It was just over two years ago that I attended my first American Evaluation Association Conference in Washington D.C. As a first-time AEA conference goer, I went all out, attending two days of professional development followed by four days of the conference. I threw myself head first into the Independent Consultant topic interest group — the
IC -TIG — making connections with people who I have since worked with throughout the year .
At my second conference in Denver last year, I skipped the PD and saved my energy for the conference. I was a little more knowledgable about how to choose sessions that were right for me.
This year, as a third-timer, I attended the conference in Chicago for four days. As a pro, I knew about things like making sure to show up to certain workshops 15 minutes early so that I would get a seat and pacing myself by occasionally skipping a session.
These are my top ten AEA 2015 highlights:
- Seeing the blazing torch, indicating that 2015 is the International Year of Evaluation.
- Being part of an international conference with the theme “Exemplary Evaluations in a Multicultural World.”
- Being among the first to hear about Michael Quinn-Patton’s Theory of Philanthropy.
- Learning about the “slider” function of Excel during Miranda Hill’s presentation about data dashboards (you really need to check that out if you haven’t used it).
- Hearing prominent evaluators discuss their failures in front of an international audience.
- Laughing at jokes where the punchlines involve control groups and outliers.
- Getting reappointed as the co-chair of the IC-TIG’s media committee and being part of a TIG presentation about our strategic planning process.
- Having Chicago’s best deep dish pizza at Giordano’s with 50 other independent consultants.
- Learning to navigate the illogical silver, green, bronze and gold levels of the two towers that make up the Hyatt Regency. Fighting vertigo as I tried not to look down at the brightly-colored striped carpet while walking between towers.
- Getting the TSA pre-check on my flight to Chicago.