News From Mark Shanda, USITT President
Our National Conference and Stage Expo is just about upon us. There will be many first-timers and quite a few old-timers gathered together in St. Louis to learn, to connect, and to advance the work of the Institute. First-timers might have that strange experience of getting on an elevator with one of their current textbook authors, like I did years ago when I shared an elevator with Will Bellman and Dick Arnold. Old-timers might have that strange experience of getting on an elevator with long time colleagues and simply not remember their names! There will be new products to discover, old friends to catch up with, and much excitement shared. And as always, some questionable fashion choices will appear and an absurd number of black tee shirt variations will be present.
I think of our annual gathering as a sort of dysfunctional family reunion, a chance to celebrate our diversity and relish in the common passion that we share for theatre and the performing arts. The National Conference and Stage Expo is the highlight of our year, so for those of you who will be joining all of us in St. Louis, I encourage you to make the most of your time there. Here are a few suggestions:
- Wear your name badge prominently. While clipping it to your hip may seem fashionable, it makes it really hard to read and I want to be able to know to whom I am speaking. And with what is projected to be more than 3000 folks in attendance, I need all the help I can get to remember you.
- Talk to folks that you don’t know. Get good at introducing yourself, even for those brief moments shared on an elevator. The best way to expand your industry network is for you to take the first step in connecting with others.
- When you walk the trade floor, don’t just engage with the displayed product samples, engage with the people who are there representing the various companies that have chosen to purchase booth space. Ask those business reps about their own stories like what got them into the business, what they have seen that excites them, or what advice they might have for you. The connections that you make with people will have a far more lasting impact than those connections you make with products.
- Attend sessions that directly align with your interests, and try a few that are outside your comfort zone. Nearly every session at the conference has an open door to whomever walks in so take a chance, sit up front and listen to folks from a different disciplinary focus than your own. You will be amazed at what you can learn.
- Pace yourself over the course of the conference. Formal conference programming starts early and informal conference opportunities can extend late into the night. Take some personal time to plan what you want to achieve during the week and process what you have learned.
Hope to see you in St. Louis!