Planning for a Conference

Published: 2023-03-14 12:00 |

Category: Tips | Tags: conference, macul, events, education

I'm heading to MACUL this week and I realized that I have an entire confence prep routine that I go through to make sure I get the most out of attendance. The event is an investment in me from school and this is one way I honor that investment in my work. Going to conferences isn't my favorite thing in the world (I think I've become more introverted since moving to a farm...) but it is a good way to get ideas and check my own assumptions about what works well and what doesn't in my role.

  1. Read the schedule carefully. This seems like a no-brainer, but I go through the schedule three or four times before leaving. Going through multiple times gives me time to process what I've already bookmarked and to notice something I missed previously. That helps me avoid standing around, feeling indecisive while at the event.
  2. Mark multiple sessions each block. I used to pick my top choice and stick with it. But then, one day, I realized that I can leave a session that wasn't what I expected. I generally bookmark three or four sessions in a given block of time so I can move quickly if I need to.
  3. Pay attention to the speaker bio. There are times when a session looks good, but it turns out to be a sponsored vendor session. They can have value, but I find that it's better to just go visit the booth to learn about the product rather than use a workshop block for the same thing.
  4. Team up. I'm lucky enough to be able to go with a team, so we divide and conquer. Our interests and projects are diverse enough that we don't often end up in the same session, but it's always nice to be able to plan ahead so we can avoid surprises.
  5. Prepare to meet people. This is tough for me because I like to process on my own, but some of the best learning has happened when I grabbed a free lunch seat with a stranger. When 5,000 people gather in one place, chairs can be scarce at meals, so pop down next to someone you don't know and start chatting. You're all there to learn and meals are a great spot to chat about something you picked up.

I have a little bit of a grief cycle, where I'm excited about a conference when I register, but then the week of the event, I wonder what I was thinking when I committed to going. But, these routines help me get into the right mindset to make the most of the time.

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