I had coffee with a good friend today. He had just returned from a conference and was bemoaning the fact that he didn’t choose his concurrent sessions wisely. Before heading to the conference, he had indicated that he had spent hours analyzing the program to make his choices, circled them, and then went to his selections. The conversations turned around and he asked me how I choose where I go when I go to conferences. He knew that I was headed to Philadelphia shortly to attend the ISTE Conference.
I must admit that there was a time when I would do exactly the same thing that he did and ended up with much of the same frustrations when I got home. I would be disappointed with some of the choices that I made and then I’d look at the program and it seemed like I was looking at it for the first time! A few years ago, I changed my technique and have been more satisfied with my attendance.
There are some non-negotiables and that is the keynote speakers for whom the rest of the conference stops so that everyone can attend. With any luck, the presentation will be entertaining and perhaps inspirational. But, it’s the concurrent sessions that are a challenge.
When you sit down and try to read a big program like the ISTE program, it’s a daunting task. Personally, I find that when I try to read the whole thing, I miss a great deal. So, I’ve given up on that. When I walk away, I want to get a balanced experience from the sessions so the first thing I’ll do is start a score card where I have all of the strands as organizers. As I attend a session in a strand, it gets a check for that organizer. The goal is to make sure that I’m got a balanced scoreboard by the end of the event. In terms of what’s up next … I only read ahead to the next collection of concurrent sessions and make my choice there. I’ve found that it gives me a more focussed view of what’s available rather than trying to do the whole conference in one shot. In the case of ISTE, it works well since there is considerable time between sessions.
Ditto for the poster sessions which sometimes can steal the show. If there are students at the posters, that’s where I’m headed. From the mouths of babes, the truth and enduring understanding pours forth.
I think that we all have our own method of coping. Choosing when there are so many options can be a part time job! How do you handle making your choices?
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