One last thing, remember to document your adventure using #ACSD2018.

    Eric J. A. Fehr serves as the Director of Student Life at Liberty University. He holds a Master of Science in Education in Student Affairs Administration from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and will begin a Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education Administration at Liberty University in August 2018.  You can connect with him on twitter at @FehrEric.


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