If this is your first time attending ISTE’s big conference, there are a few things you need to know. Having attended four previous events, I’ve figured out how to get the most out of the experience.
Here’s what you need to think about when getting ready for ISTE 2014:
1. Be comfortable. This is not a super fancy affair where you need to rock your heels or loafers. You’ll be walking and standing more than you can imagine, so wear “getting around” shoes. When moving from session to session, hurrying to lunch and standing around talking to friends, you run the risk of having a miserable conference if you’re not in a comfortable pair of shoes.
2. Plan your schedule one day at a time. I say one day at a time because you might learn something new each day and that might alter what you want to see and do the next. It’s important to understand that you will not be able to see and do it all. There will be times when it’s impossible to attend all of the sessions you’re interested in, and you’ll have to rely on Twitter to fill you in.
3. Drink heavily. You’ll need to keep hydrated during the course of the day as you move from place to place. Carry a water bottle and fill it up frequently. You might not realize you’re thirsty in the air-conditioned convention center, and it’s easy to get so busy you forget to have a drink, but you’ll want to keep your stamina up for the evening events.
4. Eat something. Make sure you get your three meals a day — and possibly a fourth. It’s easy to get wrapped up and forget to have a relaxed meal, but remember that ISTE is a marathon, not a sprint. Find time for a good sit-down meal to rest and collect your thoughts.
5. Mingle! You’ll learn some interesting things in the sessions, but I truly believe the best learning happens in the hallways and lounge areas. Don’t be afraid to walk up to people and introduce yourself. We’re all there to learn, and we can only do that if others are willing to share. Most of us do not bite and would love to put a real face to the digital avatars from our PLNs.
6. Hit the exhibit hall. Even if you’re not in the position to make purchases for your building or district, you can come across some great tools that could help you in your classroom — and you can share them with the people who are in charge of purchases. The vendors also have great giveaways and are more than happy to answer your questions.
7. Bring business cards. You’ll meet many different people and it can be tough to remember everyone. Business cards are a great way to quickly share your information with another person so you can reconnect after the conference.
8. Attend the parties. This is a huge one. Keep your ears open and network to find out where the big after-hours events are. Not only is it fun to get free food and drinks, but parties are a great place to connect with some of your favorite companies. I’ve made some amazing connections with different groups that have really impacted the way I run my class.
9. Join Twitter. If you’re not on Twitter at this point, you’ll miss out on so much during the conference. Most of the speakers and many of the attendees share information and resources on Twitter. Following the #ISTE2014 hashtag adds an extra dimension to the experience — and follow me (@TheNerdyTeacher) to see the whacky things I’m up to!
10. Have fun! This one seems silly to say, but ISTE is an event that should be enjoyed and not viewed as work. Meet up with friends, have a drink and share stories from the school year. This is a great chance to surround yourself with people who love education and technology as much as you do. Embrace it and enjoy your time there. If you do this, you’ll want to come back year after year like me.