National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Information For First Time Convention Attendees

Do I need to be a member of NAMI to attend? Will I get much out of the convention if I'm not a member?

We encourage both members and nonmembers to attend the convention. NAMI is the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots advocacy group working on behalf of consumers and families. Whether or not you are a member of NAMI, you will benefit from the information offered at the convention, as well as the chance to network with some of the most savvy mental health advocates in the nation.

What does my registration fee include?

The registration fee includes all registration materials, attendance at all meeting sessions and events, and the Homecoming Party on Thursday, July 7. The registration fee does NOT include transportation, lodging, food, or incidental expenses. You must make your hotel and travel arrangements -- and pay for them -- yourself.  Register now!

What if I register now, but then I am unable to attend? Can I transfer a registration to someone else?

Yes, you can transfer your registration to another person. You must inform us of the transfer in writing no later than June 15, 2011.

When should I plan on arriving in Chicago?

The convention begins on Wednesday, July 6 and end on Saturday evening, July 9.   This schedule will help you plan your stay at the convention.

Where should I stay?

The NAMI 2011 Convention is being held at the Chicago Hilton, located at 720 South Michigan Avenue. NAMI has negotiated special rates for attendees at the Hilton for $149 per night (plus tax) for a double or single room. In order to get the special rate, you must make your reservation by May 1.  Make your reservation!

What airport should I fly into?

Two airports service the Chicago area: Midway Airport (MDW) and Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD).   

  • MidwayAirport is located 25 minutes from downtown Chicago.  Cab fare is approximately $26-$29.

A convenient, inexpensive alternative to a cab is to take the Chicago Metro Orange line from Midway to the Roosevelt stop and walk 10 minutes to the Hilton. Midway Airport is serviced by the following airlines: AirTran, Delta, Frontier, Midwest, and Southwest.

  •   O’Hare Airport is located 40-45 minutes from downtown Chicago.  Cab fare is approximately $42-$45. 

A convenient, inexpensive alternative to a cab is to take the Chicago Metro Blue line from O’Hare to the Lasalle Street stop and walk 10 minutes to the Hilton.  O’Hare is serviced by the following airlines: Alaska Air, American, Continental, Delta, Jet Blue, United, and USAIR.

When can I register on-site at the convention?

All convention attendees can pick up their name badge and registration materials at the NAMI Registration Desk, located on the lower level of the Hilton.  NAMI's Registration Desk will open beginning at 8:00 am on Wednesday, July 6.

What kinds of things happen during the convention?

The convention features plenary sessions offering the latest information from some of the sharpest policy and scientific thinkers in the country, learning tracks on such topics as putting consumers and families in the driver’s seat of the mental health system, our ever-popular ask-the-doctor sessions, and dozens of workshops from the NAMI grassroots.

How do I decide what sessions to attend?

Review the program schedule and plan your schedule so that you can attend the sessions most important to you. Be sure to schedule breaks and other rest periods for yourself. The Convention Orientation session is a valuable resource for those attending our convention for the first time. It is scheduled for Wednesday evening, July 6.  The full convention program will be released at the convention, but you can receive regular program updates by visiting

What is a "plenary"?

Plenary sessions are major sessions of general interest designed for the entire convention attendance.  They are held when no other events or sessions are scheduled.

What is the Leadership Institute? Can I attend?

The NAMI Leadership Institute offers leadership and organizational development opportunities to assist NAMI state organizations and local affiliates in meeting the NAMI mission. Any convention attendee in a leadership role of a local or state affiliate is encouraged to attend (including staff, board member, and active volunteer).

Leadership Institute sessions will be held on Wednesday, July 6 from 2:00pm – 6:00pm

What if I can't go to a session I'm interested in?

You can purchase CD recordings of almost all of the sessions held at convention.

Where can I get session recordings at the convention?

A recording company records nearly all sessions at the convention. A CD order form is included in the registration packet and are also available at the CD sales desk at the convention.

What should I wear at the convention?

Casual clothes are appropriate. There are no formal events but some attendees like to dress up for the Homecoming Party on Thursday night. We highly recommend that you wear comfortable walking shoes. Meeting rooms tend to be chilly during the first sessions of the morning so be certain to bring a sweater or a jacket.

Can I bring a guest with me to the party?

Additional tickets for the Homecoming Party can be purchased at the NAMI Registration Desk for $40.00.

Is there time for sightseeing during convention or is the schedule full?

If you arrive in Chicago on Tuesday you will have time to sightsee on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning.

Who are my state leaders and how can I meet them?

Most states will be holding meetings during the convention. It is an excellent time to meet your state leadership.   The final schedule of state meetings will be listed in the program book.

I am looking for a member of my affiliate, how can I reach them?

A message board will be located in the hotel. Messages for convention attendees can be posted here. The message board also lists last-minute changes in room assignments, state caucuses, and other special meetings.

What are the elections being held? Can I vote?

Elections are held to determine which nominees will sit on the NAMI National Board of Directors. Only credentialed NAMI affiliate representatives can vote for the Board as well as on any pending resolutions or bylaw changes.
Voting will take place on Friday, July 8.