Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Conference time

This past weekend was the Wisconsin Family Child Care Conference. I always look forward to conference time. It always refreshes me and gets me excited about both the day care and the Tidbits business. Even though I don't get to attend many workshops anymore (I am the conference coordinator, plus exhibit at the booth my mom and I do, plus present workshops), just visiting the vendors, talking with other early childhood professionals, and getting to spend a few days being a grown-up renew my drive to continue in my chosen field and to offer the children I work with the best of me.

A few tips from my handout "Making the Most of Workshops and Conferences"

-  If the conference provides name badges, put your hotel room card key in and you’ll know where it is when you get back to your room. You can also put ID, a credit card, or cash. Just make sure not to lose the badge!!

-  Arrange with colleagues to attend different breakout sessions. Take great notes. Everyone can share their notes with the group and you benefit from more workshops.
-  Take business cards, lots and lots of business cards. When you chat with someone new in a workshop, or with a presenter, exchange cards. It makes a professional impression and they may have more info they can share with you. Make sure your email is on your cards. Handwrite it before the conference if necessary.

-  If someone gives you their card, jot something on the back of it immediately i.e. an idea they had that you liked, or an idea you promised to send them. You will come home with lots of cards, but won’t remember the details if you don’t make notes.

  - Bring extra pens and a highlighter. Mark on the facility map where your        breakout sessions are located.

-  Bring a briefcase/backpack or something light to tote around with you all day. You will collect a ton of handouts and items purchased from vendors. Also pack in this bag bottled water, tissues, gum, pain reliever, pens, highlighter, business cards, map of conference facility, conference booklet, cell phone, keys, binder or clipboard and paper for note taking. By using a briefcase or backpack you won’t be stuck with both a purse and a bag.

-  Folder or binder for note taking
    *  If you use a folder, also bring a clipboard to use as something hard to write on, some breakouts may not have tables. Or use a “flip back” binder (available at Staples). The cover folds back, like a spiral notebook, and makes a great lap desk. Add paper for note taking and pocket dividers to hold handouts.
    *   Take notes by subject rather than speaker. As little nuggets come up that you want to remember, you now have a perfect place to put them rather than coming home with pages of notes from all the different speakers, your notes will be organized.

-  Network! Step out of your comfort zone and make a point talk to others outside those you came with. Have ideas in mind before the conference of conversation starters. Pick areas of your business that you wish to improve and ask questions of new acquaintances. Be ready to share back! Have a place in your notebook to jot down the ideas you hear.
     *   Suggestions for conversation starters:
          -  How do they encourage a partnership between parents/teachers?
          -  What is their one biggest challenge?
          -  What kind of field trips do they take?
          -  What would their one piece of advice to a new teacher be?
          -  How often do they attend conferences?

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