Feb 18, 2015

[revived post] Thoughts From State

This post is from March 3, 2013 and was originally posted on my old blog, which is now on hiatus. It's BPA State time again, and I figured I'd post this ahead of this year's convention, so that it can serve the purpose it was intended for... especially since the cycle has come around again so that the city is the same as it was in 2012. 
Next week, I'll have a post about last year's SLC - because I definitely have thoughts. AND I'll be in Dallas in about two weeks from today for this year's Texas BPA State Leadership Convention, so expect that post sometime the following week. 


Howdy loves! 

I've spent the past few days at the Business Professionals of America State Leadership Conference (more info) in Houston, Texas with one of my best friends, Saira. A teeny bit of background here - I've done BPA since I was a sophomore in high school, and this year, instead of competing at State, I went as a judge. It was SO much fun. I honestly loved every moment, and always have. 

There are always things that I realize at the end of the weekend that I wish I'd known/remembered at the beginning of the trip, so this time, I'm sharing. Here we go! 
  • Find the Starbucks (and other places you'll want to go) before you get there. It was pure luck that we found a Starbucks on the first night. Last year (Dallas), we got lost on night 1 and Siri wouldn't work on my phone. As much as "it isn't State until we get lost", try to avoid it. 
  • Actually try on the clothes you're bringing. With business clothing, you can't really just mix and match as you see fit while on the trip. It needs to be planned out, because colors need to match and you need the right shoes for your pants. 
  • Remember that it will be cold. State is always cold. Always. 
  • Right off the bat, buy a gallon of water. It will keep you from having to constantly buy a water bottle and you won't have to drink tap water. 
  • Do your research and find out if the hotel will have wifi. Most convention centers/hotel conference rooms don't have it, so if you need it, make other arrangements. 
  • Places in business districts close early. This includes restaurants. Know the hours of operation before hand, or you'll end up walking 20 minutes away for Chipolte, because they're the only place open after 6PM. 
  • It may be better to NOT stay at the main hotel (ie: the one that most of the competitions are being held at), simply because of the sheer number of people that are there. This could be based on my dislike of elevators, but I can't remember the last time I've stayed at the main hotel. 
  • Smile. It gets people to help you. 
  • Pack hand lotion. I'm used to warm weather, and any time I'm in the cold, my skin FREAKS OUT and gets super dry. The hotel usually provides lotion, but sensitive skin can have a problem. 
  • Backup chargers exist for a reason, but having one does no good unless you actually bring it with you. 
  • You won't use the hotel gym. You just won't. Don't bother packing workout clothes. Even if you're someone that goes all the time (I go every MWF, so I can say this), you won't go. Why? Because you have to walk freaking everywhere and that's enough exercise for one day. 

There are also things that I learned through judging this year. I'm including a couple of tips here so that when (not if; it always happens) anyone asks me, I don't have to try to think back. 
  • If you're part of a team, YOU NEED TO MATCH. It's seriously a huge pet peeve of mine when the team isn't uniform. I was part of a team for three years, so I understand how frustrating it can be to find things that match, but it doesn't have to be perfect. Two boys and a girl? The boys can wear ties that match each other and match the girl's blouse. Black and white is really easy and looks great. More than one girl on the team? Go shopping together. Girls can wear pants or a skirt, it doesn't really matter, as long as the color scheme is there. It shows that you worked together and actually thought things through. 
  • Make sure you're in dress code. BPA guidelines say that (for females) open toed shoes MUST have a heel. While most people won't DQ you, don't take that chance. 
  • You're in a professional competition, so make sure that you ARE professional. Keep your hands out of your pockets, don't fiddle with your hair, and don't read from your notecards. 
  • If you're doing web site design or something else that involves the internet, and want to show said web site/internet thing in your presentation, either have your own wifi, or take screen shots of each page and stick it in a powerpoint. The judges shouldn't dock you for not having wifi, but seeing the web page will really help. 
  • If you're in a team, you'll probably have questions after your presentation. Make sure that everyone answers something, or speaks at least, and don't, under any circumstances, argue with your teammates. I can't stress that enough. Even if they're wrong, add on instead of correcting them. You don't want the judges to think that you can't work as a team. Pretend to like each other, at least. 
  • Remember that the goal here is to send the best of the best to Nationals. Bring your A-game, always. 
A couple little secrets here that you shouldn't bank on but should be aware of and use to your advantage: 
  • Sometimes, the judges have no idea what you're supposed to be doing. They're learning from you. If you're first, be really good. Explain things, be lively, and for the love all things yummy, please stay on topic. There's no faster way to get last place than to be the "left fielder" of the group. There's always one. 
  • Make sure to look over the grading rubric. You can see that in the WSAP, which every advisor has access to. READ IT. The judges grade based on that, especially if they're new to judging or unfamiliar to your event. 
  • Going along with that, judges have NO control over technical points. If you turn in a paper that gets graded ahead of time, really spend time on that paper. You need a solid paper to go with a solid presentation. One out of the two will NOT get you to Nationals. The presentation judges don't usually see the paper, and if they do, it's already been scored. 
  • I feel that it should go without saying, but make sure you actually turn your paper in. If you don't, well, there's really no point of showing up to the presentation. You won't make it. 
  • Definitely give the judges a self-addressed, stamped envelope for comments. Chances are, they won't tell you what you did wrong/how you can improve while you're there, but they WILL give you tips and you should get them before Nationals. If you don't make it to Nationals, at least you'll have a chance for next year.  
That's all I've got for now, but if I think of anything else, I'll do a follow up. 

Are you a BPAer? Let me know! 

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