I love people watching at conferences.  As I mentioned yesterday, I presented at the CAEYC last night (awesome participants and, in my opinion, awesome presentation on Parent Teacher Conferences…even if there was a miscommunication which ended in me NOT having a projector). 

I’d just like to take a minute to, not so humbly, say: I ROCKED this one!  I loved the interaction and the fact that everyone stayed well past the time was over.  It was great!  Maybe I should not have a projector more often!

I don’t, generally, go to conferences to attend workshops much anymore.  It’s not that I think I can’t benefit from them; it just that I am the type of person that learns by DOING and not HEARING and so, for the most part, I find myself sitting in workshops waiting to get OUT of workshops.

Oh, as a presenter, I know there are people in there just like me sitting there.  I don’t mind.  I do my best to get people involved and engaged; however when you have a room full of 40 plus (often in the hundreds as well) people, you can’t get everyone involved unless you are doing a music and movement type of presentation. 

I don’t do these.   Why?  Because there are SO many of these types of presentations, and science activities, and just general “activity” and “curriculum” workshops, I like to have topics that you don’t find very often…such as Parent Teacher conferences, Lesson Planning for individuals and classrooms, Discipline, etc…

I do have a couple training modules in my repertoire that include art and outdoor curriculum, and I do have a science and language and literacy and music; but I leave those presentation for non-conferences.  They are typically 2-4 hours long and they delve deeper than you can in a short workshop time.

Anyway, the people watching.  Most people at the conferences can fit into 3 categories:

The newbies: these are the ones who have NEVER been to a conference before.  They walk around in a complete daze with a hilariously goofy grin spanning their face.  I LOVE it!  I don’t say it to make fun, I say it because these are the attendees who are eating up EVERY single experience!

They are also the ones who get every freebie, every flier, every piece of information even if it doesn’t pertain to the job they do, the center they work in, or to children at all.  They eat it up and will spend hours before the first workshop planning out every single workshop they will go and may even map out every single step.

They will furiously write notes and collect every handout possible (even if they didn’t attend that workshop).

They also go back home thinking that they will be able to implement EVERY SINGLE THING they learn and heard and will spend time trying to change their ENTIRE CENTER, not just their classroom, and get frustrated when all those at work who didn’t attend the conference aren’t on board.

(I have BEEN the newbie…I used to have a full suitcase of fliers and handouts and freebies that I just couldn’t get rid of…but I couldn’t tell you what was in there for the life of me.)

The Rookies: These are the ones who have been to a few conferences.  They will plan out each workshop time frame with two or three options knowing that, sometimes, you have to have a back up plan when the workshop is full.  Often times, they will forgo a workshop time so they can camp out in front of the workshop door they want to attend (or just attend the one before the one they want) just to make sure they don’t miss that workshop that is the top of their list.

They don’t attend every single workshop time and know to schedule in breaks and even pack snacks just in case.

When walking through the exhibit area, they know how to avoid eye contact with some exhibitors so as not to get sucked into something they don’t need.

They will also spend the time, after the conference, THROWING OUT those fliers and handouts they know will never again see the light of day. 

They bring rolling carts so that they can stock up on supplies that they need for their classrooms and, if they had to travel far, will bring an empty suitcase to bring it back home.

The rookies are the ones who enjoy the experience the most, I think.  I know when I was a rookie I sure did.  It was a busy time, but a relaxing time away from the daily grind of work.  My expectations weren’t too high, but I still learned a great deal.

Last is The Oldies:  I don’t mean by age, either.  I am 32 and consider myself an oldie.  The oldies really only go for two things: shopping and one, maybe two, workshops.  Actually, most oldies that I see or know are presenters.  They attend, for the most part, for free.  They use the opportunity to network, shop, and, if a workshop they are interested happens to come across their attention, they will make their way to it.

They get the important freebies (the cloth bags to carry everything they get) and also know which booths to stop by and at what time to get the best deals.

IF they have a need, they will bring in an extra suitcase; but that’s not too often because, especially if they traveled far, it’s worth the shipping cost.

They are EXPERTS at avoiding the salesmen in the booths.  They’ll glance through the program and see if there is anyone they know presenting and might look for a few people they know; but in general, this is a relaxing time away from work and they enjoy every minute of it.

I am an oldie…I love presenting.  I love strolling through the exhibits, but I know what I’m looking for.  This year, I was looking for photographers.  We are in the midst of changing it up a bit at our centers and I figured here was a great place to find some great deals for our parents…I was successful.

I network and I love running into people I know.  I never really know who I will find, but it’s always fun to meet up with people from past jobs and to catch up.

As a presenter, it’s always a pleasure to run into people attending “another” of my workshops because they enjoyed my last one so much.

All this to say, no matter what type of conference attendee you are, I think it’s fabulous!  I’ve been through them all and I will continue to attend.  Don’t be ashamed!  Enjoy the entire experience!

So, what kind of attendee are you?


Barbra Stephens said...

Ah, here it is....I was looking for what you presented on.
I would have to say I am all of these, at different times.
I really enjoy staying in the middle of what is cutting edge. I have found that the pendulum seems to swing back around eventually as far as the old ideas becoming new once more. I'm sure you have seen this, too.
Congratulations on "Rocking"! I think you have I.D.'d the attendee's right on point. I can actually visualize it! lol!

Tracy said...

Congrats on "rocking" the house. You must have been well prepared.

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