Whether you’re heading to the ICMA Annual Conference for the first time, or the 15th, we asked several ICMA Executive Board Members—veterans—how to get the most out of your conference experience.

ICMA Past President and International Board Member David Johnstone:

Don’t be shy! There are numerous opportunities for networking and engagement, but you need to take the first step.  If you see a group of people talking don’t be afraid to wade in, listen to the conversation, and when you see an opening introduce yourself. You probably have a great deal in common with most attendees.

West Coast Regional Board Member and Lake Oswego, OR City Manager Martha Bennett:

  • Make sure you attend the keynote sessions. ICMA brings in some of the leading thinkers on leadership, community, politics, history, technology and the economy. You are certain to be inspired and you will probably take home at least one new idea. I often also attend the follow up session with the keynote speakers which is more of a dialogue.
  • There are a lot of opportunities to engage that are specially tailored for groups of members—for example student members, first-time administrators, women in the profession. Seek those out early-on during the conference and you’ll have a cohort to reach out to even after the conference ends.

    Check out all of our networking and engagement opportunities here: https://conference.icma.org/engagement-networking/

Northeast Regional Board Member and West Hartford, CT Town Manager Matt Hart:

  • Plan to sample a wide variety of program offerings – perhaps there is a Solutions Track that interests you, or an ICMA University Workshop. This sampling will help you plan for future conferences. Also, sometimes it’s the session that you were only mildly curious about heading into it that makes the biggest impact on you.
  • Network with your colleagues. One of the great things about our profession is that we are willing share best practices, tips, and strategies, about what works and what hasn’t worked so well. Our community is very supportive – we genuinely want to see each other succeed. Make it a point to attend the gathering for first-time attendees and make some connections with colleagues both in your state and around the world.
  • Lastly, enjoy the experience and take good notes to share back home!

Midwest Regional Board Member and Woodbury, MN City Administrator Clint Gridley:

  • The roundtable sessions are very beneficial because it is a more interactive, informal, personal conversation as opposed to a more formal one-way presentation. Often at the roundtables you get to know other professionals and how the topic manifests itself in their organizations.
  • Look for sessions that deal with international matters. These are great opportunities for growth and to better understand the wider world and what might be coming your way.

Northeast Regional Board Member and Township Manager, Doylestown, PA Stephanie J. Mason, ICMA-CM:

  • All the keynotes so inspiring with a great message. It’s a great way to start the Conference and each morning.
  • Visit the Exhibit Hall and speak to vendors, who support what we do in local government. The vendors are always friendly and want to share their products and services with all of us. It’s amazing who and/or what you might find to help your community in some way. Plus, you can always catch up with colleagues and grab lunch in the Exhibit Hall.
  •  My favorite event is the Women’s Luncheon. I’ve been attending it for years with some of my colleagues. Even though we may live and work across the country it’s great to meet up at the luncheon, hear a moving speaker, and catch up with old friends and colleagues.
  • There are always so many wonderful sessions to attend that help you meet your credentialed manager requirements.
  •  Being at the Conference is such a rewarding experience. You meet people from all over the world, catch up with old friends and colleagues and get to visit a city you may not have had a chance to visit and most importantly learn something new.

See you Nashville!