Your first conference?

With the conference being two weeks away, I’ll review some suggestions for first-timers.

At this point, you should be registered, have arrangements for lodging and transportation, and have your lesson plans ready for the substitute.
Consider attending the first-timers session on the first day. This year, Dr. Christine Royce is hosting the session twice on Thursday (8:00 -9:00 and 3:30-4:30) in the Hilton Continental 5. It’s worth the time.
There are a few other things you should do before you go:

  • Add the NSTA Conference page to your bookmarks or favorites. Be sure to check out the Conference Newcomer’s page.
  • Decide what you’d like to focus on at the conference: What content do you want to know more about? What topics do your students struggle with? Are you looking for new textbooks or equipment? Get suggestions from your colleagues, too. Ask your students what you should learn more about (related to science, of course!). Then go to the conference website and use the Session Browser/Scheduler to look at the session descriptions. You can even print out a personal schedule.
  • Preview the Conference Transcript section on the conference site. When you turn in a session evaluation, the session will be added automatically to your transcript. You can also add events manually. This is a great way to show your administrators which sessions you attended—and it looks impressive!

Read more suggestions on what to take and what to do.

Some hints on what to take:

  • An empty bag—preferably one with wheels—if you know you can’t resist picking up every brochure, handout, and session material you encounter (resistance can be futile), although many presenters are now posting their handouts online.
  • Address labels are handy for sign-up sheets and marking your program and other materials.
  • If you don’t have any business cards, get some or make your own. Be sure to include your e-mail address and what and where you teach. These are great to handout when you’re networking with other teachers, presenters, and exhibitors.
  • A digital camera or cellphone camera is handy to take pictures of equipment, displays, speakers, and new friends.
  • Have an envelope or other system for keeping receipts and other documents. Expenses not reimbursed by your school might be tax-deductible (check with your accountant).
  • Above all, wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared for San Francisco’s changeable weather!

At the Conference:

  • Pick up your badge holder, your copy of the program (there’s one for each day) and other conference materials ahead of time, if possible. Take some time to finalize your daily schedules. I like to put a small reminder in my badge holder with the session names, times, and locations. You can also stash a few of your business cards in your badge holder, making it easier to hand them out to new contacts.
  • Turn in the session evaluations so they can be added to your transcript.
  • Get to the sessions early. Sometimes the smaller rooms fill up quickly. Have a back-up session in mind in case the room is full.
  • Divide and conquer if you’re attending with friends or colleagues. You can only be at one place at a time, so coordinate with other teachers on what to attend and how to share notes and materials from sessions.
  • Consider taking some snacks and a water bottle (the concessions are often crowded at lunch time).
  • It’s tempting to collect every brochure, poster, and promotional giveaway in the exhibit area. It’s like a science wonderland! But whatever you collect, you’ll have to get home somehow. I know teachers who take an empty bag (see above under things to take) they can check on the way home (or you can ship things home via a delivery service).
  • Take some time for sightseeing, especially if this is your first trip to San Francisco. There will be a booth at registration staffed by local teachers. They’ll have lots of ideas and suggestions for what to see and do and where to eat. My favorite things to do include the Exploratorium museum (but it’s not your ordinary museum!), noshing in Chinatown or North Beach (you’ll walk off the calories on the hills), being a tourist and riding the cable cars, or just strolling around this lovely place. The area right around the Moscone Center has become an amazing collection of eateries and coffee shops, many with outdoor seating.
  • Keep a log or journal of the sessions you attended, people you met, and new ideas. Update your homepage, Facebook, tweets, or class Wiki/blog with a summary of what you are learning at the conference. I’ve even seen teachers Skyping back to their students!
  • Update your conference transcript.
  • Introduce yourself to teachers at the sessions or events. You’ll meet lots of interesting people and make many new personal connections. Although it’s important to keep up with your colleagues via texts/tweets/email, take the opportunity to actually talk to the teachers in line with you or sitting next to you at a session. The value of a face-to-face conference is meeting and interacting with real people, and teachers are the most interesting people of all.
  • Attend a session or two on a topic you know nothing about. It’s a good way to learn something new.

Back Home:

  • Share your experiences with your students. Use some of the promotional items you collected as prizes or gifts.
  • Organize and file your notes and handouts. Share the materials and what you learned with your colleagues.
  • Send a note of appreciation to the administrator who approved your attendance at the conference. Write a brief article for the school or district newsletter, if appropriate.
  • Print your transcript.
  • Get ready for next year!

Does anybody else have tips for conference newbies? Please leave a comment.

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1 Response to Your first conference?

  1. Martha Harms says:

    How can I find out if anyone is attending from my area? zip codes 60435, 60527

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