Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Convention Planning

I'm registered to attend a homeschool convention this month. A big one. My third homeschool convention. My second big one that also happens to be far enough away that I must stay in a hotel. I like biomedical conferences on treating autism, too. I learn a lot, there.

I take conventions seriously. I go to learn. Biomedical conferences about treating autism tend to be very expensive - I don't want to waste my time and money. I began to realize I needed a game plan at the grandaddy of autism conferences, Autism One. I apply the same strategies to homeschool conventions, which tend to be inexpensive in terms of registration, yet, travel expenses send my out-of-pocket costs rising. Autism is usually a priority for me, even at homeschool conventions.

Here is a list of homeschool conventions:
http://www.thehomeschoolmagazine.com/conventions/index.html

Penny's Tips:

Take the time to read the list of speakers and their topics in the weeks prior to the convention. The presenter list for the homeschool convention I'm attending is 36 pages long. I've taken the time to google many of the speakers, and I've been able to rule out some folks that I thought were "must sees" and I've discovered some new-to-me presenters whom I want to see. Checking presenter web sites guides me, too. YouTube and Google Video are two places to research convention speakers. The internet is a wealth of free audio presentations if you spend a little time looking. If a presentation is available free on-line, I can cross that one off my convention list and attend a different presentation during that session. I also cross-referenced this weekend's convention against the presenters for the Schoolhouse Expo - a few presenations are duplicates - so that I can maximize my time at each opportunity.

Take the time to look over the list of exhibitors in the weeks prior to the convention. Sometimes, vendor names don't give me an idea of what the vendor actually sells. I have found several new-to-me vendors with products that are potentially useful for a child on the autism spectrum by browsing a homeschool convention exhibitor list. (These web pages are useful when you're not attending the convention, too, if you're looking for a new resource to help at home.)

Know the prices of resources you're considering. Convention exhibit halls are often THE place to get a sale, but not always. If you're seriously considering the purchase of a resource or curriculum, know the pricing before you go. Sometimes, a company will offer a bigger percent off through an e-newsletter than at a convention - doing your homework can save you $$$.

Know which presenters are also vendors. Knowing which vendors are also presenters is important for a couple of reasons. Sometimes, vendor presentations are a blatant sales pitch. Sometimes, they're informational without adding pressure to buy their product. If you're considering the purchase of a pricey product or curriculum, you can learn a lot by attending a vendor presentation. You need to be aware that attending a vendor session may cause you to spend more money, because you may have the desire to make a beeline for the vendor booth and purchase the item demonstrated in the presentation.

Have a game plan in terms of session attendance. My 7-page list of sessions is already a mess of circles and strike-throughs. I've figured out which sessions are duplicates, which are one-time onlies, and I've begun to mark which sessions I hope to purchase on audio CD because there are too many presentations in one time-slot that I'd like to attend. If I can maximize my attendance, I can minimize my audio-CD purchases. (I figure my list will change when I arrive at the venue. I'm not sure which session time I'll sacrifice so that I can spend a chunk of time in the vendor hall, and that will upset my game plan a little.)

Sit by the exit. Have you ever been torn between two presentations within the same timeframe? And consequently realized in the opening moments of the session you chose that this is not what you thought it was? If you are seated by an exit, you can slip out and dash to the second choice in time to hear most of it. If you're in the front and/or center, leaving one presentation to attend another is more difficult.

Take a *large* suitcase. Leave yourself room for vendor hall purchases in the suitcase as you pack for the conference.

Yogurt drinks are an easy snack or meal. Freeze them and take them along - by mid-day, they are thawed enough to drink if you don't want to stop to eat.

Stay in the hotel attached to the convention center. Having your hotel room nearby is handy if you purchase more than pencils in the exhibit hall. Taking heavy or bulky purchases back to the hotel room without missing the next session is doable when you're staying close to the convention. You can pack snacks and sneak to the room for a snack break if you're close. (Convention food purchases can be pricey.)

Pack a hoodie or cardigan and dress in layers. Sometimes convention rooms are cold; sometimes they're stuffy. I can't control the temperature in the presentation rooms, but I can control what I wear.

Wear comfortable shoes. Choose comfort over style. Or take a lot of bandaids.

What are your favorite tips? I'd love to hear from you!

1 comment:

TOSHeidi said...

Great tips, Penny! :) See you in 2 days!

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