This past March, I had the good fortune to be sent to the NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) in sunny San Jose, California. It was set to be an intense three days of learning and networking, which I was a bit nervous about.
I had been to a couple NTC conferences with close co-workers before, but this year I was going with the President/CTO of our company. While getting a chance to get to know him a little better was great, I also figured I’d probably be spending much of the conference solo - and I was right.
The first day was a little awkward. I’m not great at just walking up to people and starting conversations. For a majority of the day, I walked around by myself in-between sessions and sat alone in the hallways pretending to check my email, because just awkwardly staring at people as they walked by was uncomfortable (seriously, in school, "Social Studies" should have been the study of how to not be socially awkward, and how to interact with strangers without being weird. Where was THAT class??). Besides one awesome person I met during a group lunch walk, who I was actually able to keep a comfortable conversation with, it was a fairly draining day. That is, until the YNPN Happy Hour Meet-up.
At NTC, YNPN was my saving grace.
A couple of amazing and organized YNPNers from other chapters, who were also attending the NTC, had the incredible idea to have us all meet up. There were people who were YNPN board members, volunteers, members and some people who had only been to one or two YNPN events, but wanted to check this out. And it was great. I got to hang out with my Twin Cities board buddy, Tom, and also meet people from chapters all over the US: Portland, the Bay Area, and North Carolina. I was able to chat with people I never would have met otherwise, all because we were part of the same national network.
The best part was, I had an instant network for the rest of the conference. I had people that I shared stories with, people I could chat with in the halls and over lunch, and people I could hang out with during the Progressive Parties after the conference. (Seriously, check out this conference. It’s ridiculously fun, and educational!) A few YNPNers met up and ended up rocking the circuit together - all the while bringing in new people to our little group as well.
That’s another great thing about being part of a network that is all about networking - it’s so welcoming! We were pumped to be rocking the YNPN thing, but that didn’t mean we only talked to or hung out with other YNPNers. For me, networking in a group is just easier. When other people we had met during the conference came up to our group, they were instantly welcomed into it. It was incredibly fun getting to know so many new people, and it was all because of, and with the help of, YNPN.
So, if you’ve been on the fence about checking out a YNPN event or about taking the dive into volunteering with us, I hope you’ll change your mind and give it a shot. Not only do you get plugged into a network of some of the smartest, supportive and encouraging professionals I know in the Twin Cities, but you also become part of a network nationally. It’s amazing being able to go to a conference thousands of miles away and have people you can reach out to and meet up with, where you would have otherwise been on your own.