My 8 Tips for a Balanced ISTE Experience (Updated 6/2013)

This is an updated post for 2013. As an introvert, I find ISTE can be overwhelming. Here is how I try to keep in balance.

ISTE can be an overwhelming conference with over 10,000+ attendees. I have been to the conference 14 times previously, and ISTE seems to get larger each year. Coupled with the advent of social media, there is a celebrity-like buzz and excitement  that has evolved, especially with the growth of Hack Education (formerly EduBloggerCon/SocialMediaCon). This is so unlike the first ISTE (then the NECC conference) I attended in Orlando twenty years ago in 1993.

My goal for ISTE is to maintain a balance between my own learning, connecting with others while living a rounded lifestyle. In order to achieve those goals, I am sharing the 8 tips which I try to follow:

1. Meet new people – It is easy to stay with friends and colleagues with whom are familiar and comfortable. It is easy to live in the Blogger’s Cafe or other ISTE Playground. However, in order not to stagnate, it is important to meet and have a meaningful conversation (15-20 minutes) with people who you have never met or are on the extreme periphery of your Learning Community. Go hangout in the newbie lounge to encourage and welcome new users into the mix.

2. Seek Out a Diverse Set of New Voices- It is also easy to go through the conference program and select either the spotlight sessions or sessions given by other members of your Learning Community. However, also find two to three people who you don’t know, either in the poster or paper sessions. Sit, listen, or converse with them. It is amazing how much this can benefit your learning. Seek a diverse set of voices.

3. Celebrate Connections and Friendships – Yes, it is important to reconnect with those who most of our communication is done virtually, through Twitter, Skype, Google Hangouts, or other networks. It is important to celebrate those friendships face to face while you have the chance. Take time and really connect with great friends and colleagues.

4. Exercise and Sleep – It is important to keep moving. Sitting in seven sessions, for over 6 hours, is not what most of us normally do. We wander and move. So find the time to exercise. Walk to the conference center, rather than take the bus. In both Washington D.C and Denver, I found a bikes that I could rent for less than $10 per hour. Take a ride, go for a run, step away from the conference to recharge your internal energy stores. Likewise, it is important to get sleep, at least 6 hours. Your body cannot stand the increased stimuli from the ideas, sounds, lights that you will be experiencing.

5. Eat balanced and healthy – Your mother told you to have a variety of colors on your plate, not just fried foods. It is important to eat your fruits and vegetables to maintain yourself at the conference. That is not to say that I am going to skip Mexican food or a margarita this week in San Antonio. But find a way to balanced set of meals, which includes breakfast. Even if this is not a normal part of your routine. In D.C., I found a great Asian place  just outside the conference center, with a great noodle and tofu dish and in Denver, I found a great salad place (I usually disdain salads) that provided the balance to the heavier foods eaten later.

6. Don’t be afraid to share – even when you may have a contrary idea. Don’t let network celebrity get in your way and keep you quiet. You have great insights to share and ideas to test and build. That is why you are going to ISTE in the first place, right? This one is I really have to work on. I tend to be be quieter and shy in larger conferences. Don’t be shy and afraid to ask.

7.  Look to the periphery – on the vendor floor or in one of the cafes or playgrounds, look to the periphery. This is where I find the best new ideas, products, and people.

8. Stay true to yourself – I know that I am more introverted. I have to get away from people and enjoy some solitude. It is perfectly fine just to go off by yourself sometimes. Don’t try to be something that you are not.

Bonus (via Tim Stahmer) – Take some time away from the conference and visit San Antonio. See a little of the town. Go to the Alamo, walk to the various missions, spend some time on the Riverwalk (while not going to the variety of ISTE parties). Make sure that you don’t leave thinking that San Antonio consists of only the convention center.

I look forward to the ISTE experience. I hope we can connect. I will be hanging out at the ISTE Independent School Special Interest Group booth on Sunday from 3:00 – 5:00 during the open house, at the Liberty Bar (1111 S. Alamo)  on Sunday at 7:30 with members of the Independent School community, the SIG Birds of a Feather Meeting  on Monday at 8:30 a.m. I will most likely be hanging out at the Newbie and Bloggers spaces on Tuesday morning and Wednesday. Please stop by and say hello.

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