Thursday, June 13, 2013

Getting the Most Out of Conferences

I would like to start with a wonderful experience I just had, that is, attending the AASE conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.  As I was coming home on the plane, I got to thinking about the importance of being ASPish when attending a conference.  Here are some thoughts:

 Before:  The week beforehand, think about what your goals are for the conference.  This could include gaining a specific area of knowledge, a skill, getting started on publishing, finding a mentor, joining leadership, acquiring course materials or relevant syllabi. Read the program and think about which sessions you will go to.  If you have a buddy, agree to exchange information from the sessions you attend.

 During:  Make a friend. We all need someone you can call in our dark moments when we need advice or support from someone who knows what it is you are going through.  Having someone you can bounce ideas off of without embarrassment is a wonderful thing. Be a friend.  Offer to send someone your materials or give some advice about something.

Take good notes.  For my learning style, it is essential that I take notes.  Whether you use a computer or handwrite, keep a section in your notes with action items to do when you get home. Add to the action items as you go through the conference and as ideas you want to use arise.  Monitor your progress on your conference goals.  Sit at a table for a meal with people you do not know and get to know them.  Take advantage of the social activities (board games!).  It is a great way to get to know people and also to have fun.

Find and tell a presenter from last year how what they spoke about made a difference in what you did over the last year.  Fill out evaluations as you are in the presentation.  We all know the importance of feedback and since we are all ASPish, the feedback will be positive and concrete. Pace yourself – take a nap?  Even extroverts can be overwhelmed at ASP conferences! If provided, put handouts in your folder on left side, program on right.  Keep receipts in you folder on left side so that when you return you can do your reimbursement request right away. 

 After:  When you get back, print your notes and put them in a binder. Or, if you are not a paper person, scan handouts, especially those that are lessons “in a box” and put them on a thumb drive or in a computer file for easy access. If the conference materials were provided on a thumb drive write on it with a Sharpie or tag it with the date, conference title and location. Follow up with emails or phone calls to your new friends. Send out at least one email to students (and your Dean) with a nugget you got from the conference the first week you are back. Send a thank you to the dean of one of the coordinators, presenters or send thank you to a sponsor.  Fill out you reimbursement request.  Scan your notes and materials for the best websites referenced and add those websites to your favorites.  Order desk copies of new books you heard about.  Practice using tools you learned about i.e. pollev.com (thanks Russell!)

 Finally,  prepare a lesson or workshop using a technique or information you gained from the conference.  Conferences provide a wonderful experience, looking forward to seeing you all next year in Indianapolis. (Bonnie Stepleton)

 

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