In a special guest blog AVM member Kathryn Harrington shares her experience of attending her first conference, as well as how it influenced her personal and professional development going forward.

Back in the summer of 2014, I joined the dedicated Volunteering Team at the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). Making the big move down to London from Wales, I was very aware of the limited contacts and connections I had in my new profession in London.
NCVO provided the opportunity to engage with a wide variety of voluntary organisations, from small local charities to large national organisations, and it was here that a colleague recommended attending the AVM conference, to help develop new connections and broaden my learning in the volunteer management field.
I attended my first conference in 2015 with a colleague from NCVO with the hope of connecting with other volunteer managers from different organisations and sectors, as well as promoting the Investing in Volunteers Accreditation to attendees, a great programme that I worked on whilst at NCVO focussing on good practice in volunteer management. It was the perfect space to talk to other professionals about an accreditation related to their area of work, but it was also a great personal development event; an opportunity to share experiences and learning with over 200 volunteer management professionals, and have the opportunity to listen to up-to-date research on volunteering trends and discuss the latest approaches towards volunteering with a wide mixture of people from different organisations.
Since attending my first conference in 2015, each year has provided something different, and continued to remain very relevant to the roles I have moved into. Whilst working at the Royal British Legion, the conference provided the opportunity to network with other professionals in the Armed Forces Charities, and discuss setting up an Armed Forces Volunteer Leadership Network to facilitate collaborative working, as well as share resources and good practice materials.
The variety of keynote speakers and workshops provided the opportunity to develop new exciting ideas for the year ahead. I attended the Volunteers and the Law workshop, delivered by Mark Restall, and Measuring Volunteer Impact, delivered by NCVO’s Joanna Stuart. Both sessions were extremely useful for the projects I worked on at the Legion, but it was always tricky to decide which two workshops to attend as they were all so relevant to my area of work. Luckily all of the presentations were shared with delegates online after the event so you can review the content from all of the sessions in your own time.
I’m really looking forward to attending the conference this year, in my new role as Volunteer Services Coordinator at Mencap. If you are looking to make connections with other volunteer managers, share learning and experience with a wide mixture of people from different organisations, and find out some of the latest research and approaches towards volunteering, I would highly recommend booking a place at this year’s conference!