Welcome to first-time attendees of the NAIS Annual Conference.

We’re so glad that you will join us this year for the 2015 NAIS Annual Conference in Boston.  No matter your role in school, you’ll find that attending this conference will not only provide you with practical lessons and big-picture discussions about independent education, it will lay the foundation for creating a network of colleagues that will last a lifetime. 

We hope this page will answer some of your questions, and help you prepare and become excited as you embark on the journey to “Design the Revolution” at your first NAIS Annual Conference!

Tips for Making the Most of Your First Conference:

  • Locate the Information Booth and stop by at any point in the conference for assistance.
  • Visit the Member Resource Booth in the Exhibit Hall to meet staff, test product demos, and pick up your free giveaway.
  • Connect ahead of time with the NAIS AC2015 Mobile App, the AC online community, Twitter and Facebook.
  • Consider signing up for our new NAIS Co|Lab program this year to meet new people and enable you to sort through all conference content.
  • Know the program. You can download the preview or program in advance either through the website or the conference app.
  • Remember that you can attend any of the one-hour workshops without pre-registration.
  • Identify some key areas you want to focus on for either your own personal PD or for your school.
  • If you’re attending the conference with other colleagues plan your schedules in advance, meet often during the conference, and agree on some shared goals.
  • Take advantage of any free meals provided at the conference — not only is it a great way to cut down on costs, it’s an ideal place to network and make new friends.

Additional Reading

An interview with Bonnie Ricci, Mark Fader, Greg Schneider, and Steve Hinds; 2015 Think Tank members, on how to make the most of your first annual conference.

How many NAIS annual conferences have you attended?
BR: 5, I think.
SH: 25
GS: More than I can remember!
MF: 5
How can first-timer attendees successfully network at the meeting?  
BR: Networking is most effective and authentic when it occurs naturally.  When you enter a session, make a decision to sit next to someone and introduce yourself.  Sometimes great connections happen this way.
SH: Attending a workshop on Wednesday is a good way to meet people. Frankly, my best networking often took place in the hallways between sessions or sitting down in the exhibit hall with folks I do not know for lunch.
GS: Introduce yourself to other people in your sessions. Set a goal to connect with a certain number of people who have your job at another school.
What events should first-time attendees definitely attend?  
BR: Definitely attend all of the general sessions.  Also be sure to check out the Exhibit Hall and the NAIS Bookstore.
SH: The networking reception (Let’s Network in Boston!) in the Exhibit Hall.  I also recommend going to every general session and the NAIS President’s Breakfast.
GS: : All of the social activities are critical. It is tempting to get pulled in by the tactical, hands-on smaller sessions, but the larger sessions encourage one to think outside the box.
MF: Obviously, take advantage of all the workshop offers and be sure to visit the Exhibit Hall and the NAIS Bookstore. Try to choose at least one workshop where the topic is rather foreign; you may just be inspired.
What one tip do you have to help first-timer attendees plan their schedules for the meeting?
BR: Read through the workshop descriptions in advance and pick a few for each session that look interesting.  Look closely at the presenters and their backgrounds to see the perspectives they will bring to the topic.  Challenge yourself to attend at least one session on a topic you know nothing about.
SH: Step One: Know your schedule. Step Two: Mark as a given the general sessions and the NAIS President’s Breakfast in advance. Step Three: Study your conference program carefully and target sessions offering inspiring topics and speakers and balance those with sessions that will support assessing your weaknesses/deficiencies. Step Four: Prioritize backups for each session in case some are full or do not meet your needs.
GS:  The quality of the presenter is almost always more important than the topic in terms of what makes a good session. By connecting with someone who knows schools ahead of time - they can guide you to the best sessions.
MF: Read the online program or preview before you get to the conference.
Name three items every Annual Conference attendee should pack in her/his suitcase.  
BR: Comfortable shoes.  Business cards.  Pen and paper or mobile device for taking notes.
SH: Clean changes of underwear. Six pack of Sam Adams Beer. Red Sox gear – you have to ask?
GS: Workout clothes. Business Cards. A plan that you formed before you got there!
MF: Workout clothes. Running Shoes. A phone charger.
What are you looking forward to most this year?
BR: I think the panel of college presidents promises to be a great event.  We should be open to hearing perspectives from higher ed. on how we can best prepare our students for college and careers.
SH: The theme says it all. What the staff and the team have put together is truly revolutionary in its thinking because the focus is on the future of our schools. It is giving us a road map to ensure independent schools will lead our nation in new ways of thinking, learning, and teaching.
GS: My school will be presenting for the first time ever at NAIS - this is a huge honor and opportunity.
MF: Being in Boston and having my faculty attend this conference as a whole for the first time.
What’s your best takeaway from a past NAIS Annual Conference?  
BR: I always leave NAIS conferences with pages and pages of notes.  I now make sure that I have a separate page of my notes titled To-Dos.  This list includes things that I want to make sure I follow up on after the conference.  Usually several items on this page are of the form "Think more about the topic of _______"  or "Ask _____ what their approach has been to _______."   I find that having all these key action items in one place ensures that I am doing something active with all of the takeaways. 
SH: Possibly there is one theme that stands out for me as a theme that is also a takeaway: Leadership, in all its definitions requires talent, tenacity, courage, free thinking and the grit to see an idea to its conclusion.
GS: Authenticity and courage matter most.
MF: Forward thinking leaders in the fields of education, great resources, and a nice book (wish)list. You appreciate running into past colleagues and rekindling friendships.
What makes you excited about the conference being in Boston?  
BR: Clam Chow-dah!
SH: It is here, in Boston, that the people said that there was a different way, a new way, of thinking. They had the courage to challenge the mightiest empire in the world at that time and declare this is what we believe and this is how we will be governed. It is here in Boston that public schools had their start, where great world-class universities and hospitals thrive and teach, and the sum of those experiences led to a change in what and how we think and how we live. It is Boston, a small city with a large influence that provided the engine for several industrial revolutions, numerous think tanks, inspiring writers, famous politicians and countless inventions. Boston has led America through several revolutions including 1775, technology revolutions and industrial revolutions. It is famous for being a center for education – at all levels. It is also a globally focused world city. Created through design, the city continues to be shaped by design. Boston is that City on the Hill, our nation’s city steeped in design and revolution, that can best propel all of us towards a new future of even greater promise and vision.
GS: The turnout will be tremendous - I know I'll see many old friends.
MF: Boston is an easy city to explore and the location of the conference center allows for that.