I hope that all of you are registered for the TCEA 2018 Convention & Exposition by now and are starting to get excited about the event. This year’s content promises to be the best we’ve ever had, and I can’t wait for you to experience it. But with five full days and more than 1,100 opportunities to stretch your mind, it may be a little overwhelming. Knowing that, here are four tips for a successful event, gleaned from my participation at more than 35 TCEA conventions.
Tip #1: Plan Your Experience Around “One Thing”
Admittedly, I am something of a control freak. So just winging the entire convention is definitely not something I’m comfortable with. But to be honest, there is literally so much going on that, if you don’t do at least a little planning up front, you will miss out on something amazing. So, decide first what you want to learn this year. You can certainly just pick a basket of mixed content, if you want, and go home with lots of innovative ideas. But I have found that the best learning I experience is when I am focused.
So, what do you want to learn?
- Are you trying to solve a particular problem?
- Is your campus or district implementing something new?
- Do you need resources for a specific subject area?
- Are you wanting to grow your leadership skills?
- Do you need practice in the latest educational trend?
- Are you trying to determine what perfect tech tool to purchase?
Whatever it is, I can promise you that you’ll find it at the convention. But take the time to write down your response to the following to make sure that you get everything you can out of the experience: “I will know that my time at TCEA 2018 was well spent if I walk away with _________.” That’s your “one thing,” what you will concentrate your time and energy at the convention on. That doesn’t mean you won’t learn about other things, just that your primary goal is to accomplish this one task.
Tip #2: Study the TCEA 2018 Offerings in Advance
I am always a little frightened by the attendees who show up onsite at the convention that first morning and then start looking in the printed program to see what they want to attend. Again, there’s just too much going on for that to be effective. Instead, spend some time up front getting familiar with what is being offered.
First, see what big events are going on this year. Even if you’ve attended the convention for a long time, we make slight changes every year and provide new sessions and events.
- Who are the keynoters and featured speakers? Will any of them be able to address your “one thing?”
- What’s new this year? The convention adds to its topics each year as new technologies come out. So what is being emphasized this year in the interactive learning spaces? Does that fit in with your one thing? If so, how much time will you need to spend there?
- The 2018 convention is offering Solution Circles this year, which are 50-minute facilitated, round-table conversations where attendees will discuss common problems, explore solutions, and share resources in small groups. You can see the list of topics and times here. Will one of these help educate you more about your one thing?
- Don’t forget about the great learning going on in the poster sessions. These come-and-go opportunities allow you to talk face-to-face personally with knowledgeable peers in a relaxed setting.
Next, spend some time searching for specific sessions about your one thing. You can do this with the filter and search capabilities of the convention website. The general search feature will return sessions, speakers, and exhibitors that match the keyword you searched for. You can also use the more powerful filter function (on the right side) with select tags (such as 1:1, coding, differentiation, or leadership).
For example, in the search below, I am looking for ideas on implementing a makerspace in an elementary campus.
Make a rough draft of a possible schedule of sessions to attend, leaving in some free time for impromptu conversations with peers, visiting the massive exhibit hall, and any spur-of-the-moment learning opportunities that may crop up. You don’t have to necessarily follow this schedule completely, but it will give you a place to start when you get onsite at the convention center.
One more thing about your schedule. Make sure you download the free TCEA app before you arrive. This will be the best way to keep current on any possible changes in the sessions being offered.
Tip #3: Try One New Adventure
One of the most powerful learning experiences may be one that you’ve never had before. The convention is the perfect place to expand your horizons and try something new. If you’re normally reluctant to meet new people, try introducing yourself to others in a session you attend, at a Solution Circle, or while resting your tired feet in a corner chair. If you don’t normally interact with the exhibitors much, then spend some time with a vendor who offers something related to your one thing and really dive in, getting hands-on practice and all of your questions answered. If you’re not typically a joiner, then stop by and learn about one of the Special Interest Groups (SIGs) in the TCEA membership booth and discover what they have to offer you. Put on your “I’m confident” hat and add a new experience to your convention activities.
Tip #4: Explore What TCEA Has for You After the Convention
I also strongly encourage you to stop by the TCEA Membership Booth during the big event and say “hello.” Introduce yourself to Director of Membership and Marketing Joe Vasquez and Membership Assistant Erin Taylor and let them share with you how TCEA can continue to support you long after the convention has ended. Your convention registration includes a free year of membership, and you won’t believe all the solutions and resources that will provide to help you with your one thing and many others.
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