NECC Attendee Tips Gleaned From My Vast Experience Being There … Umm … Once .. Last Year!

#1 – Unless you have to be there, spend as little time on the vendor floor as possible.  Last year I did a “walkthrough” for about 25 minutes and that was it … and I didn’t feel later like I missed anything. The glitz and freebies are tempting but what you generally find is you get bags of freebies that weeks or months later you realize you mainly just threw out. Most software trials are available online anyhow.

Some good friends of mine gathered so much “stuff” at the National Science Teachers conference years ago that they paid over $25 to ship it home because they had no room left in their baggage. They were ecstatic at all the “great stuff” they got. You guessed it, 99% of everything ended up thrown out unused over the next 2 or 3 years. Besides, there is so much else going on that you will miss a ton being collared by sales people that want you to see their stuff and listen to their pitch.

The vendor floor has always been where you went between sessions at any conference. If there weren’t any sessions that appealed to you during a time that is when you visited the floor. Well at NECC the Bloggers Café and various other venues are constantly abuzz and full of people to have conversations with and see Impromptu demos of software and techniques. When I would stroll into those venues after being at a session last year something was always going on. I also skipped sessions I had planned to attend because of getting caught up in what was going on in the Cafe.

#2 – Make a schedule of all the sessions you want to see … then be ready to ignore it … or at least a lot of it.  If you’ve been to any conference you know that figuring out which sessions to attend is hard because how a session is described too often isn’t what you expected, or it ends up being way over your head or so introductory as to be worthless to you, and by the time you figure that out it’s too late to get into another. 

Last year there were times that, via Twitter or Skype, someone already in a session that wasn’t even on your radar screen would Twit that they were in an awesome session with empty seats in room ____.

#3 – Don’t be afraid to hang out and put your 2 cents in. My experience last year was that all those people whose blogs you read are pretty approachable. Use common sense and if they look busy leave them alone. You could tell when someone had just been in a session or had a conversation they wanted to blog or whatever … they would sit off to the side and be obviously totally focused on writing on their laptop … get a clue and leave them alone. Anyone you see sitting with the group … mosey on over and look for your opening. Nobody was a bigger no body last year than me (or shyer), and I felt included throughout. I did read blogs from people later that stopped by and were afraid to inject themselves (understandable … it can be intimidating), but give it a shot. If you see me … come say hi.

#4 – Bring a cheap plug strip. I forget who exactly … it was one of the WOW2 women (Cheryl or Jen I think) had one last year and we would all moan every time she left the café and took her strip with her … there were only so many plugs. AND if you have an extra battery, BRING IT!

#5 – Don’t stress … YOU ARE GOING TO MISS SOME COOL THINGS YOU WISH YOU HADN’T MISSED! It’s OK … you will see and learn so much that you won’t be able to process it all … it won’t matter!

If I think of anything else I’ll pass it along. And those of you that have more experience than I … pass it along in the comments.

Learning is messy!

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8 Responses to NECC Attendee Tips Gleaned From My Vast Experience Being There … Umm … Once .. Last Year!

  1. Pingback: Tech Chick Tips » Blog Archive » NECC, Here We Come!

  2. Cheryl Oakes says:

    Brian, right on! It is great to meet new people at NECC. I think Jen had the power strip, but maybe I should put one in my bag! See you at NECC. I don’t know about you but I have over 20 postcards to visit the vendors. I know which vendors I want to see, I will use the map, then, do other things. I am presenting at Oracle for think.com Tue. and Wed. 9:30 to 10 am, stop by!

  3. Jen says:

    Smiles — it was me. And my #1 thing to bring, which I posed on the NECC 08 NING, was to bring a PowerStrip……so though I hope you miss me not being at NECC – hopefully you will have MORE than enough power strips!!

    It was a pleasure to meet you last year — and I didn’t think you were shy…..just quiet. :)

    I liked what you said about using common sense about meeting the people you wish to meet — just being aware of where they might be. BUT — smiles — don’t always let them use that as a wall — sometimes you just have to plunk yourself day, smile, and say “HI, I am (iinsert name here) and you are (insert name)” If they are TOO busy to talk — I have found they will still be gracious enough to say “hello” and then let you know they are in the midst of something. So — do be cautious, but don’t miss the chance to meet MANY MANY MANY great people….those with names you know already and those with names you will know soon!!

    Have a grand time.
    Can’t wait to hear about it.

    Jen

  4. “Unless you have to be there, spend as little time on the vendor floor as possible.”

    This is an interesting position.

    First, let me make it very clear that I am neither a vendor nor do I have a booth.

    However, I do know at least two things:

    1) Running a conference is a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE expense; and,

    2) What vendors pay for their booths covers the lion’s share of the cost of running the conference.

    So, if we promote attendees not visiting vendors, and if attendees follow that advice, the obvious result would be that vendors would see no value in buying booths. Ergo, there would either be no conference or it would be too expensive for educators to attend.

    However expensive it is to both run and attend a land-based conference, I believe there is value to and so much to gain from the “wisdom of the crowd” that happens at these events.

    I guess I am more comfortable with shaking all vendors hands and thanking them for their support of this community of learners.

  5. It can be very expensive to run a conference. But it doesn’t have to be. We ran EduCon for very little money. Granted, there’s a world of difference between EduCon and NECC, but let’s just remember there’s more than one way to do it.

    Also, I’ve paid my conference fee and my ISTE membership. I am in no way obligated to go to the exhibit floor. I’m going to walk the floor to demo the HP Mini-Note, because I’m considering them for my school, but otherwise, I’m not going to spend a lot of time there.

    Beware the Educational-Industrial Complex. There’s a lot of companies making a lot of money off of ed-tech. The exhibit floor is a prime example of that.

  6. Mike says:

    Visit the vendors but do so with purpose. Before you get on the plane, think about what it is that you want to see and learn about and then focus your time on the exhibit floor on getting the knowledge you need. Sometimes those booths feel like the worst brand of hucksterism. Be prepared to ask lots of questions about how the latest and greatest will benefit your students. Visit the vendors but make them work for their (your?) money.

  7. Diane Quirk says:

    Brian,
    Thanks for your advise here. I’ve been to NECC twice before and couldn’t agree with you more about the exhibits and running in to people you “know.” I didn’t wander into the bloggers cafe in Atlanta and regretted it afterwards. I’m hoping to run into you actually. I would love to hear more about your Harris Burdick project as I have a few teachers who would like to replicate it during the next year.

  8. Dean Mattson says:

    I’m going to be attending my first NECC this year, so I very much appreciate your tips. There is so much to see and so much to learn, it can be a little overwhelming, but I’m looking forward to the experience!

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