How to Find and Get the Most Out of Your Next Ed-Tech Conference
When you hear the word “conferences,” you probably think of parents waiting outside your classroom to discuss their child’s progress, report card, and perhaps behavior or academic issues. Now think bigger.
Find the Conference That's Right for You
The education technology conference business encompasses local, regional, and national shows, and it’s alive and well. Attending these shows is a great way to pump up your skill set, connect with new colleagues and experts, and recharge your batteries. This graphic on 2015-16 ed-tech conferences and its two-page printout show you when and where you can find a conference. With so many on the list, chances are you can find at least one that’s convenient for you.
Connect and See the Latest Industry Trends
Ed-tech conferences are the perfect launching platform for learning about the latest trends in education. Take the time to step outside of the classroom and connect with like-minded teachers, administrators, and technologists; meet with leading researchers in the field; sit in on useful workshops and sessions; and join conversations with your academic peers. You can get a close-up look at the latest products on the market, and even give them a test-drive. Plus, you’ll probably score some awesome swag as you traverse the trade-show exhibit floor!
To best prepare, perform, and network at an industry conference, keep these simple tips in mind:
- Do the Legwork. Chances are there are several conferences you might want to attend. To ensure a particular conference is right for you, check the conference brochure and/or website to learn more about its specific focus and goals. If the goals don’t match yours, then it’s likely not the best fit.
- Make a Plan and Work It. The same holds true for the individual sessions. Give plenty of advance thought as to why you are going to the conference and what you would like to get out of it. What issues are you and your colleagues grappling with currently? What new programs, developments, strategies, and hardware and/or software products do you hope to explore? Mimio, like many companies, hosts sessions you can join at their booth; sessions include demonstrations by educators who use the products and can speak to your unique needs or challenges. Consider sharing the conference program with other teachers and your building administrators in advance, to see whether they’d like you to attend a particular session and report back to them. Finally, don’t pick a particular session just because it sounds interesting. What you learn should complement what you are working on with your students, and stretch your professional skill set to a whole new level.
- Connect – Friend, Tweet, Link, or Click to Join. Use social media to find other teachers or technology specialists attending the same conference, then start up a conversation online. What sessions are they considering? Maybe you can divide and conquer by covering different sessions and sharing what you learn with your new professional connections. To connect with other attendees, put your Twitter handle and email address on your name badge. Some conferences even go so far as to host Tweetups for Twitter users to meet face-to-face.
- Up, Up, and Away. Flight and hotel options quickly become limited – or too expensive – for top-rated conferences. So make your plans early. And speaking of travel expenses, don’t forget that attending a conference can cost hundreds of dollars. Consider asking your school administration and local parent-teacher group for financial assistance. You might also be able to apply for one of the scholarships sometimes offered by conference organizers.
- Network, Network, Network. In real estate the byword is location, location, location. At professional conferences, it’s all about networking. Teachers may not be accustomed to mixing and mingling at cocktail parties for work, but social hours can be a vital part of the conferences. Some of the best conversations can be had at an event sponsored by one of the large exhibitors, at a conference-hosted meet-and-greet after the keynote has been given, or even while waiting in line at the local Starbucks.
- That’s a Wrap. When you get home, your mind will be on information overload. Take some time to sort through your notes to see how you can implement what you’ve learned. Consider creating a chart with three columns: one for things you will do straight away, one for things you would like to do in the next month or maybe even the next semester, and one for the topics you want to learn more about. When you head back to “the real world,” you may find it a challenge to keep your conference learning in mind as you contend with the day-to-day realities of being a teacher. It takes time to implement new ideas, so take it slow.
And Finally, a Few Insider Tricks of the Trade:
- Consider bringing several pages of mailing labels with your school contact information to use on raffle tickets (some folks still expect you to fill out a form instead of scanning your badge). That way you can avoid having to fill out your information multiple times.
- On the last day of the conference, vendors often try to unload products they don’t want to carry home. So take another walk around the exhibit hall before you leave.
- Don’t forget to bring an extra travel bag to take home the books, posters, notebooks, and other goodies you collect during the conference!
Looking to connect with Mimio at an upcoming trade show or event? Check out our upcoming schedule. >>