Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Ashlynne Banks, International Vice President for Division 2.
Last year was my very first international convention, and I had no idea what to expect. I tried to prepare as much as possible, but I was still blown away when I got there.
Because PTK Catalyst will be a first-time experience for many of you, I’ve put together a sort of guide for what you can expect. Convention veterans, I challenge you to share this guide on social media, add your insights, and assist those who may look a little lost in Nashville.
For starters, if you are introverted or have introverted tendencies, I recommend getting a roll-on aromatherapy anti-anxiety or stress relief essential oil, or bring with you whatever portable stress relief works well for you. (I have been loving the Wyndmere Anxiety Release.) Don’t let this little disclaimer scare you, though—the energy at convention is absolutely electric, everyone is excited, and the sense of community and belonging is wonderful.
There are also many different areas inside the convention center to relax. Benches by fountains, walks through the indoor garden, and a boat ride (yes, there is really a little boat inside the hotel) will all do wonders if you ever feel overwhelmed.
The next important thing that applies to absolutely everyone is footwear. The Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center is massive. It’s like a little city in there, so be prepared to do a lot of walking.
Speaking of the size of the convention center, it will be easy to get lost, so stick with a buddy and watch the color of the carpet, as it changes according to which section of the hotel you are in or entering. Don’t be afraid to ask your fellow nerds for help—find strength in numbers and make a few friends along the way.
Attire was another big question for me as I prepared for my first convention. I knew it was an academic convention, but I didn’t know how casual or professional to dress. Most people will be in business casual, and a few people in dressy casual.
It is a professional event with college presidents and celebrity speakers, and last year we had a White House representative there. Don’t break the bank buying a whole new wardrobe; just find what you feel confident and professional in, and rock it.
What to Expect
The first thing you should know is that the main point of PTK Catalyst is to recognize and celebrate the hard work we have done all year long. The convention is divided into different segments called General Sessions. This is where we hear from the keynote speakers, and various awards and recognitions are given out.
Between these general sessions we have workshops, breakout sessions, regional meetings, and more. If this sounds like a lot to keep track of, don’t worry. There’s a ton of info online, including a detailed schedule. And when you get to the convention center, you will get a lanyard and all the important information will be in a packet; there will also be instructions given at the end of each general session.
Also, look for info coming soon on our new PTK Catalyst app, which will give you full details of all convention events and even allow you to make your own schedule.
Another facet of the international convention is the campaign for International Office. Each year we elect five students to represent the members and bridge the gap between Phi Theta Kappa headquarters and the students they serve. This process involves a live Candidate Caucus on April 6 and the candidates campaigning in booths set up in a large convention hall we call the Marketplace.
While you’re in the Marketplace, visit with convention sponsors and partners, shop the PTK Store, get your questions about scholarships and PTK programs answered at the Resource Booth, and sign the giant C4 College Completion banner. See when it’ll be open.
If you’re planning to transfer to a four-year college, then you’ll want to visit the Senior College Transfer Fair and Lunch on April 7. It’s the largest transfer fair in the country, and a full list of participating colleges should be available soon.
Each chapter has a voting delegate who goes around (usually with the help of the rest of the chapter) to hear from each of the candidates in every race and decide who to vote for. It is very important to note that every chapter votes in every race: International President and International Vice Presidents for Divisions 1, 2, 3, and 4.
At the very end of the convention, we have the Hallmark Awards Gala, where we’ll name the Most Distinguished Chapter and induct the 2017-18 International Officers. Most people dress up for this—some even wear formal attire—but it isn’t required. After that, there is typically a farewell dance, and then everyone goes home with renewed passion and excitement.
There’s nothing quite like Phi Theta Kappa’s International Convention. I hope this guide serves you well as you prepare to join us in Nashville, Tennessee, April 6-8. Register now!