Next weekend, the 17th Annual Hmong National Development Conference will take place in St. Paul, Minnesota and I know very well how exciting it is for all the organizers and attendees.
But it wasn’t always that way.
My very first HNDC was in Charlotte, NC. I had won a full scholarship to attend the event as a young undergrad with a handful of members from my college Hmong student organization.
Due to my shy nature, I was already nervous traveling with my peers whom I knew very little about. So when I arrived at my first HNDC among hundreds of new faces, I realized how vulnerable and uncomfortable I was in this new environment.
After HNDC ended, I told myself I’d never return to Charlotte, NC (been back already) and nearly gave up on HNDC (been back twice) because of my experience.
Looking back, here are five things I wished I knew at my first HNDC. May it help you as you plan your HNDC experience next weekend!
1. To network is to help.
Yes, “network” can come off as a distasteful word. But recently, I discovered that networking is simply a way to offer someone else a gift, whether that is time to chat and be late for a workshop, a smile to wish the presenter good luck, or simply holding the elevator door for a fellow attendee.
Networking is just a big, scary term for being kind, helpful, and genuinely interested in someone else in a non-creepy way.
By far, my best memories at HNDC came from networking with others.
2. It’s not about how many business cards you bring back home.
Instead, it’s about how many genuine connections you made while trying to get a business card. The best connections are the ones where you wholeheartedly want the other person’s card. (This reminds me – bring your business cards!)
And college students – it’s really not fun when your main goal at HNDC is to collect random business cards to win a contest back on campus. (True story.)
3. Hem that suit.
What’s worse than having a bad time during the conference? Starting off your day by putting on clothes you feel completely uncomfortable in.
What you choose to wear will make or break your attitude, confidence, energy, and ultimately, your day at HNDC.
Get that Olivia Pope bottom you’ve been eyeing. Hem that suit. It’ll be worth it.
4. Book a room in the conference hotel.
Yes, I know it’s an additional expense. However, years later, I’ve never regretted staying at the conference hotel.
I’ve been saved when I was almost late for my own morning workshop, needed a break from the overwhelming energy, or forgot my name tag.
Not having to deal with parking, running late, or forgetting something and instead staying in the conference hotel is priceless when you literally have less than 48 hours to enjoy a national biennial conference for a community you deeply care about.
5. Bring post-it notes/flags.
That big beautiful program that comes with your registration can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
There’s so much exciting content in there and so little time to look through it. You can easily forget where Tou SaiKo Lee’s workshop is or how to find your way back to the main lobby. Post-it notes or flags will definitely come in handy, my friend.
I hope these tips help you next weekend at HNDC. Will you be going to HNDC? What other pieces of wisdom do you have for fellow HNDC goers? Please leave a comment below! I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time…