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My First ISTE Experience:

How to not become overwhelmed whether you are a veteran, vendor, or a first time attendee

I attended ISTE 2017 as an exhibitor with CTL. If you don’t know, CTL is a Portland, Oregon-based company that specializes in Chromebooks for education, Ed-tech, and 1:1 comprehensive solutions for school districts. Being a licensed special education teacher by trade, I knew at the ISTE conference in San Antonio, I was going to be like a kid in a candy store.

The road to getting ready for ISTE 2017

A year and half ago, I took a position as an EdTech Project Manager based out of Nevada for one of the largest statewide 1:1 solution programs, funded through state grants, called the Nevada Ready 21 Program. I realized I had a big job to do as there were school representatives attending ISTE from each of our 23 schools, including 9 schools from Clark County, the 5th largest school district in the nation. I needed to touch base with all of them, be prepared for two after-hour events for our regular customers around the world and for our Nevada Ready 21 participants for the second evening. You can only imagine the anxiety level I felt and the long days I put in before the conference.

Then, there I was… getting ready to conquer the 2017 ISTE conference in San Antonio. At least, that’s what I thought. I walked out into 95-degree weather with 50% humidity into a convention hall the size of a small town, one of the largest in the United States.20,396 attendees and exhibitors, 572 exhibiting companies, and presenters like Jab Abumrad from NPR’s Radiolab. As I got in line to get my vendor badge, I had no idea what I was in for. I kept telling myself,

“I am here to work at our booth to help promote our CTL Chromebooks, our service packages, and our comprehensive 1:1 solutions that incorporate curriculum, professional development, devices, specialized software apps, and our amazing service and maintenance plans.” And I reminded myself to just stay focused and not to get distracted.

However, as Robert Burns said, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

ISTE First Impressions

Walking into the conference hall, I immediately felt overwhelmed by the noise, the massive advertising signs, all the music, the numerous booth raffles, and the candy (yes, candy, and me trying to avoid sugar). There were people approaching me, trying to give out free swag, so I would stop to talk to them at their booths. All the while, I was trying to navigate, be polite, and find where I was trying to go. Yes, I knew the number of our booth, but not the area. But the massive size of the room and the competing booths seemed to distract me.

I made many rookie mistakes by not being prepared as a first time ISTE attendee. All in all, this place was full of amazing exhibiting companies, speakers, educational sessions, and tools; all of which were geared to help teachers, IT directors, and districts be informed about and select from the many curriculum apps, computer devices, and anything to aid teachers incorporate technology into their classrooms ….plus so much more! It was a wonderful experience, even despite being a little overwhelming as a first time participant!

Here are my tips & tricks of how to survive and not become overwhelmed at ISTE:

  • Get connected: Download the ISTE mobile app and use social media like Facebook, and Twitter to keep updated. The mobile app will be your command center, allowing you to look up the vendors to see where they are and stay up to date with the presenters and where they will be presenting. Plan at least 30 minutes ahead to get in line, and use this time to familiarize yourself with the app.
  • Identify your main goals: This will allow you to plan out your days to see presenters and vendors you want to visit and to learn more about them.
  • Take pictures: I recommend taking pictures of the key business cards you collect from the vendors that you are interested in. You will collect so many, but this tip will help you if you misplace or lose them. After all, pictures in the cloud won’t be forgotten.
  • Wear comfortable shoes: You may walk for miles, so bring your own water and snacks unless you want to overpay for food and water.
  • Organize and plan: Go through your swag, the information you collect, and re-organize it at night to be better prepared to plan out your next day. Then start all over again.

Remember, you are the one who will take away what you need. The more you apply yourself to the experience, participate in the learning sessions, go to keynote speakers, and are prepared; the more you will get out of it. Wear your patience hat and your tennis shoes, and most of all, have fun exploring and learning!


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