I just returned last week from attending, exhibiting, and presenting at the national NASW Restoring Hope conference in Washington, DC. I network with professional social work colleagues every day online, but this does not take the place of the power of being in rooms full of like-minded people, where in-depth conversations take place, ideas are shared, and new collaborations are begun.
|Standing (left to right): Susan Mankita, Kryss Shane, Linda Grobman. Seated: Karen Zgoda|
A highlight of the conference was the opportunity to see friends and colleagues face-to-face. I met up with Susan Mankita, Kryss Shane, and Karen Zgoda, all of whom have been involved with THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER over the years. Being in the presence of these three outstanding women, each of whom is brilliant and funny and a wealth of ideas, would have made it worth it to attend the conference, just in itself. With each of them, I had meaningful conversations that could result in future collaborations.
But there were many more highlights. Here are a few:
1. Keynote addresses: These are informative and inspirational speeches that are usually given at the beginning and end of a conference, to tie the theme of the conference together for all attendees. These were held in a ballroom large enough to hold all 1,000 conference attendees. The theme of the conference, "Restoring Hope," ran through the various keynotes throughout the 3 1/2 days of the meeting. After a Monday morning introductory speech by NASW Executive Director Elizabeth Clark, the attendees heard Bob and Lee Woodruff speak.
|Bob and Lee Woodruff|
Bob is a journalist who was injured in an explosion while providing news coverage in Iraq. Bob and his wife Lee spoke candidly about his traumatic brain injury and his recovery from this injury. They have a very nice back-and-forth style of presenting, and they provided a very human face to the issue of TBI.
2. Sharing with other professionals: I submitted an abstract, which was accepted, to do an individual presentation entitled, "That Was Awesome! Hope Through Live Music at the Bedside During Illness and End of Life."
|Roberta Gastineau, Christina Risley-Curtis, Linda Grobman|
Through this presentation, I had the opportunity to share with social workers my passion for using live music at the bedside to provide a therapeutic, healing, peaceful environment in hospital, nursing home, and hospice settings. I became certified as a Certified Music Practitioner several years ago, and I wanted to let social workers know about this practice and how they can use this with their own clients by referring them to certified practitioners and/or become certified themselves.
The format of the presentation was a panel with two other presenters. The conference planners did an excellent job of matching three presentations that were different, yet complemented each other. Roberta Gastineau did a humorous reading on social work and ethics, and Christina Risley-Curtis presented on the importance of animals in social work, including assessing clients' relationships with animals, as well as using animals in therapy. It was a pleasure to meet and present with these two innovative social workers.
3. Entertainment: On the conference agenda for Tuesday night was a special performance by the Capitol Steps, a wonderfully zany musical comedy troupe that "puts the mock in Democracy."
Laughing is great for self-care, which as we know, is crucial for social workers! The political satire of Capitol Steps was just what the doctor ordered for this group of social workers.
4. Exhibiting and more networking: When I go to a social work conference, I am often there as an exhibitor, as was the case at this one.
|Linda Grobman and Carmela Isabella, who wrote a chapter in MORE DAYS IN THE LIVES OF SOCIAL WORKERS about her incredible experience as a BSW intern in Hillary Clinton's office.|
From my perspective, this is a great opportunity for me to let social workers know about THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER, the books we publish, and our other resources. From conference attendees' perspective, where else can you go and find all things social work in one big room AND have the opportunity to meet the people who have created these resources, ask questions, and maybe take a few goodies home? Think of the exhibit hall as the "center" of the conference--a place to meet up with people, get information, network, and make connections.
I have just touched the tip of the iceberg. Much of the "good stuff" that happens at conferences occurs outside of the educational sessions, during informal conversations, in the exhibit hall, at receptions, or even at a political comedy performance. Not to mention that you can learn a great deal from the variety of excellent workshops, presentations, and symposia--and be energized and inspired by the keynotes and just being in a place with so many like-minded folks with whom you can share ideas and make connections.
What are your best conference experiences?