So, what was my first NACADA experience like? Simple: terrible! The food was cold, the weather was atrocious, and the people were obnoxious. I’ll probably never attend again. 😦

Just kidding! Summing up my experience, I felt a range of emotions: astonishment, eagerness, frustration, excitement, relief, pride—a mixture that represents different stages you go through during these three days.

Astonishment. There’s this moment, whether it’s during your travel time to the conference or while you’re walking into your hotel room, when it sinks in. You’re here. Months ago, you were crafting your proposal, and writing an abstract masterpiece, but now you’re actually HERE.

Eagerness. As the amazement passes, you become antsy and eager to present. You say, “Okay, I’m here, and I’m ready to do this.” You try focusing on other things, but there’s this incoming cascade of excitement… okay, some of it might be nerves, but it’s MOSTLY zeal.

Frustration. The time finally arrives. You’re next to present. It feels as though everything that could go wrong IS going wrong. Videos aren’t playing; your moderator is failing at her only job; your handouts didn’t print correctly. All of this is happening while 60 pairs of eyes are fixed on you. And along comes frustration, knocking at the door. You’re left with two options: let good ol’ frustration in, or reply, “Come back later.” This isn’t the time for an unwanted attendee—even if the ceilings are falling, you push through. Breathe… assess… and adapt.

Excitement. After all the chaos, excitement comes as the presentation moves along. Heads are nodding. People are smiling, and you’re ready to run across the room, hands flailing in joy. You’re watching the fruits of your labor, and you’re not aware of how fast time is flying. You’re having fun, and you should be.

Relief. After the presentation concludes and you’ve finished talking with your guests, your adrenaline rush slowly starts to subside, followed by a MASSIVE exhalation. You did it. You made it through your first presentation. You just finished, and this is only the first to come.

Pride. During your moment of relief, a mild sense of pride creeps in. If the entire experience hadn’t sunk in before now, it makes its presence known now. “Wow, I did that! I can’t believe it!”—well, believe it. Be proud of yourself. Not many people can get in front of a crowd and give a presentation. But you just did!

Side note: Wait to read your reviews from the audience. Seriously. Don’t read them while you’re there. Give yourself some time to unwind, and read them later.

Overall, NACADA was an excellent learning experience. The biggest tips and pointers I’d give to first timers are these:

1st- Relax, be yourself. Stress is unnecessary.
2nd- Be confident. You’re the expert.
3rd- Enjoy yourself! It’s a work trip, but have fun!

Every person should experience NACADA whether speaking or just attending. It’s a terrific experience that’s hard to replicate. So, if you can, definitely attend. Heck! I’m ready to go back!

See Ashlyn Burr and Erin Keller’s accepted presentation proposal here: NACADA Region 4 Proposal Example

Burr Ashlyn

About the Writer: Ashlyn Burr is from Atlanta, GA. Although, she currently has an 850 cell number, she doesn’t consider herself a Tallahassian. She is an Academic Advisor who works with first-year exploratory students. She enjoys problem-solving which correlates with her love for logic games and puzzles.