The FTA Experience: First Time Attendee? Full-Throttle AWESOME!

June 18, 2012 | 114 Views

The FTA Experience: First Time Attendee? Full-Throttle AWESOME!

Serah Morrissey, SPHR

Senior Director of Human Resources | InterContinental Hotel MSP

We all remember the firsts...the first time we moved away from home, the first time we drove a car, the first time we chased a squirrel out of our office. (Okay, maybe only Minnesota squirrels love central air in July as much as I do). A 'first time' I will always treasure is the experience I had at my inaugural CHART conference last spring in Austin, TX.

Though I fancy myself an expert conference attendee, I was anxious about my  first time with CHART. Would it be three days spent playing Words with Friends on my phone while monotone keynote speakers encouraged me to ‘tackle the low-hanging fruit'? Or, on the other hand, would it be all frothy what's-your-favorite-food ice breakers with no substance? After all, they were already referring to me as an acronym! It felt a bit like walking into my freshman year of college, except that the accommodations were exquisite and the drinks were purchased legally. I simply didn't know what to expect. Granted, I have the privilege of working with Jen Swan, current president of the CHART board, but aside from her telling me which flights to take, there was no inside information coming my way.

From the moment I approached the registration desk, I knew this conference would be like no other. Instead of searching an alphabetical abyss for my inevitable binder and lanyard, I was welcomed with warmth and genuine enthusiasm by a HUMAN (thanks, John Alexander) who told me what to expect, what to do next, and of course where the bathrooms were. It only got better from there. My mentor, Stephen Howarth (a.k.a. 'Nigel') was incredibly generous and made sure I knew he was there for anything I needed - his ability to entertain was only an added bonus. The FTA meeting kicked off the conference with high energy and a great opportunity to bond with other 'first timers'. And the speakers? Absolutely first-class. I was engaged throughout the conference, even captivated at times, and not once tempted to play Angry Birds.

I believe in surrounding myself with people who are smarter than I am. Attending my first CHART conference underscored the benefit of this practice, as I came away with innovative, realistic ideas that I had never before considered. Best of all, much of the knowledge I brought back to work was easily and quickly applied. In fact, when I returned from the conference, I immediately arranged a meeting with my boss to share everything I learned and the plans I had for the future. His immediate response, after 30 minutes of listening to me speak without taking a breath, was "when can you register for the next conference?" More important than the tangible materials, though, was the feeling of renewed passion for training. As a one-person department, I depend on the input and best practices of other training & development professionals to keep me going. The amazing energy of the CHART organization is immeasurable, and it is an honor to be part of such a dynamic group.

As Co-Registration Director for the upcoming Chicago conference in July, I am excited to welcome and meet all the new FTAs. I promise an experience that will land on your list of important 'firsts'...and I'm confident it will not be your last!

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