Getting the Most Out of a Conference

Many of you are planning your 2014 conference landscape including experiences like edcampSTL, METC, and ISTE.  As a part of your planning, it is time to take some steps to make sure that you get the most out of the your conference experiences. Too often, we rush out of our buildings at the last minute to head to the airport to attend a conference with the details of school flooding through our heads. When we land at the conference, it takes us a few days to decompress, get in the mindset to learn, and inevitably the conference is coming to an end when we are primed for our best growth. To avoid this, think about trying one or more of the following ideas as a way to get the most out of your time with your colleagues from throughout the nation.

1. Think about how you are going to organize your thoughts throughout the conference. How will you organize your notes to make them last beyond the conference? One suggestion would be to write a daily blog post or e-mail summary of the day for your staff. This time of reflection and synthesis are key for ideas to germinate and spread into your building and beyond. Do you have a blog? Look to Wordpress or Blogger for free places to start your digital story. Publishing your thoughts helps spread ideas to places beyond your office and your school.

2. Begin learning on Twitter. There has been no better space to grow professionally over the last five years than through the set of loose connections and networks that Twitter can provide. There are tons of great resources on how to start using Twitter, and I’d be happy to help if you reach out to me on Twitter @ideaguy42. Throughout the conference, the best ideas, resources, and conversations will be on Twitter with school leaders at the conference and beyond. Get started now, so that you can get past the learning curve on how to use Twitter, so that learning will be front and center.

3. Connect with another learner that is attending before you arrive. It is certainly great to have those random meetings in sessions, but it is also helpful to start a new conversation today. Conferences are best when people are able to bring electronic or phone conversations to life face-to-face. It is also a great idea to reach out to someone that you wouldn’t normally talk to at the conference, someone that is outside of your normal comfort zone as those conversations bear some of the greatest fruit.

4. Watch a TED talk. It is important to get in the mode of thinking and exploring ideas, and there is no better place to do that than TED.com. Thousands of incredible ideas are spread through this network each day. Most of the ideas aren’t specifically about education, but they are ideas that provide some lateral capacity building for school leaders. This fresh capacity can bring a new lens to our work, and it can also provide us with ideas that we can carry into education from fields as diverse as botany, rocket science, and poetry.

5. Be ready to share the best stuff at your school. It is so important that the conference feels like a rich marketplace of ideas, and every school has trapped wisdom and ideas that are worth sharing. What three programs are excellent at your school? Why are they excellent? Telling your story to others also helps you and your building grow.