Why I Attend ISTE

This summer, I attended my 7th ISTE/NECC Conference. I didn’t write up a conference reflection post when I got back, but was thinking recently about why I attend, despite several reasons why it may not be a great idea.

The timing of the conference isn’t that great. It falls right in the middle of Summerfest and I love attending this festival with family and friends. My kids also have games or tournaments and I usually miss some of their events. ISTE is also about a week before DENSI, which is another week long PD opportunity I love attending. ISTE is expensive. I pay for most, if not all of it, out of my own pocket. When I worked for Discovery Ed, I attended for work and didn’t have many of the out of pocket costs, but also had differently responsibilities. This year, like most years, I’m attending again on a personal level. Between airfare, lodging, and food, it’s not cheap.

Despite these reasons and a few other minor ones, I still go back. Why? It’s pretty simple. It’s fun, I learn stuff, and I get to see friends I don’t see very often. This year, I didn’t register for the full conference. The main reason for this was financial. In the past, I haven’t attended a ton of concurrent sessions and didn’t feel the $400+ registration was worth it if I didn’t attend many of these. I was able to get an Exhibit Hall Pass (thanks Kristy) and that worked out great. This year, I hung in the Bloggers’ Cafe, checked out the Poster Sessions, other common areas, and explored the exhibit hall. This was plenty for me and certainly met my needs.

For me, having a chance to sit in a small group setting to chat or learn about something new is much better than racing from session to session and sitting in a big room while someone talks for an hour. I don’t like how the Bloggers’ Cafe has turned into a mini vendor hall. If one person from a start up is there working and talking to people and not passing out a ton of t-shirts or something, I’m okay with it. However, when 5-8 people from a company take up an entire corner of the area, I don’t like it. The vibe of the area has changed quite a bit over the years. With that being said, I did have a great conversation with Craig Jones from Formative about his product and it’s something I definitely want to explore more.

I also love the evening social activities. I have made quite a few friends over the years at conferences and love catching up with them. I had a great dinner with a huge group of people on Sunday that provided a lot of laughs, caught up with other friends all week, and just enjoyed some time with good people I don’t see enough. So many of the conference reflections I read this year have focused on the people. It’s the connections, the conversations, and the networking that are critical. I cannot stress enough how a quality network can help you professionally and also personally.

ISTE is a great experience. It can be overwhelming and exhausting, but it’s worth it to me. I don’t know if I’ll be there next year or not, but if I’m not, I know I’ll miss it.

2 thoughts on “Why I Attend ISTE

  1. BethStill

    I could have written this post! The social aspect of ISTE is what keeps me going back year after year. I learned so much and made some great connections this year at ISTE and barely any of what I learned happened during the few sessions I attended. I have heard criticism from quite a few people that question why  we even bother to attend if we aren’t attending session after session each day. They see the trip as a waste of time and money to not attend sessions, but you and I  (and lots of others) know the conversations and experiences are what make ISTE memorable. I will be in Denver for 2016–I hope you can make it!

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  2. BethStill Thanks for the comments Beth. It’s all about the people for me – including the random meet-ups at the airport. 🙂  The big question – how do we get more people to understand this?

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