Conference Like a Pro: Tips and tricks for making the most of your conference experience

Attending conferences for Professional Development can be a lot of fun - but the logistics can be a pain! Here is a quick set of tips to help make your PD conference experiences the best they can be! 

  1. Choose Your Conference Wisely

    1. Several conferences offer credits for the sessions you attend, but are the sessions going to give you practical advice for reaching your specific goals? It’s important to make sure the time spent away gives you key talking points and action items to bring back to the next team meeting. Think about what you would report after the conference, and if that information is helpful for what’s going on in your district.

  2. What do I pack?

    1. While it may be hot and sunny outside, convention centers and hotel ballrooms can be pretty chilly. Layers are key to maximize comfort. Also, consider packing in a color scheme to mix and match outer layers and limit how many pieces you need to pack overall. And don’t forget that travel umbrella for sessions in adjacent buildings!

    2. While there is  no official dress code for most conferences, you’ll find that attendees stick to something along the lines of ‘business casual’.  

    3. Daytime events often transition into night events without a trip back to your hotel room. Prepare for a long day- a breath mint, bobby pins, or a pair of flats just might save the day.

    4. Early mornings won’t be as easy as at home. Think you’ll be out late with new friends and colleagues? Eyedrops. Eating a special diet and worried about breakfast? Pack plenty of snacks.  

  3. Get around like a local.

    1. Use mobile apps to maximize the time on your breaks or in the evening. Yelp is great for finding local cafes or eateries, Uber is a fantastic alternative to taxis- cheap, fast, and friendly. Check out mapmywalk to visualize your routes and see how far you’ve walked in a day. Wunderground has a great app that shows you weather conditions minute by minute.

  4. Take Advantage of Exhibitors

    1. Be the conference attendee that asks questions your colleagues may not be brave enough to ask. Chances are, you might just help out one of your teammates and get that key piece of information that will help make the overall decision when it comes to what your district needs.

  5. Prepare Yourself

    1. Jot down a few questions that you might like to have answered before you go- if the conference concerns tech- ask yourself what you’d really like to know or see and don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t find the answer up front.

  6. Be a Sponge

    1. Go to as many sessions as you can, but don’t kill yourself taking perfect notes if you know you will never look back at them. Use your smartphone or tablet to snap a quick pic of the slide to reference later rather than trying to write it all down now.

    2. Look up the presenter afterward and try to connect with them on social media- follow their twitter, read their blog.

    3. Tweeting during a session to the session presenter can get you noticed by some pretty reputable leaders in our industry. Grow your connected community of educators and continue the learning and sharing even after the conference is over.

  7. Gimme a Break

    1. Give yourself time for rest- and getting off your feet- the amount of stimulation at a conference can be overwhelming.

    2. And by rests, we don’t mean tending to your email. Make sure your Angry Birds score doesn’t go stale and really give your brain a break. After all - you’ve been working it pretty hard!

  8. Connect, Talk, Mingle

    1. It's hard for everyone to approach strangers, it's definitely not just you. Be brave and reach out. You’ll be glad you did. and when it comes to following up with them- don’t waste days and energy trying to craft the most perfect professional email in the history of emails. A quick hello with a question or request, or just a thank you is easy. Don’t overthink it!

  9. Reflection is Important

    1. Take some time to journal - and don't overthink this either- briefly taking time to jot down thoughts or reflections can help those ideas to stick in your brain- you don’t have to be a prize winning novelist- this journal is just for you. Journaling can help you maintain the energy and enthusiasm you found at the conference, and allow you to communicate this to your team when you return home!

Have any tips of your own? We’d love to hear them! Share in the comments below.

Thanks for reading! Here are more resources to support students and educators

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