Tips for Your First Annual Meeting
By Hazel Hacker, FAHRA
Dear New Member and/or First Time Attendee to the AHRA Annual Meeting,
My name is Hazel Hacker, and as a long time AHRA member I’d like to welcome you to this wonderful learning event.
There’s generally a variety of people who make up the first time attendee group. There’s the “I pay my membership dues but I’ve never been to a meeting before” member, the always popular “I’m going to the sessions but then heading straight up to my room” group, and my personal favorite, the “sign me up, I’m jumping in with both feet and am shooting to be on the Board” crew.
Now you might think that because I favor the latter, that when I came to my first meeting I was shaking hands and volunteering for everything. Not so. I was a combination of the first and second variety. I’d been a member and faithfully paid my yearly dues, but it took a while for me to come to a meeting, and when I finally did, I went promptly to my room after the sessions where, quite frankly, I watched movies and drank wine. As much as I relished the idea of having control of the remote and being able to watch whatever I wanted for a few nights, there was a whole wonderful AHRA world I was missing out on. Fortunately for you, you can learn from my mistakes and enjoy these treasures right from the start!
Right after you check in at the registration booth, put on your name badge and wear your “First Time Attendee” ribbon with pride! Keep in mind, we were all in your shoes at one time. We are your people! You are amongst colleagues who want to help you be successful in your career. We want to hear your ideas and share ours! That problem that’s got you stumped? One of us inevitably has faced it and would be thrilled to share what we did to work it out.
The organization recognizes how difficult it can be to come to a meeting where you don’t know anyone and has created networking opportunities to help you make the transition from newbie to “Hey, how’d I get these lifelong AHRA friends?” in no time. Please attend the Welcome Reception for New Members and First Time Attendees on Sunday from 5:45-6:30 PM, where you and all of your fellow first timers will have the opportunity to meet members of the Board of Directors as well as the Annual Meeting Design Team. Immediately following is the President’s Reception where you’ll hear music, along with cries of joy, and see a lot of hugging going on. No, this is not a recreation of Woodstock – although it is a lovefest of sorts. This is where we get to catch up with friends we haven’t seen since last year, and gather new ones (YOU!) who we’ll hug the stuffing out of next year.
Every day there is lunch in the exhibit hall. I guarantee you that there will be someone like me at your table who will ask where you’re from, what you do, mock your sports team, etc. If I’m not there, please feel free to fill in for me and start the conversation!
This organization is such that you get out of it what you put into it. I said those words to our President, Ernie Cerdena, at his first meeting, and look what that little bit of encouragement helped do! There are ways you can get involved right away, while you’re on site at the meeting. Write an article on one of the sessions you attend. You don’t need to be an experienced writer – we have editors for that. They need your input on the content of the sessions. You can also volunteer to introduce a speaker. That may sound intimidating, but basically it’s reading a short paragraph of words off of a piece of paper. Much less frightening than The Joint Commission showing up, right?
Finally, I encourage you to stay to the very end of the meeting and attend the theme party on Wednesday night. Whether you dance or not, come. Whether you drink or not, come. Whether you like country music or not, come. If your family is here with you, bring them (mine wouldn’t miss it for the world). With the sessions over and our brains full, we will all be ready to enjoy our annual last hurrah together as one big happy AHRA family! By this point, if you’ve followed my advice, you’ll already be looking forward to next year’s meeting.
Can’t wait to meet you!
Hazel Hacker, FAHRA is the chief operations officer at Edison Imaging Associates, PA in Edison, NJ. She can be reached at email@example.com.