A First-Timer’s Guide to GPA National Conference by Kellie Brungard, GPC

As a first-time attendee at National Conference, I wanted to be a little more prepared than a booked flight and hotel reservation. It might be the grant professional in me, but I like to know what I’m walking into and have a plan. I talked with colleagues who have been to the conference a time or two and came up with some tips and advice to share to help you get the most out of our conference experience.

Know Before You Go

First, let’s agree that there are differing opinions on pronouncing “Louisville.” Some say you can hear an out-of-towner from a mile away when they say “LOU-iss-vill,” politely referred to as the only wrong way to refer to this city. As you debate the correct way to say Louisville, be comforted that it’s one of the 20 cities that are routinely mispronounced, and “LOO-ee-vill” or “LOO-a-vul” may be one of the easiest to correct.

Download the Conference App

While waiting in the airport, take some time and download the conference app. You can find it in your app store under “GPA Conference” or at these links: Google Play and Apple Store. Once you have downloaded the app, sign in to access the calendars, discussion boards, and other valuable features. As a bonus, there is a game element where you receive points for actions like setting up your profile, participating in a poll, or setting up a 1:1 meeting with other conference-goers. Prizes for top point-earners include memberships, conference registrations, and a gift card.

Use your app to check out the session offerings, save your favorites to the calendar, access the GPF auction, or find out where to go for lunch. GPA has recorded a helpful YouTube video to guide users through the app and some valuable tips.

Explore Session Education Tracks

With 80+ sessions to choose from, looking through the offerings ahead of time will ensure you get the most out of your conference experience. GPA categorizes sessions into education tracks that align with your career path. Tracks include consulting, evaluation and collaboration, federal grants, grants management and budgets, proposal development and communications strategies, prospect research and donor relations, personal growth, and networking sessions.

Some in-person sessions have capacity limits, so make sure to select a backup session in case your first choice is full. Rooms are first come, first seated; adding a session to your schedule in the app does not secure your seat. Sessions are in-person, hybrid, and virtual; only online and hybrid sessions will be recorded and available to attendees for up to six months post-conference.

Opportunities to Gather

Networking can sometimes feel daunting, especially if you attend by yourself or are a first-time attendee. There are several opportunities outside breakout sessions to get to know fellow grant professionals. Check out the welcome reception, morning walk/run group, and conference connect sessions for a low-stakes way to meet people. The networking lunches and exhibit hall can also be great for connecting. Several conversation threads are happening on the discussions tab of the conference app if you are looking for regional folks or want to engage with attendees virtually. Take advantage of how GPA has made it easy to meet fellow grant professionals!

Last but certainly not least, Assel Grant Services will be at the exhibitor’s hall. We have several staff attending the conference (and presenting!) this year and would enjoy the chance to introduce ourselves.

Get to Know Louisville

This city has a lot to offer, from the iconic Churchill Downs and Kentucky Derby to the Louisville Slugger Museum and the oldest operating steamboat. Louisville is also known for its bourbon and is the center point for the bourbon trail. If you are a foodie, there is no shortage of “new southern cuisine” with innovative takes on classic dishes.

This BLOG is aligned with the Grant Professional Certification Institute’s Competencies and Skills

Competency #7: Knowledge of practices and services that raise the level of professionalism of grant developers

Skill 7.1: Identify advantages of participating in continuing education and various grant review processes

Skill 7.2: Identify advantages of participating in professional organizations that offer grant developers growth opportunities and advance the profession