When the ISTE conference exhibit hall opens and I venture forth, I feel ecstatic and overwhelmed. My heart races as I approach each shiny package containing a promising product. Invigorated with Hershey’s Kisses, I want to buy everything. Then I come to my senses and revert to my carefully planned route, allocating enough time to see what I came to see while leaving some unstructured moments to get happily distracted.
From the tiniest of companies with one draped table in the “back 40” of the exhibit hall to the mega corporations taking up large portions of real estate near the entrances, the exhibit hall showcases an enormous variety of exciting products — all designed to make you an awe-inspiring teacher and, ultimately, to make your students the most motivated, productive individuals on earth. If you listened to every claim and stopped for even just five minutes at every booth, it would take you forty-two precious hours to conquer the acres of opportunities.
Therefore, you must make some difficult decisions and choices. Here are some strategies.
Pinpoint your goals
It helps to know ahead of time what you want to get out of the exhibit hall. Are you looking to:
- Acquire a particular product, such as a 3D printer?
- Explore resources — for example, text-to-speech software?
- Learn about using a specific device in your classroom, such as tablets in kindergarten?
- Get a general idea about what is new and interesting?
Prepare before you leave home
- Print stickers with your contact information to save time filling out those many raffle forms.
- Bring business cards. Not everyone has the Bump app.
- Determine your available time. Study the final program and note the times of the sessions you don’t want to miss. Using the open hours of the exhibit hall, determine the times when you can visit the exhibits between your bookmarked sessions. Deduct an hour for unexpected conversations and other distractions.
- Study the exhibit hall configuration. Using the interactive floor plan, determine how many rows there are and how they are numbered. Look up the location of any vendors you want to visit as well as the workshops that interest you.
- Get the ISTE 2014 mobile app and explore the options. Mark any vendors that interest you to save them as favorites.
Decide how to proceed
Will you walk down each aisle methodically? Will you focus on specific vendors or products? Will you just wander, letting sounds and sights determine your path? Or, perhaps, a combination of all three?
Don’t leave home, or your hotel, without:
- Comfortable shoes — it’s safe to assume you’ll walk miles.
- A charged phone with a camera, or a digital camera with a charged battery.
- A backpack or shoulder bag for what you collect along the way, or a small wheeled bag (less shoulder stress, but hazardous in crowds).
- A refillable water bottle.
- Healthy snacks — unless, of course, you want to feast on candy.
While on the exhibit floor
- When given a business card, write a summary of your conversation on the back.
- Take photos of products, signs, vendors and anything else that will jog your memory.
- Gather web sites rather than brochures.
- Say “no” when needed. Vendors want to interest you in their products and will entice you with everything from free gifts to great food. If you are on your way to a predetermined destination, DO NOT STOP. In your most respectful voice, say “No thank you,” smile, and walk away quickly and purposely.
Beyond all of these guidelines and suggestions, make sure you don’t lose sight of the essence of ISTE. This is a place where opportunity and preparation combine for success. ISTE is an experience that motivates and inspires. It is all about connecting to other educators, learning about innovations and emerging technologies, and discovering how to thoughtfully apply them.
Learn loads. Have fun. Dream big.