Behind the scenes, tucked away in the obscurity of the NEHA membership, lie some of the most talented and unsung heroes in NEHA. These are ordinary NEHA members who all have jobs to go to each and every day, yet they are also extraordinary NEHA members, contributing to one of the most important functions of the association. They are NEHA technical section chairs! Without them the NEHA Annual Educational Conference (AEC) would be a conference with no speakers and no education.
These volunteers are moms and dads and coaches and caregivers with busy daily lives, just like the rest of us, but somehow, whether it is during a shortened coffee break, or in a phone call to the West Coast during their lunch hour on the East Coast, they find the time to bring excellence to the AEC each year.
They give back something to their profession and to all of us. Having been a section chair for five years, I know the work it takes.
It begins early in September: These dedicated members start reviewing the results of the market research conducted by NEHA staff to determine what the membership wants to learn about in the coming year. They also have to be aware of current and special topics that are breaking in their section as they are planning.
By October, section chairs begin reviewing abstracts submitted from people who want to make presentations. They have to marry the needs of the membership and the presentations offered. In some cases, they have to find quality speakers when an abstract for a hot topic has not been submitted.
Section chairs have a budget that is provided by the proceeds of the previous year's Silent Auction at the AEC. They also have some discretion in providing overnight rooms and some registration discounts for speakers. Next, it is on to contacting speakers from all over the country to discuss their availability and travel needs.
Now it's November, and the negotiating begins. Section chairs have to fill the schedule for which they have been allotted time at the AEC. They have the final say in determining who will be a speaker and how the schedule is arranged. This is a lot of responsibility for such an important event, but section chairs, time and again, rise to the occasion and continue to make the NEHA AEC better each year. I know section chairs use many professional and personal contacts to get quality speakers, and I would be remiss if I didn't thank the numerous speakers who have provided their expertise in...