This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo… also known as FNCE! It was four days full of education sessions, expo exhibits, networking events, and reunions. Basically, it is a non-stop learning party!!
While FNCE is an amazing opportunity to hear new research, learn new practice techniques, network with fellow RDs, and have dinner/drinks with your friends, it is GRUELING. Early mornings, late nights, and an inconsistent food schedule all lead to the dreaded #FNCEhangover.
But never fear!
After this weekend, I have rounded up my tips and tricks on how to optimize all the fun of FNCE without the exhaustion side effect. (for next year!)
1. Rest Up Beforehand
My biggest regret this year was not resting before coming to FNCE. The conference runs from Saturday thru Tuesday, which meant that I worked a full work week before arriving. Waking up at 5am on Saturday from pure excitement probably did not help things either. From the minute the conference starts, it is go-go-go… so go to bed, get your 8+ hours, and come to the opening session rested and ready to learn!
2. Wear Comfortable Clothes
The conference center is always super air-conditioned (when you have 10,000 people packed into one space, it can get a bit toasty), so wear comfortable clothes that you can layer up! Attire ranges from suits to leggings, but I recommend business casual. A cute (professional) blouse over black pants or a stretchy jersey dress (my favorite!) are two great ways to go – just add a cardigan and you’re all set! Another clothing recommendation – wear wrinkle-free stuff. Night events usually start right after the last session of the day, so wrinkle-free clothing let you get to your event smoothly (no pun intended!) without having to change outfits.
3. Wear Comfortable Shoes
THIS. IS. EVERYTHING. While you are sitting for a good part of the day, there is a lot of walking in between sessions (and if you’re like me, you pick sessions on alternating sides of the convention center). Comfortable, cute flats are a great way to look fabulous and keep your feet happy at the same time!
4. Bring Snacks… Lots of Snacks
The first session may start at 8am, but after you factor in shower + hair/makeup + transportation, it’s a little bit chaotic in the morning. Packing portable snacks are a lifesaver! I packed individual portions of frosted mini wheats, granola bars, and biscotti that I could throw in my bag as I was running out the door. Then I could eat something during the first session to fuel me up and had something at the ready when I felt peckish during the afternoon sessions.
5. Pace Yourself on the Expo Floor
The Expo Floor is amazing. There are vendors displaying workbooks, new body metrics technology, practice guide, cookbooks, and food, lots and lots of food. Cereal, yogurt, ice cream, lentils, bread, etc. are offered up for everyone to taste and critique. While you initially have the impulse to eat everything in sight, I recommend taking a tour of the floor before diving in. Then you can plan your nibbles accordingly (like totally splurging on the full-sized Blue Bunny ice cream bars) and not slip into a food coma before your next session.
I did not hydrate well enough. And I regret it. FNCE is a lot of running around and chatting, which makes you feel really dry. Most session rooms have a water station, so I recommend bringing a water bottle and filling up before/after sessions. No water bottle? There are always vendors selling bottled water in the convention center – buy one then refill it during the rest of the conference!
7. Take Notes
Yes, the sessions are recorded, but taking notes help keep you present in the lecture. Plus, sometimes speakers include little activities during their presentations, requiring you to write things down. It is also handy if you connect with someone who doesn’t have business cards – you can jot down their contact information for later!
8. Connect, connect, connect
Networking is probably the most important part of FNCE. Talk with your neighbor before sessions start (easy opening line? “What kind of nutrition do you practice?”). Go to the networking events that your dietetic practice group offers. Chat with your seat mate on the bus. Connect with your faculty/internship director – they will have alumni and colleagues that they will want to introduce to you! This conference is the opportunity to make new connections and strengthen your network for the future.
9. HAVE FUN!
FNCE is busy, slightly chaotic, and a tad exhausting, but it is FUN! It is a time to learn, experience new things, and meet new people. Open yourself up to all the amazing opportunities FNCE has to offer and you reap the rewards.
So, did you go to FNCE this weekend? What are your tips?