Tips for attending UUA General Assembly 2018

The UUA’s General Assembly conference is this month, June 20-24, in Kansas City, MO.

It is time to prepare, and if this is your first time, make sure to checkout our tips for having a great conference at  If you aren’t attending the conference on-site, checkout the many ways to participate off-site.

This collaborative post and “survival guide” features tips and reminders for attending the annual General Assembly conference of the Unitarian Universalist Association!  We started this post our UU Growth Lab Facebook Group in 2011 and I have been updating annually ever since.

Have a tip or resource to add?  Share it in a comment at the end of this post or share via Twitter and tag your tweet with #UUAGA and my username @UUPLANET.

Follow the UU World’s Coverage:

The staff of the UU World does an amazing job covering General Assembly.  Their GA blog and social media channels are the go to source for in-depth and breaking General Assembly news.

The Official Hashtag

The official hashtag for the UUA’s General Assembly conference is #UUAGA.  There is NO year in the tag. Every year a handful of UUs get stuck following the wrong hashtag because someone tweeted the hashtag and inserted the year.  There is no year. The hashtag is #UUAGA.

Preparation for General Assembly

To get the most out of General Assembly, schedule time to work through the UUA’s 2018 preparation guide:

Don’t think about the volume of content, you’ll go into shock.  SCHEDULE a time within the next day to review the list and schedule the time you’ll need to do your preparation.  You need to get it into your calendar.  Plan a time to plan your prep.

Prep includes content to watch, listen to, and read. The following video is an expample:

Learn about the racial and socioeconomic segregation that splits Kansas City geographically and explore current concerns around urban gentrification. First, watch this informative, locally produced 13-minute video, “Building the Troost Wall: Structural Racism in Kansas City.”

Delegate “What to Expect” Webinars

The UUA board is offering webinars to orient delegations.  You can join these live Zoom webinars on June 5, 7, 9, or 10.  Full details and registration:
“What General Assembly Delegates Can Expect at GA 2018”

Get the Offical General Assembly App!

The UUA GA Mobile App is fantastic.  If you have a smartphone, make sure to install it.  It will significantly improve your GA experience.  Plan on exploring and testing the app before you arrive. There are a lot of features. You can choose to follow posts by other attendees, share your own posts tagging which event you’re at, and much more.  The week leading up to GA, try opening the app each day. People will already be posting. It has all the program information and serves as a self contained GA social network.  Get it now!

 

Before You Go

  • Plan your life at General Assembly assuming you will not be able to access wi-fi in the convention center.  Internet access is always and issue. Bring critical information and contact numbers with you. If access is good, enjoy!  But be prepared.
  • Convention centers, especially the main halls, are usually freezing! Bring a layer you can easily take on and off so you’re okay going from outside to hallways to the general session/plenary ice box.
  • Hydrate! Bring a water bottle. If you’re flying, bring an empty one to fill at a water fountain after you go through security.  You can usually buy a reusable bottle in the Exhibit Hall.
  • If you are a delegate, READ related business materials before you come.  You are deciding our future. Visit the UUA’s page with information for delegates.
  • GA is amazing for network and learning.  Bring business or personal cards so that you can give your information to others.
  • GA is a great time to get on Twitter.  You’ll be surrounded by people to give you advice and amazing content to tweet about.  The following video was made before the 2014 GA in Providence. The process and tips still apply, just know that the GA specific examples are now from that past GA.  Just make sure you go to GA in the right city. Update to this video coming soon.

Again, this is an older video. Make sure to go to General Assembly in the right city — Kansas City, MO!

  • Be sure that someone from your congregation is bringing the banner for the banner parade.
  • Plan out what workshops you want to go to.  Have a tentative choice made for all time slots in advance. You’ll need time between schedule blocks to take care of biological needs, talk to people, and change rooms. You won’t have time to pick as you go.
  • Pick a 2nd workshop for each time slot. You may find that when you arrive at your first choice it’s not what you expected and it will be good to know exactly where to go to get to your 2nd choice.
  • Pack comfy shoes.
  • Bring a bag you can carry comfortably with you at all times, like a shoulder bag or light backpack.
  • If you’re asked to carry your congregations banner during the banner parade, figure out how the poles/carrying PVC pipes go together before hand.  Here are banner specs from the UUA (pdf).
  • “Last year I had a binder where on the back cover I had a map of the area in the plastic cover thing, the front with my delegate card and other really important info, and inside my travel info, the program book, the business resolutions, etc.  It really helped me stay organized throughout.  Put in paper to take notes on, bring pens, etc.  I had that with me in my laptop bag and it was great.”
  • Talk to people in your congregation to find out about resources you can scout out and bring home. There is an amazing collection of resources available in the exhibit hall, including books from the UUA Bookstore.
  • Use General Assembly as an opportunity to connect with leaders in congregation near you. You can use the GA App to network. You might even reach out to your neighboring UU congregations in advance.
  • If you can’t walk more than a mile easily, you will want to rent a scooter through GA Accessibility Services. If you often use hearing assistive devices in crowded settings, you will want to use GA Accessibility Services. Better to reserve equipment you turn out not to need than arrive & be blocked from participating because no extra equipment is available.
    GA Accessibility Services. 
  • If you have special dietary requirements, scout out the food vendors before departure and plan well ahead. Make reservations at places that will accept them. Pack extra food if you have really specific needs. It isn’t uncommon to have to wait at GA area restaurants for a long time, or to have relatively few places that can accommodate vegans, folk who need to eat gluten-free, or even offer acceptable fast alternatives for diabetics.
  • Plan a check-in breakfast/lunch/dinner with some people you know at some point.  Even if you’re the independent or introverted type, GA is really overwhelming in the sheer mass of people and having a drink with some familiar faces can be really nice
  • If you don’t know anyone going to GA, start making connecting with people via the GA app and on Twitter.  For example, on Twitter you might tweet “Looking forward to _____ at this year’s #UUAGA conference.”  Fill in the blank with what you’re excited about.  By including the #UUAGA hashtag we can find your tweet on Twitter.  On the GA App you can share posts with photos.  You might share a photo of yourself and share what you’re looking forward to and what leadership role(s) you have in your congregation.
  • If you really want to spend time with someone you haven’t seen in ten years, email them now and ask to get together.  You don’t need to finalize plans now, but many people plan how they are using meals in advance. When you ask they will either say “yes” or “I’d love to talk to you for a minute at some point, but my schedule is totally booked.”
  • Prepare your Unitarian Universalism elevator speech. Local folks ask questions; be prepared to answer.  What’s a Unitarian Universalist?  What’s your conference about?

While you’re there

  • Now that you’ve arrived, remember to HYDRATE!  And take time to eat and pace yourself.  GA is a marathon.
  • You don’t have to go to everything.  And that’s ok.  I ended up skipping things last year, including the Ware Lecture, because I needed a breather.  And dinner.  Besides it will be online.
  • You need to eat.  You’ll need to schedule that in.
  • Attend the orientations, from GA for First Timers to your regional/district ones.  They help.
  • Avoid picking up paper – use digital notes whenever possible (they’re tending toward less paper).
  • Say “Hi” to people & don’t be shy to tell them that you’re a first timer.
  • A great way to meet people is to introduce yourself to people when you sit down in a workshop.  You already know you have a common interest.  Say hello and strike up conversation.
  • Whatever you do, go to the Service of the Living Tradition, the Ware Lecture and the Sunday morning service. See program highlights.
  • Don’t miss the Synergy Bridging Service! We’re the only denomination that honors the transition from youth to young adulthood at our annual assembly.
  • Having a meal with other UUs from across the country can sometimes be more valuable than going to a workshop. Prioritize relationships.
  • I was told this by my congregation and it really made a difference for me.  During a general session (previously called plenary) , if you aren’t sure what you’re about to vote on, don’t hesitate to ask for a point of clarification from the procedure microphone.  Because if you don’t know what you’re voting on, at least 100 other people there don’t know either.
  • There’s this GA tradition that I don’t fully get – getting as many possible ribbons from booths to hang from the bottom of your nametags.  When you check in, at least last year, you even got some “coupons” to take to certain booths to get certain ribbons.  I just followed the crowd on that one.
  • Wear comfy shoes.
  • GA volunteers are often wearing specific shirts or pinnies that identify them easily. They’re there to help you. GA is really possible because of the kindness and support our volunteers give.
  • If you are in need of emotional or spiritual assistance, if you experience any kind of harassment, talk to any shirted GA volunteer and ask them to help you be connected with either the Right Relations Team or the chaplains.
  • You are an ambassador of Unitarian Universalism!
    Many people in and around the convention center will be meeting their first Unitarian Universalists.   While at General Assembly, bring your best self and make living our values an intentional practice.  Sore feet because you forgot your comfy shoes is not an excuse.  Be kind. Be generous. Smile. Pick up trash. You are not a tourist. You are not a business conventioneer. You are an ambassador of our faith.

Play with Video!

  • Going to film video at GA with your smartphone? Checkout my video tips page. Whether you are tweeting or sharing on Facebook or another platform, GA can be a great place to record videos.  If you are at GA with a team, you might take turns filming video updates from GA.

Tourism / Local Information

Have a tip or related resources to share?  Comment on this post or comment wherever I’ve shared this post on Twitter or Facebook.  Thanks! Peter

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