What Attending the NEC on Scholarship Meant to Me


I was honored to be selected as a full-scholarship recipient to attend the 2022 SGMP National Education Conference (NEC) for my very first appearance!

Opening Reception Hospitality

Canden Byrd at 2022 NEC's Opening ReceptionI knew I was in heaven the first night when the opening session featured pierogies, sushi, Italian, and an entire dessert table.

I had never had a pierogi before, but my arm was twisted after meeting Jalapeño Hannah, a famous Pittsburgh Pierogi (pictured). I knew right then that the conference was going to leave a meaningful impact on me and my career. Food usually does that but the environment was something I’ll never forget.

Celebrating In Person

The SGMP North Carolina Chapter is a small, but mighty one, and I was excited to be one of six members in attendance. I watched my fellow members walk across the stage to accept their SGMP 2022 Top Young Professionals Under 40 awards and North Carolina’s 2022 Third Place Programming of the Year award!

Getting an award is definitely exciting, but it was a thrill to watch our chapter accept awards in person alongside some of the most prestigious government meeting planners and suppliers. This was probably the highlight of the conference for me. As such a small chapter that has worked really hard to push through pandemic obstacles, I was very proud of our chapter’s accomplishments.


SGMP North Carolina Chapter receives a chapter award at the 2022 NEC. Photo credit: Sean Carroll

Memorable Breakout Sessions

As we all broke into breakout sessions throughout the conference, the most memorable session to me was given by Staca Shehan from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. I’m a bit biased because I’m a government consultant for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign, and it was an honor to learn from Staca about child sex trafficking and talk with her about her work with Blue Campaign.

I also really enjoyed Shawna Suckow’s presentations on change and having your best year. I realized I’m a bit reluctant to change. My Change Tolerance Quotient number was 56! I also learned that stress often comes from holding on too long to “sameness.” No change = no growth.

Lastly, I loved Dr. Kelvin McCree’s presentation on mental agility and cultivating an agile workforce. We must strive for emotional commitment, and Dr. McCree gave us strategies to continue thriving in the midst of disruption. I even bought his book: The Pivot: Leading the Future of Work.

Grateful to Attend

These were only a few of the sessions I attended, and I learned something new from every single one! I was eager to bring back this knowledge to my career and share with my colleagues what I learned and the relationships I made. I was grateful to SGMP for providing me the means to join this year’s event, and I can’t wait to see what #NEC2023 in Bloomington, Minnesota has in store. I have a feeling they’ll “turn it up to 11.”

Canden Byrd, CGMP, is an event specialist (senior account executive) for DCG Communications. She is a member of the SGMP North Carolina Chapter and currently serves as chapter secretary.