With so many edtech conferences occurring in the next few months, many people are preparing to go to their first (or umpteenth) conference. Attending edtech conferences can be a great way to stay in the loop, learn about the latest edtech developments, and explore innovative and successful teaching strategies as well as school- and district-wide implementations, so there’s a lot to gain for all attendees. But even seasoned conference goers may be wondering how best to use their time at conferences. Do you go to as many sessions as you can? Visit every booth in the exhibitor hall? Connect with everyone you encounter? What if you’re interested in checking out your surroundings?
It can be hard to decide how to budget your time, especially when dealing with delayed flights, traffic, and a great host city, so it’s important to do a little legwork before arriving at the conference venue. To begin, think about what you’re hoping to gain from the conference. Why are you going? If it’s a conference you’ve attended before, why are you returning? If you had to get permission to attend the conference, think back to why you explained to your boss that it’d be valuable for you to attend.
With this information fresh in mind, you can start thinking about your goals for the conference, which is the first step in determining how to spend your time there. And hopefully, doing that in combination with following our tips below will help you have the best conference experience you can!
5 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Attending Edtech Conferences
1. Download the app!
Many conferences—especially those driven by technology—use mobile apps to help attendees navigate through the venue, sessions, exhibitor hall, and host city. Typically with a conference app, you can register for sessions, quickly look up times and locations for events, and find out more detail about speakers and topics. Look into whether the conference you’re attending offers an app, and download it so you have easy access to all that information. (And don’t forget a portable phone charger for those long, session- and activity-filled days!)
2. Review the agenda before the conference, and decide which sessions you’d like to attend.
Though this may seem obvious when attending edtech conferences, make sure to take the time to review the agenda once it is finalized. You’ll probably have to choose between numerous sessions so do the reading beforehand to determine which session, speaker, or event will be the best use of your time. If you don’t check out the agenda and session information in advance, you may miss out on important sessions.
3. Look at the vendor/exhibitor hall map before arriving.
With big, well-known companies and smaller, promising startups who all want your attention and time, exhibitor halls can be really fascinating and overwhelming places when attending edtech conferences. Do yourself a favor and check out the map before walking in. Maybe you’re interested in seeing the latest offerings for students with visual impairments. Knowing where to find these exhibitors and products can help ensure you make your way over to them, even if you spot 15 other interesting displays (or people offering free goodies) along the way. Set aside some time to allow yourself the opportunity to explore the hall, and, again, make sure you’re spending your time how you would like to. There’s so much more to see!
4. Attend as many keynote sessions as you can.
There’s a reason conferences choose the keynote speakers they do. Lots of people have deep connections to education, even if they’re not apparent from their title, and it seems like every day, new people are investing in ways to develop more edtech and education innovations. So even if you don’t understand the connection between the speaker(s) and your conference, consider checking out their session(s). If nothing else, it’ll probably be an excellent speech!
5. Go to the receptions and other extra events put on by the conference.
Networking with other attendees can be a bit intimidating, but it’s also one of the best ways to benefit from attending a conference. Making professional and personal connections, even if they’re long-distance, can be tremendously helpful for you and your colleagues. Connections you make while attending edtech conferences can help you make positive and impactful changes for your school community, begin lasting partnerships, and even land future jobs.
Usually, some of the best opportunities for networking can be found at the more casual events, such as receptions, happy hours, mixers, and city tours, so make sure to take part in these. You’ll get the added bonus of seeing more of the host city, sometimes at no additional cost to you! Plus, this is a great opportunity to unload some of those business cards that have been gathering dust in your office. And remember—networking is challenging and scary for most people, so put yourself out there; you never know what might come from it!
With your goals and these 5 tips, you’ll be well equipped to make the most of your time when attending edtech conferences. Be sure to check back with us after the holidays for our recommendations for the top edtech conferences in 2019. Until then, go forth, and put your newfound conference readiness to work!