So Many Reasons to Attend Conference

January 2019
Attendees in the exhibit hall

I admit it, I love a camp conference! The energy, the ideas, the networking, and catching up with old friends — it's an extroverted camp-lover's dream.

Attending a camp conference is important because the industry is always changing and evolving with the times, and it is crucial to stay relevant in this field. I attended my first ACA National Conference in Chicago many years ago; I felt like a little fish amid the huge pond of camps but was excited to be part of it. I learned early on that the best way to get involved was to volunteer wherever I could. Over the years, I enjoyed being a room host and eventually working my way up to being a member of the overall conference planning committee.

What has changed for me over the years are the workshops I attend. When I was younger, I gravitated toward workshops that were fun and energetic, where I could learn a lot about campers and programs and gain lots of ideas to bring back to camp. As I've gotten more mature in this industry, I tend to go to more business-oriented workshops and sessions that keep me current in anything and everything related to campers, staffing, and running camps. Attending sessions is wonderfully motivating and invigorates me to continually improve programs, staff training, and general camp management.

The vendor hall is not to be missed! We all love getting freebies while we browse the hall, but what is important is connecting with vendors we currently use at our camp and meeting new ones. It's our chance to get educated on the latest and greatest products and services so we can pass those advancements and opportunities on to our campers and camp families.

Through the conference, we are able to connect, collaborate, and share information with one another in various formats. I like that there is something for everyone all day long, whether it's exchanging ideas over morning coffee and bagels, learning from fellow camp leaders, connecting during the evening get-togethers, or being inspired by a keynote speaker. Every hour has something to offer.

The ACA National Conference renews my energy and spirit for camp, especially during a long, cold, snowy winter. Knowing that camp is now less than four months away means it's time to get busy! 

Becky Gilles is the director of Wildwood, a Mass Audubon camp for outdoor exploration in Rindge, New Hampshire.