I was a natural brunette for my first. There I stood. A newcomer trying not to expressively gawk from the sheer size of the AFP event. Thinking to my younger self, this is a big deal.
The number of people. Surely there is someone here that I know.
The magnitude of the exhibit hall. Oh my gosh, why did I wear heels?
The size of the fold out session diagram map thingy from the conference planner handbook! It was well apparent the seasoned attendees knew how to neatly fold theirs after each use. Show-offs. Mine was in bad repair after working diligently to pre-plan my agenda for the next three days.
Could I ever hope to look as cool as those that seemingly knew their way? They were out there meetin’ and greetin’. They were shakin’ hands and nudgin’ shoulders in a good-to-see-you manner. They were huggin’, and laughin’, and engagin’ in conversations. I stood there for a moment by myself. I could have easily been overwhelmed with the stimulus around me. But I wasn’t. I was excited! I realized I was about to embark on an experience. My company had invested in me by sending me to conference. I was going to learn. And listen. I was going to sit in the front of sessions and ask questions. Well, okay, maybe not the front, but near the front. Yes, that is where I would be most comfortable. I was going to exchange ideas and benchmarks with fellow finance professionals. I was going to learn of new products and services. I was quite frankly having a ‘let’s get this party started’ moment! No doubt, the AFP conference was a big deal. And boy, did it ever end up being good!
Well, the years have now gone by. Over twenty to be exact. The hair has been salon highlighted to somewhat disguise the aging process. And I have gone back to many AFP conferences since my initial one. Sure, there are consistencies in each - like bacon always being served for breakfast. But I also always find tremendous sessions on those matters most relevant to me and my company. I find there are always opportunities to engage in meaningful discussions with others in finance, occasions to meet with key business partners, and chances to seek solutions from new service providers or suppliers. Always.
Without the conference, it is actually hard to fully know what I don’t know, but should know. This is why I still have the excitement of a first time attendee. Granted, I no longer wear heels to conference, unless I do so strategically, but I still learn at each conference. How? I find each year’s presentations are not some shrink-wrapped, off the shelf, cookie cutter exchanges that I have seen before. Rather, year over year, the presentations are timely and relevant. They are unique. And informative. I listen. Engage. And learn. Then I move on to the next session or exhibit hall, sharing ideas with and asking questions of others along the way. It’s really that simple.
No, time has not stood still over the years. Nor have our jobs, market influences, regulations, and responsibilities. And nor has the Association for Financial Professionals conference. It remains fresh. And though I still don’t believe I am as cool as those attendees I saw at my first conference, I am indeed smarter than I was then – because of the conference. It remains a big deal.
Assistant Treasurer – Global Cash & Investments
Hallmark Cards, Incorporated
Check out some of the AFP 2018 networking events
– you might even nudge shoulders with Susan Glass!