First Timer Information
The four days that you spend at our Annual Conference will change your life…for the better! Ask anyone who has attended in the past about their conference experience, and you can expect to hear stories of realizations, facing fears, good times, tears, triumphs, and the formation of lifelong friendships.
Our conferences can be both overwhelming and exciting. You will meet so many people that you won’t be able remember everyone! You will share laughs, tears, feelings, thoughts, and stories, as well as make memories that will become stories that you will rehash year after year. You will meet lifelong friends at the conference who share with you the bond of stuttering and you will feel like you have known them your entire life. There is an instant connection with people who stutter because it is a common bond we share that only few can relate to.
Think about what we go through on a daily basis; the trials and tribulations we encounter as people who stutter. For the time you are at the conference, you will be the majority! There will be more people who stutter at the hotel than there will be fluent speakers. In attendance will be speech-language pathologists, research specialists and other leading experts in the field, spouses, parents, siblings, and a range of other interested persons who are there to support someone who stutters or offer education on stuttering.
Our conferences are a safe, accepting place where you can be completely open about your stuttering. Everyone at the conference accepts your dysfluencies, and better yet, understands them.
Stuttering brings us together, but the NSA keeps us together.
What to Bring?
We are thrilled that you will be attending your first NSA Conference in Washington, DC! Following are some tips and suggestions to help you get ready for your first conference experience.
Washington will be humid! Be sure to pack appropriate clothing so that you will be comfortable throughout your entire conference experience. During the day, casual attire is acceptable (jeans, slacks, shorts). Evening attire is casual as well, however, our Saturday evening banquet is your chance to dress up! If you have signed up for any of our tours or excursions, be sure to bring comfortable walking shoes or appropriate attire to ensure you are comfortable on the tour.
Check out some of the photos and videos from previous conferences to get a glimpse of what kind of fun is in store!
What Does an Average Conference Day Look Like?
Once you are done with your usual morning routine and are ready to come downstairs for all the conference action, we have a few options available for breakfast or a coffee. The hotel has a few restaurants on-site which offer a variety of prices as well an area that sells grab-and-go breakfast items and coffee. There are also several places that are within walking distance of the hotel if you wish to eat out.
Workshops begin on Wednesday afternoon and end Saturday afternoon. Morning workshops begin daily at 8:30AM and go throughout the day, with a lunch break scheduled midday. Lunch is available on-site at the hotel or you may wish to grab a new friend and venture out to one of the local restaurants. Our afternoon workshops start up again after lunch and end around 4:00PM (specific start/end times will be on your Day at a Glance and in the Conference Program). Workshops are typically 1 hour and 15 minutes with a 15 minute break between them. There is no need to sign up in advance to attend; simply show up to the room and enjoy the workshop!
Thursday evening is our 60-minute Opening Celebration and is a must-attend event! During the reception we have guest speakers, hand out conference awards, and serve light hors d’oeuvres followed by cool entertainment. Afterwards we will have a designated area in the bar for First-Timers to mingle with one another and with conference regulars.
Wednesday and Friday evenings we have a variety of tours available. Please check our website early and often for tour information and sign up as early as possible. If you are not interested in a tour, feel free to join in a group that’s heading out or grab a friends and have a night in at the hotel bar or lobby where you will find many NSA’ers hanging out!
Saturday evening is the big banquet and live auction! This event is not to be missed! If you did not sign up for the banquet, please contact the NSA office (firstname.lastname@example.org). A banquet ticket includes dinner, dancing, and a chance to spend one last magical evening with all your new friends and a time to enjoy being around so many people who stutter until we meet again next year! Dress is typically semi-formal, but please dress in whatever is comfortable to you.
Recommended Workshops/Events to Attend
We work hard to ensure that First-Timers feel right at home from day one. Many of our workshops/events are geared towards First-Timers, and we recommend that you attend as many as possible to make the best out of your conference experience.
- First-Timers Workshop - Thursday, July 3 (time TBA): Come meet other First-Timers and become more acquainted with the busy conference schedule at this fun, lighthearted, informative gathering. There will be a few small presentations on the history of the NSA, a recap of some of the great things that we have to offer, what stuttering is in a “nutshell”, tips on how to ensure that your experience at the conference is the best it can be, and answer any questions you may have.
- Opening Celebration – Wednesday, July 2 starting at 3:30PM: Our 60-minute Opening Celebration will include guest speakers and conference awards. Afterwards we will have a designated area in the bar for First-Timers to mingle with one another and with conference regulars.
- First-Timers Happy Hour (after workshops end) – Wednesday, July 2 starting at 8:00 pm: We will have designated areas set up in the bar to ensure that our First-Timers always have somewhere to mingle with other First-Timers as well as conference regulars. Maybe the bar scene isn’t your thing? There are lots of other places in the hotel to have great conversations with the other attendees. Just look for anyone who is wearing a conference nametag!
- First Timers Lunch* - Friday, July 5 from 12:15PM – 1:30 PM: This lunch is held onsite and gives First-Timers an opportunity to continue socializing with other First Timers as well as conference regulars.
* all expenses paid for by each attendee – $8.00 for a sandwich, chips and a beverage
- Speed Talking – Friday, July 4 (time TBA): Come join us for this fun and fast-moving workshop that will allow you to speak to at least 15 – 20 people and maybe make a few new friends at the same time! This is a great opportunity to practice introductions and social conversation. During the speed talking’ workshop we set up two rows of chairs facing each other and one side will rotate every three minutes so that participants are always speaking to someone new. It’s just like speed dating but without the dating! We will provide topics for discussion at each chair to get things going and then the conversation will take on a life of its own!
- Closing Ceremony – Saturday, July 6 from 3:00PM – 4:00PM: The culmination and celebration of the entire conference happens here!
- Live Auction and Banquet – Saturday, July 5 starting at 6:30PM Going…going…GONE! These simple words can mean only one thing…it’s time for the NSA auction! Our live auction is one of our largest fundraisers as well as a much-loved conference staple. So when you pack for Washington, don’t forget your credit cards, and be sure to leave some extra room in your luggage for all of the great treasures we’ll have on auction! Join us at 5:45 for a cocktail reception; doors open at 6:00PM. This is the time to dress to impress in your fancy clothes, grab your buddies, and head to the closing party, including the live auction and a delicious catered dinner. Dress is typically semi-formal but please dress in whatever is comfortable to you.
- Our Silent Auction consisting of smaller items will also be returning to the conference this year. This ongoing event is another chance to bid on exciting treasures and help out the NSA at the same time. Talk about a win-win situation!
The complete Conference Program that includes all workshop schedules and events will be available by June 2013 and will be sent to you via an e-mail blast from the National Office. Be sure to check it out before coming so you can become familiar with what to expect in more detail.
Tips and Hints
For the time you are here, you are the majority. This is a safe place to stutter, push out of your comfort zone, speak more, and introduce yourself to others. Everyone with a nametag is here for the same reason – because they stutter, their son or daughter stutters, their spouse or significant other stutters, they are professionals who help people who stutter. No one will laugh when you stutter or wonder what is going on, because they understand, they get it, and they love people who stutter. Take the time that you are here to speak freely and be yourself, and most importantly, have fun doing it!
Here are a few tips to make your first conference a huge success:
- Talk as much as you can! If you can do it here you can do it anywhere. While you’re here challenge yourself, empower yourself, and push out of your comfort zone by speaking more than usual and introducing yourself to as many people as you can.
- Make sure to participate in workshops, open mic sessions, meals and outings with other people, chats at the bar, and conversations that pop up throughout the conference. Participate in as much as you can and talk to as many participants as you can talk to.
- Collect as many e-mails, phone numbers, and Facebook names as you can. Keeping in touch throughout the year acts as a lifeline, it one of the best parts of coming to these conferences year after year is knowing that you will see the friends you talk to throughout the year!
- Most importantly – KEEP YOUR NAME TAG ON! Wearing a name tag with a First-Timer tag ensures that everyone will stop to say hi and ask about your story.
How to Keep That ‘Conference Feeling’ Going All Year
You will leave the conference wanting more. You will feel so good and so empowered with your stuttering and with yourself. You will miss your new friends and miss being surrounded by so many people who understand stuttering and really ‘get it’. The key to dealing with this is to keep in touch with people you’ve met throughout the conference. Keeping in touch with those you’ve met helps to keep the connected feeling going all year long. Here are a few ways to achieve this:
- Attend local chapter meetings. If there is not a chapter nearby then start one. Contact the NSA office for more details.
- Join the NSA Facebook page
- Join one of the many on-line support groups to converse via e-mail with other people who stutter and with those who support people who stutter
- E-mail or call those you met at the conference
- Visit the NSA website often for the latest news regarding stuttering and the NSA!