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Posted March 1, 2005

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
OF AN IECA CONFERENCE

New Orleans, Louisiana
Fall 2004

By Kathy Nussberger
kathy@woodbury.com

Unique and insightful are key descriptions of what I experienced at my first IECA Conference in New Orleans in November 2004. Yes, it was nice to put faces to the names and voices of the many people we communicate with at Woodbury Reports, Inc., but acquiring more firsthand knowledge about the various consultants, programs and schools increased my capabilities as the co-editor of the Woodbury Reports Newsletter.

Other words that describe my experience, especially at the special needs swap meet, are frantic and overwhelming. Frantic, because as I ran around the ballroom to share our company's information and obtain information from the hundreds of booths for different schools and programs, I literally forgot who I was and where I worked. And no, I didn't remember for myself, it was Barry Blevins from High Frontier, in the next booth, that introduced me to the people I was attempting to have an educated conversation with about our new look for the newsletter. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to spend some down time talking with Barry before the swap meet, so he didn't have to figure out who I was from my name badge. Thanks Barry for your help during my time of total confusion. Everyone had a great laugh and we all moved on, but working within our limited time constraints for the swap meet and getting our information out to everyone, definitely created a feeling of intense overload that took several days to process.

Frantic as the swap meet was, I was a first timer to an IECA conference, and it was very overwhelming to not only participate in the general concept of the conference, but also the breakout sessions, small individual meetings, dinners, breakfasts and hundreds of other things that made each day feel like it lasted a week. With over 800 people registered for the conference, the first day very few people appeared to have the name badges, but on the second day, after everyone from the schools and programs registered, it was like everyone in the Fairmont hotel was a member.

While circulating through the crowds of people with my boss and IECA member, Lon Woodbury, his daughter, Kristie Henley, her daughter, Melanie, and of course, Lon's wife Denise, I realized it would take several conferences to actually remember who belonged to which school or program, let alone matching all the names with the faces. Thank goodness for those name badges or I'd have been completely lost.

Lon explained that 800 is a relatively low number of people when compared to other types of industry trade shows and conferences. However, at the time, I felt like everywhere I looked, at the hotel and while sightseeing in New Orleans, everyone seemed to have name badges identifying them as conference attendees. Another funny aspect to the conference was that it offered me the opportunity to finally meet Linda Zimmerman, an affiliate consultant with Woodbury Reports, in person.

Since returning home, I have talked with other first time attendees at the conference, as well as many others who shared their first experiences, and found that my feelings were not that unique or unusual. Most related that they had the same sense of overload and feelings of intensity, but we all agreed that it was a great way to learn about the people and schools/ programs we work with each day. The small informal meetings with various people provided all of us with greater insights into not only these schools and programs, but the people who personally work with the kids the consultant's refer.

Though I met several first timers at the conference, ironically, the one who stands out is Liz Ellison, Cornerstone Education Loans, Sandpoint, ID. I say it was ironic to meet Liz in New Orleans because we live about 36 miles apart in North Idaho, yet we'd never met until the IECA conference. I look forward to attending future conferences; maybe next time I will not only remember who I am, but also remember which people go with which programs and schools.

Although many of the faces and names have blurred together, I look forward to seeing everyone in person again and discovering what's new with them and/ or their schools and programs. The IECA conference was not only a great adventure but a very unique opportunity to increase my personal awareness and knowledge of the consultants, programs and schools.

Copyright © 2005, Woodbury Reports, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
(This article may not be reproduced without written approval of the publisher.)


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