DRAFT: How to be a smart conference goer!

Here are a few tips for you I’m preparing for a conference. Let’s be strategic. 

First, let’s break down the conference.  

1. The sessions/ presenters. The sessions are usually focused around someone sharing something that works for them, how to use  a product/tool, or, explaining a trend. There maybe more, however, these are the main ones. 

2. The  Exhibit hall. Here is where developers and companies share their products with the conference goers and give away free crap. 

3. The social networking before, between, during, and after the conference events. Here is where people meet, share reflections, making new friends, and have a good time with their peers and new ones from other places. 

The challenge:

So let’s think about how to maximize each part. I know many of you struggle communicating those many special moments. I know it’s tough to Convey the environment  the conference provided you. I know it’s a struggle to go back to your school colleagues, who were not blessed enough to go with you, The many wonderful opportunities you experienced. Therefore, you’re probably starting off on the wrong foot delivering what worked for you.

The problem is storytelling. The story experience at the conference, the conference posting city, and the environment of the event doesn’t translate very well if you just come back with a bag of fliers and links to website. So much of the story happens in real time and, if you think about it, you have resources on you and I can help you be more effective and efficient at storytelling the experience back to your colleagues.

Effective conference going Tip 1. 

Think about how to select people to go and think about how you’re going to use those people at the conference.  For example, send teachers who are willing to share and report back what they experienced in cool and creative ways. Ask teachers to share how they would storytell the event. Make this a priority for your whole staff to be this audience for this conference goer and their report!  Popcorn please. This adds a bit more accountability to who gets to go. It should be a school priority to provide the necessary stage and audience to discuss what was seen and what was learned from the experience.

If you have the luxury of sending more than one teacher, create a plan ahead of time. Identify someone who can help story tell the event. Let’s call them the team mentor. Also, Select people who can be the mentees. They’re the ones that are going for the first time or may be new to that conference’s themes. They will work as a team to share the experience of the conference from someone who has gone through the experience and someone who is new to the experience.

Choosing the right team and making the goals clear, and, agreeing on common language on how to report back is fundamental.

The more creative. Use a variety of ways to report back.   Don’t wait until the airplane ride back to write your full reflection. Collect along the way like a photojournalist would Cover an event live.  Leverage your mobile device to help capture moments that matter. As a kid, I loved my moms slideshows. Everybody would sit down and listen to her talk about the picture and what happened around it. I love the question and answers that happened afterwards too.

With this new team, write down some goals you have for the conference. What are concepts you need clarified. What are resources you need to look into more. Who are people you feel you need to meet and listen to. What are companies and or products you feel you need to understand  more. Planet out. Identify sessions, presenters, and exhibits that can and will help you answer your key essential question, for example, how do I improve and increase learning opportunities at my school? Create a process to collect questions from your colleagues as well. Although they are not going, what would they like to learn from this event. Take their list and keep an eye out for solutions or resources that can help answer their questions. This will create more buy-in from them as well.

Four the sessions, write down your reflections. What were some victories that you experienced because of the session or presenter? What were some key lessons learned from the experience? What word needs and concerns for you after the session or after hearing the presenter? Agreeing on this reflective format can help you with your writing, podcast, or video making prompt. Try to do it immediately after the session and or at night before going to bed. If you quick reflective lines can go along way. Use the dictation tool. I do all the time!

For the exhibit, create a top 10 or top five list. Find the top or best of. Again, talk about why you like it. What question does it answer, how will people benefit from this, and why do you think it’s cool. Create a quick 2 to 3 question prompts that will help you create a template for you and your team to create this list. Pictures of the exhibit item or both, interviews with the booth representative, and or video will help you convey the story more effectively.

For the social time, I have two key tips. 1. Connect informally with your team. Go out! Take advantage of this new place to get to know each other better outside of  school  distractions. It’s key to build relationships with people who are going to help you make the world a better place.  2. Connect with new people. Exchange business cards, twitter links, Facebook links, etc.   really follow up with them! I cannot tell you the benefits I have experienced because of my new relationships with my new colleagues. Because of the connected world we live in, they can be your true colleagues. Follow up with them! Work on projects together! Make conductivity and collaboration real and not just words schools like to throw around.

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