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ICMA’s annual conference is just around the corner. This year’s event will focus on “Achieving Excellence Together.” In a recent Voices in Local Government podcast, ICMA’s Joe Supervielle spoke with planning committee co-chairs Emily Muzzarelli, assistant city manager for Morgantown, W.Va., and Alex McIntyre, city manager for Ventura, Calif., about what attendees can look forward to seeing and hearing about at the show. Here are highlights from their conversation.
This conversation has been edited for brevity and format.
What speakers or sessions are you excited about?
Emily Muzzarelli: I’m really looking forward to hearing from Betty Hart. She’s going to be talking about compassion and using that in our everyday work. We try to do it all and burn the candle at both ends. I’m often guilty of that. I think just from a work-life balance perspective, I’m really looking forward to hearing from her.
Alex McIntyre: I have two. The first one is the session with John Nalbandian, Bob O’Neill and Sherilyn Lombos, who’s a city manager in Oregon. They’re going to be talking about governing in a disruptive environment, creating a course in a stormy sea, and stormy seas is something we are familiar with in local government.
The second one is really aligned with what Emily just said about work-life balance. It’s a sort of an encore presentation by Tamara and Paul Letourneau. Tamara is a city manager here in Southern California. They’ll be talking about the balancing act of being a parent and a CEO.
Networking can be overwhelming for some. Any advice for managing this?
Muzzarelli: Take in a roundtable; you’re maybe only talking to five or six other people and specifically getting engaged on a topic. That’s a great way to network, at a much smaller and maybe not quite as overwhelming scale.
McIntyre: It takes a little bit of effort but put yourself out there. Put yourself in the room, put yourself in the space.
One thing that can help, believe it or not, is the name tags. You can look at a name tag and get a sense of, ‘Oh, West Virginia,’ and it starts. You can start that conversation, and then that builds to other things.
How can first timers get the most out of the show?
McIntyre: Show up. Stay present. Attend the sessions. Look at the sessions in advance and get a sense of the takeaways. See who the target audience is. If you have enough self-awareness on who you are and what target audience you fit into, that can help.
The other thing, if I can be blunt, is eavesdrop. Listen to where other people are going and see what they’re going to attend and just tag along.
Muzzarelli: If you have been in a role for a while, try to do something outside of your comfort zone. The night before everything really kicks off, look through the book. See if there’s one that maybe appeals to you, something that you think you might be lacking on.
Make sure you bring your business cards. While it’s great that we have name tags and it’s real easy to talk to folks, sometimes you leave and you can’t remember who that person is. If you give someone your business card, they almost always are going to give one back to you. Then when they leave, just flip that over and write on the back, how you met what you talked about.
Anything else folks shouldn’t miss? Local sites or events?
Muzzarelli: I’ll be going with my husband and my two children to Columbus, and we do a lot of brewery visits. There’s actually a brewery district walking tour. Definitely hoping to check those out.
And I’m really looking forward to going to COSI. Everyone says you got to go check out COSI — it’s The Center of Science and Industry. That’s where the Tuesday night event is, and I’m really looking forward to checking that out.
McIntyre: The convention center is in a really convenient location and a lot of stuff is walkable.
I’m a foodie guy, although the beer tour sounds very intriguing as well. There’s a very well-known chef and restaurateur named Cameron Mitchell, who is from Columbus. He has restaurants in the greater Columbus area. The planning committee was able to enjoy one of his restaurants in April when we were visiting. It’s called Marella’s, which is a really good Italian restaurant.
Kanoe Namahoe is the editorial director for SmartBrief Education and Business Services. Contact her at [email protected]