Continuing where I left off last week…
The day after the Coleman Fellow Summit, many of the fellows joined the 2013 National Conference of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO) in McCormick Place for its last two days. The CEO conference is mainly a student conference, attracting members of the campus CEO groups from many universities. This conference overview from the conference bulletin:
Over 80 speakers will be sharing real life experiences about what people can do when they have a dream and take action. You will be able to participate in breakout sessions, workshops and mentoring sessions that will provide you with valuable tips and resources.
Ask questions, take notes, and share business cards! When you return to your campus, you will be amazed how many resources and connections you have. These contacts will be important as you pursue your entrepreneurial future. Keep in mind that who you know is just as important as what you know, so take the time to network with and meet the amazing speakers and your fellow students!
The students sure were sharply dressed! They put the typical wardrobe of librarians at library conference to shame. (I’ve long resisted the urge to comment on the common “what librarians should wear to conferences” discussions, but do believe that professional image is important.)
The Coleman Foundation is one sponsor of the CEO conferences. Dun & Bradstreet is a current sponsor, although there were no vendor exhibits.
The conference featured long plenary sessions after breakfast, for lunch, and for dinner. Most of the plenary speakers were successful entrepreneurs. They usually wandered through the big ballroom (where 900 to 1,000 folks sat at round tables) speaking without notes, eliciting comments and questions from the students, and working those comments into their talks. (There were few female plenary speakers, despite what seemed like an equal mix of male and female students.) Quite a change of pace compared to the talking, static heads at library conference plenary sessions.
After attending some of the breakout panels and presentations, I appreciated even more librarian presenters with teaching or training experience who lead interactive and creative conference programs. I didn’t attend any engaging programs in terms of presentation style. Some speakers at least provided significant time for questions from the audience.
There were a few “faculty development” sessions like Supporting Student Entrepreneurs,” featuring a recent NCSU graduate and a current college student. These two young entrepreneurs discussed what they liked or would like to see in entrepreneurship education. One example was the importance of evaluating if an idea is feasible or not before writing a full business plan. (These presentors didn’t have to take a feasibility plan class like our ENT 300 before taking a business plan class.) The presentors also discussed the value of having students present in class, since even short classroom presentation helps to prepare for pitches to potential investors.
Students from Mississippi State University and the University of Tennessee approached me between sessions to ask about the Coleman Fellows program, having seen older folks like me walking around with Coleman Fellows stickers attached to our CEO badges. We discussed the program and exchanged business cards.
Attending the CEO conference was interesting but wasn’t very relevant to my work as a Coleman Fellow or librarian embedded into our cross-campus entrepreneurship program. Indeed, the Coleman Foundation is considering moving the annual fellow’s summit from late October to the summer. That way the fellows could apply what they learn at the summit to their syllabi for the fall semester.
I’ve heard library directors encouraging librarians to attend non-librarian academic conferences. “To be seen” seemed to be the main reason for that message, as well as to learn about the latest trends in research. But a librarian serving an entrepreneurship program would be better off putting his or her time and energy into supporting local entrepreneurship classes and/or entrepreneurial support initiatives instead.
If any of the UNCG CEO Club students had attended this year, the UNCG fellows would have served as mentors, which would have been an important and fulfilling role. Yet I am glad to have attended the conference. I came away with a better understanding of national-level support provided to student entrepreneurs. And it was fun and a change of pace.