It was just over two years ago that I attended my first American Evaluation Association Conference in Washington D.C.  As a first-time AEA conference goer, I went all out, attending two days of professional development followed by four days of the conference.  I threw myself head first into the Independent Consultant topic interest group — the
IC -TIG — making connections with people who I have since worked with throughout the year .
At my second conference in Denver last year, I skipped the PD and saved my energy for the conference.  I was a little more knowledgable about how to choose sessions that were right for me.
This year, as a third-timer, I attended the conference in Chicago for four days.  As a pro, I knew about things like making sure to show up to certain workshops 15 minutes early so that I would get a seat and pacing myself by occasionally skipping a session.
These are my top ten AEA 2015 highlights:

  1. Seeing the blazing torch, indicating that 2015 is the International Year of Evaluation.
  2. Being part of an international conference with the theme “Exemplary Evaluations in a Multicultural World.”
  3. Being among the first to hear about Michael Quinn-Patton’s Theory of Philanthropy.
  4. Learning about the “slider” function of Excel during Miranda Hill’s presentation about data dashboards (you really need to check that out if you haven’t used it).
  5. Hearing prominent evaluators discuss their failures in front of an international audience.
  6. Laughing at jokes where the punchlines involve control groups and outliers.
  7. Getting reappointed as the co-chair of the IC-TIG’s media committee and being part of a TIG presentation about our strategic planning process.
  8. Having Chicago’s best deep dish pizza at Giordano’s with 50 other independent consultants.
  9. Learning to navigate the illogical silver, green, bronze and gold levels of the two towers that make up the Hyatt Regency. Fighting vertigo as I tried not to look down at the brightly-colored striped carpet while walking between towers.
  10. Getting the TSA pre-check on my flight to Chicago.