You guys. Only three more days till thousands of educators and vendors descend on San Antonio for 4 days of immersive learning, networking, growing, fun, and connecting! Cannot wait!!
This is the first year I will be presenting at ISTE. While I’ve presented at many statewide conferences, this is my first ISTE and I’m a TIIIIINY bit intimidated. I’ll be sharing a Snapshot style session on podcasting. This year I started at podcast in my district, and I’ll be talking about our process and how I worked to get the teachers on board and begin utilizing podcasts in their professional practice. If you’re interested, I’d love to see you on Monday!
This will be my third ISTE conference, and for you newbies, it really is an incredible experience. I’m no expert, but here are my tips for making the most of ISTE.
- Have a focus – especially in the Expo Hall
There are SO many sessions going on at the same time! Obviously there is only one of you and lots and lots to choose from. When choosing my sessions, I try to think about what my big goals are that I want to focus on for the rest of the summer and the upcoming school year. Is it GSuite Implementation? Blended learning? Flipped PD? This will help eliminate some options. Another tip: Poster Sessions are a great way to get a lot of ideas and resources in a short amount of time. Most poster sessions will have a QR code to scan or a shortened URL to visit to access resources and presenter information.
The first time I entered the Expo Hall at ISTE, I was blown away. Some of the big name vendors – like Google – pull out all the stops and create incredible displays and have a lot of events going on. It’s seriously impossible to visit every vendor and have even a 30 second conversation with each one; that’s how many there are! So again, having a focus is going to be super important as you can bypass a lot of the vendors that aren’t in the business of what you’re looking for.
- Don’t pack your schedule full, but give yourself some options
It can be really tempting to pack your schedule full of back-to-back-to-back sessions. After all, your district probably spent a hefty chunk of change to send you here. I liken it to making the decision to lose weight. You decide to do ALL. THE. THINGS at the same time – work out, cut out sugar/snacks/pop/carbs/delicious food, eat more veggies, drink more water, etc. You lose momentum quickly because it’s just too much! It’s kinda the same thing with a big conference like ISTE. Not only are you walking (a LOT), carrying lots of stuff, your brain is trying to process so much information. By day two, you will be exhausted. I find it’s helpful to find sessions that are really focused on my goals. But sometimes you get to a session and it’s not quite as advertised, or maybe the presenter’s situation is so much different from your educational setting, you can’t really connect. Whatever it is, you have options! You don’t HAVE to stay in a session that isn’t meeting your needs.
I find one of the best parts of conferences is the networking I do outside of formal sessions. Find someone in a session and exchange contact info. Or maybe you meet for coffee with a vendor and you can really dive deep into your goals for implementation in the district. Those conversations are often more valuable and lead to other opportunities, much more than sitting in a session.
- Divide and conquer
If you are fortunate enough to be attending the conference with someone from your district, don’t spend all your time with them! While having a buddy next to you at a session always helps, it’s not the best way to maximize resources. Split up, create a shared Google Doc, take notes, and then you have twice as many resources as you would if you both went to the same sessions!
- Attend events outside the conference
There are always lots of Happy Hour events put on by vendors during ISTE. Of course, you can choose where you want to go and how you want to spend your down time, but it’s really fun to meet up with people outside of a formal setting of a conference and let your hair down a bit. Networking and talking to others is always so valuable – and doing it over some appetizers and a beverage is even better!
- Dress comfortably and in layers
This year’s conference site is in San Antonio, Texas. It’s gonna be HOT! But, most of the rooms and conference spaces are air conditioned and, if you tend to get cold, wearing layers might be helpful! Last year in Denver I was really warm walking to the conference site, but by the time I had been in a session for a few minutes, I was chilly. It’s important to dress comfortably, but still professionally; leave those Lululemon workout pants for the gym! You’re also going to be walking a lot, and maybe from one end of the conference center to the other in short order, so being able to walk quickly is important. My first year I wore strappy sandals; big mistake! My arches were so sore!!
This is especially important if your hotel isn’t within walking distance to the convention center. I like to eat pretty healthy, and sometimes it can be tough to find healthy food options. I always travel with high quality protein bars like RX Bars or GoMacro bars. I usually bring almonds, nut butter, and maybe some fruit. A re-fillable water bottle is also a staple in my bag.
- Have fun!