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From July 18 to July 21, YMCA professionals from around the country will gather in Anaheim, California for the 2019 General Assembly of YMCAs. Attendees will get a trade show experience that will educate and inspire them, as well as connect them to like-minded professionals.

Between the exhibitions and networking opportunities, such a big trade show experience can be overwhelming. With the General Assembly a month away, it’s never too early to begin making a plan to get the most out of your experience.

Here, Courtney Harrness, a multi-site executive director for the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities, shares his experience attending the General Assembly and his tips on getting the most out of your trade show experience:

Trade shows can be intense. What strategies do you use to stay energized?

CH: Honestly, everyone is so happy, positive and prepared, it’s easy to stay energized. It’s just a few quick days and they are jam-packed, so rest up ahead of time, and plan a day or two off afterward.

Would you recommend attendees use the time at the show to network with as many of their industry colleagues as possible?

CH: Yes! It’s important to do some pre-show work to get an understanding of who might be there that you want to connect with. Whether it’s a Y professional from a certain region, program area or level of expertise, try to make a plan to connect with a few folks you may not already know. It is always important to be sure to reconnect with colleagues and peers you haven’t seen in a while too — the General Assembly is a great time to come together.

Is there anything in particular you’ll be looking for on the trade show floor, in regards to technology, equipment or other products?

CH: I am always looking for what’s new — products, services or technology that can support the Y in creating a more impactful experience for our communities. This could be a new piece of equipment like eGym, a new technology like an app or member management software, or even our YMCA employee resource group tables.

Are there any other tips you can share for how attendees can get the most out of their trade show experience?

CH: While the General Assembly can be a great time to build stronger bonds with the colleagues you are travelling with, the most impactful part of the experience is the inspiration we can all draw from the passion, purpose and uniqueness of the time together. Be intentional about seeking out ideas, meeting folks from around the country, and most importantly, writing things down! We inevitably learn and hear dozens of incredible ideas at each General Assembly, so be sure to capture those, bring them back and put them to use.

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former editor of Community Rec Magazine.

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