By: Hilary Wickes, America Outdoors
Some people love conferences; others… don’t. Maybe you’re an introvert or maybe you’ve never been to one- whatever your reason for conference anxiety we want to help you navigate the America Outdoors Conference to turn you into a conference lover.
I believe the key to enjoying a conference is to make it feel smaller. There are a few ways you can do this at America Outdoors.
Participate in the roundtable discussions. We have several opportunities throughout the conference to come listen, learn and contribute with other outfitters. This is a great way to get to know the 7 other people at your table. Chances are a few of them will people you want to meet up with for an expanded discussion at happy hour.
Participate in a pre-conference opportunity. We offer fun excursions, a leadership development workshop, and a WFR recertification. They do have an additional cost, but if you choose to participate, for the rest of the conference you’ll have a group of 20-30 friends to meet up with.
Volunteer. John “JC” Covington, one of our 2022 volunteers, had this to say: “I volunteered at the registrations desk from the beginning of the conference, and it was amazing to see familiar faces and to meet so many new ones.” As a bonus, volunteering gets you a discount for the conference.
2023 Conference Agenda
What to Expect
The America Outdoors Conference includes 2.5 days of education sessions, Wednesday-Friday. We have 30 sessions that are categorized in tracks: risk management, outfitter operations, leadership, marketing, and legislative. You don’t have to register for specific sessions in advance, and you can jump from track to track as needed. This article outlines some of the key takeaways from the 2022 conference.
On Tuesday evening, there is a welcome reception, and this is the kickoff for the expo as well. The expo is open Tuesday-Thursday, so don’t miss your chance to connect with exhibitors. Check out the 2023 list of the exhibitors.
How Attendees Describe the AO Conference
Shannon Walton, Former Executive Director of Redside Foundation (First time speaker and attendee):
It's a combination of immersive learning about an industry I'm passionate about and the best version of a high-school reunion. I immediately felt like I belonged, and I saw old friends! While I loved connecting with folks, my favorite part is the information I came away with that has helped me professionally and personally.
Shane Wolf, Rockin R (First time attendee):
It's kinda like a 25yr high school reunion where you all have so much in common but you can't quite put all the faces and names together. It was a joy to meet so many in the same field from all over the country and share the pros and cons of our obstacles while assisting others with new issues that we had already faced.
JC Covington, Regional Operations Manager, OARS (First time attendee):
AO 2022 set me up for the next step in my career. I wasn't really sure what to expect going into the conference, but now I can say that the connections I made and the knowledge I acquired went above and beyond what I was expecting. The sessions were informative, comprehensive and presented by some of the best leaders within the industry. In between volunteering, meeting with prospective employers and attending sessions, I walked the conference floor where vendors were presenting new gear, discussing gear and all-in-all having a blast.
Advice for first-time attendees
Shane Wolf, Rockin R:
Do your homework on seminars before you go, there are a lot offered and all have good substance but be sure they are relevant to what you need the most. Take a glance at the vendors too prior to arrival and perhaps schedule some time with them so you can learn of their new offerings and or get some good show pricing.
Shannon Walton, Former Executive Director of Redside Foundation:
The AO community is full of passionate, engaging, and friendly folks who are there for all of the right reasons. Take part in everything you can. The AO team does an excellent job of creating an enriching experience.
Hilary Wickes, America Outdoors Conference Manager:
In addition to the great advice above, I recommend taking 5-10 minutes at the end of each day to write your top 1-3 takeaways from the day and highlight any action items that you want to make sure you work on when you’re back home. Check out this article for more tips on how to take advantage of your time at any conference.
register for the America Outdoors Conference