Connecting at gifted conferences begins long before the conference starts. To make the most of your conference experience, it’s important to build your personal learning networks online as well as in your local area. Conference attendance should be the highlight of a well-planned experience.
Any conference can quickly become an expensive, albeit worthwhile, proposition. There are ways to reduce costs by sharing rooms and transportation costs. Some conferences will offer reduced fees to those who present, exhibit or volunteer to work at the conference. If you are an educator, check with your school district for funding. It’s always a good idea to check with organizers beforehand if you are looking for ways to cut costs.
Due to the nature of social media and the Internet, most conferences will have a dedicated website, Facebook Page and Twitter Account (as well as a designated hashtag solely for the conference). Major conferences make an App available, such as Guidebook or Whova, to attendees so they can follow activities, connect with friends, and see who will be speaking. Make sure to download the App to your phone as soon as it becomes available. It may also provide resources after the conference finishes.
“Great conferences are informative, invigorating and inspiring. Well worth money and time when you can connect and learn.” ~ Kelly at MyTwiceBakedPotato
It is extremely rewarding to organize a TweetUp for the conference where those from your different networks can make new connections. Once you know where the conference will be held, a review of the venue’s website will help you find an appropriate location for meeting up. It can be as simple as getting together in someone’s room to a dinner at a restaurant on-site or nearby. If you are expecting a crowd, a guest list will be in order when making reservations.
Once you arrive at the conference, Twitter is the hands-down social media platform for sharing conference information with fellow attendees and those who are not in attendance. Make sure you are using the ‘official’ hashtag or your tweets will be of little use to those outside your followers. You can tweet your location within the conference itself and even tweet out information from individual sessions. This adds value to your experience when there are so many excellent presentations occurring simultaneously. It highlights the conference for those who could not be there and acts as a way to encourage attendance at future conferences. It’s also a good idea to add your Twitter username to your official name badge if it isn’t already there.
Meeting favorite speakers, presenters or community leaders at conferences can greatly enhance your experience. It’s Important to do your homework – know about the work of community leaders who are attending the conference and read articles or books by the speakers. Make it a point to get books autographed by the author if available; a nice introduction for both parties. After attending a session, take the time to introduce yourself to the presenter.
Connecting with vendors at a conference is a good idea you might not have considered. They are generally well-versed on gifted issues as well as their products and usually offer deals to attendees such as reduced prices or free shipping on products not on hand. You’ll also find information on organizations who service the gifted community. Some vendors even host free get togethers during the evening hours!
It is just as important to keep in touch with new acquaintances after the conference! You can follow them on Twitter, consider friending them on Facebook, or scheduling meetups afterwards. We at #gtchat are excited about a new initiative from TAGT who this fall are rolling out an online community – TAGT Connect, a perfect place to continue your conference connections if in Texas. And last, but not least, Twitter chats like #gtchat are a great way to stay connected! A transcript of this chat may be found at Storify.
Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Tuesdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Wednesdays at Noon (12.00) NZST/10.00 AEST/1.00 UK to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.
About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: email@example.com
Graphic and photos courtesy of Lisa Conrad.