Mindful Conferences

 

 

I am a conference geek. I love the escalators, the gilded chandeliers, the carpeted meeting rooms, the lanyards. Before I presented at a conference recently I escaped to an office supply store to calm my nerves, filling my basket with gold star stickers, markers, poster board, post-it notes. I thought to myself, "I am terrified to make this presentation and I am also in heaven." Conferences are a showcase, a chance to share what's been working in class, to be in the presence of inspired and resourceful colleagues, to hear what's new in the field. And they are a chance to connect, to relax, to refresh. 

 With participants at our SxSw EDU presentation, March 2017.

With participants at our SxSw EDU presentation, March 2017.

I appreciate conferences so much that I have made them into a practice. In preparation for a conference I take advantage of the technology; checking the website for a map of the hall, setting my schedule on the app, finding the hashtag to livestream photos, connecting on social media with common interest groups, reserving my spot at the rooftop happy hour. I love that most conferences are now paper-free and that the apps are getting better. Some conferences will alert you if a session is full or near-full. Some give attendees the chance to text in questions to presenters in real time. And many presenters now share links to their slide deck, rather than handing out stacks of paper. Much better!

 Our presentation at SxSwEDU in March 2017.

Our presentation at SxSwEDU in March 2017.

I have a practice of taking notes by hand at sessions, to bring in the kinesthetic aspect of learning. Then after the conference, often in the airport waiting to fly home, I turn my notes into mindmaps, drawing them in my sketchbook. I am much more likely to look at them again if they are eye-catching. On each mindmap I have the name of the presenters, their institution and any links they provided. So handy. This Fall I presented my SxSwEDU mindmaps at one of our Professional Development Days, just laying them out with post-its and colored pens, inviting questions and conversations about each of the sessions. It worked well.

A final step in preserving the mindmaps is uploading them to a digital platform. Unfortunately, many of my old notes were on tackk, which shut down operation. But Adobe Spark pages and video are great, as are Google Slides, Google Keep and Padlet. 

Here's an earlier blog post I wrote about the Practice of Presenting.

Let a new season of conferences begin! #CCCWrite 

 The sound crew at our presentation are teachers in training!  

The sound crew at our presentation are teachers in training!