Presenter Takeaways from the 2018 NIRSA Annual Conference


The 2018 NIRSA Annual Conference took place at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colorado, during the first week of March. I had the pleasure and fortune to present twice during the conference. For those who haven’t been able to attend a NIRSA Annual conference, there are many valuable components to take part in. These consist of “Take a Student to Lunch,” the Vendor Expo and an All-Conference Social, just to name a few.

My favorite part of attending this year’s conference was being able to present for the first time at a NIRSA Annual Conference. I have presented at state and regional NIRSA conferences, but it was a special honor to be able to present at the national level. When serving as a presenter, there is continuous support and gratitude extended by fellow attendees and peers. The supportive and collaborative atmosphere of NIRSA is one of the more powerful dynamics of the community and the conferences.

Here are my top takeaways from presenting at the 2018 NIRSA Annual Conference:

A Lightning Revolution

One of the innovative features of this year’s NIRSA Annual Conference was implementation of Lightning Talk educational sessions. These are 60-minute sessions featuring five sets of presenters that present for a maximum of 10 minutes, leaving 10 minutes for questions. These have been featured in previous conferences, but appeared to take on a larger presence this year. I was particularly interested by this presentation format because it allowed me to pick a topic to potentially present in a full session for a future conference. This style of presentation also is a great opportunity for first-time presenters to test the waters of presenting at a large and distinguished conference.

My presentation topic was titled, “Champions On and Off the Field: Lessons Learned from the Eyes of a Sport Club President.” It focused on the development of students through the role of a sport club president. Our lightening talk session focused on the topic of leadership development. The other lightening talk presenters were Kathy Obuszewski of Case Western Reserve University, Alyssa O’Keefe of University of West Georgia, John Stephens of University of Northern Colorado, Andy Darling of University of West Virginia, and Jaime Medina and Rahul Rajan of University of Minnesota. Each presenter took on a varied perspective of leadership development from their professional role. Being able to serve as a presenter in this format was a fun and unique experience. It allowed each presenter to have an individual experience but also work as part of team to put together a quality education session. I recommend submitting a proposal for a lightening talk in a future conference because it is a tremendous experience.

A Partnered Experience

The second presentation I took part in was as a co-presenter with Jennifer Pecoraro. Jennifer currently serves as lecturer faculty member in the Department of Sport Management at University of West Georgia. We first presented together at the 2016 NIRSA Region II Conference about the education and understanding of inclusion in universities and collegiate recreation. We featured the use of pronouns and the power of self-identity to lessen barriers of participation.

For this year’s presentation, we looked at the use of transgender terminology in competitive sports policies. We identified 14 possible terms pulled from the NCAA Inclusion page that could potentially be found in polices for intramural sports, sport clubs and/or competitive sports. We randomly sampled 30 percent of NIRSA member institutes – which was 278 institutions. Of the possible 14 terms, seven of the terms were found from the various handbooks. Furthermore, 31 percent of the schools investigated had inclusive content and the most common used term in the handbooks was “gender identity.”

Jennifer and I spent the last year putting together the proposal to be accepted and researching the material to be presented. It was an outstanding experience to present with Jennifer and reap the benefits of hard work in preparation of the presentation.

“Elevate Your Path”

The theme of the 2018 NIRSA Annual Conference was “Elevate Your Path.” This was a fitting theme because by presenting, I felt my professional development was elevated. Being able to present twice at the NIRSA Annual Conference was an educational and rewarding experience. It allowed me to work with others, expand my network of contacts and gain more insight through research on two key topics in the field. I can say one of the best form of learning is by presenting. It allows you to put in the necessary time, effort and research into a topic to provide a quality educational session.

My primary motivation for presenting is to provide a quality experience for attendees. I take great pride in putting in the necessary preparation to expand my professional development and provide an educational experience for the audience.

In conclusion, I look forward to taking on new topics to present at state, regional and national conferences. I also will look to expand upon previously presented topics and work with co-presenters for future opportunities. If you have not presented before, I challenge you to present at a future conference in one of the many forms and presentation styles. There will be quality opportunities in the next calendar year, and in particular, the chance to submit a proposal for the 2019 NIRSA Annual Conference in Boston, Massachusetts, held February 16 to 19. Looking forward to seeing everyone at a future conference.

Ty Verdin
Ty Verdin is a professional staff member in the department of sports and recreation at Kennesaw State University. He currently serves as the senior coordinator of club sports. Contact him at

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