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Take Five for...

Planning Ahead to
Get the Most Out of That
Principals' Conference


Will you need Internet access in order to be connected to school while you are away? A laptop computer might be used for taking notes that can be shared after you return to school too. But if you're going to go to the trouble of carting a laptop across country for that purpose, be sure to inquire when you make your hotel reservations about the availability of an Internet connection in your room. Internet access is not a given. Without it, you won't be able to stay connected with folks at school or do work that requires being connected.

Have a plan. Give plenty of advance thought to why you are going to the conference and what you would like to get out of it. With what issues are you and your colleagues grappling? What new programs, developments, strategies, or products do you hope to explore? Before you travel, write down a few goals that you hope to achieve. If you know your priorities ahead of time, it is easier to schedule your time. If you have advance access to a convention program (via mail or online), read it thoroughly before you fly; or save it to read on the plane. Look at the sessions being offered as though you are going to present them to your own staff or to colleagues when you return from the conference. Create a "menu" of sessions that will help you achieve your goals. Mark first, second, and third choices for each session block.

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If you are a principal with a $1500-2000 budget for yourself for attending a conference, which conference do you attend? And, once the choice is made, do you have any advice (tips, suggestions, do-not-dos) for someone who has never been to a conference before? Click to join the conversation. Share your thoughts and ideas so others might learn from your experiences.

Prepare in advance address labels with your name, school address, and email address on them. Business cards or address labels will come in handy when you want to add your name to a mailing list, sign up for a free publication, or enter a contest. Just stick a label to the card on which you register or sign up. You won't have to write the same information 100 times. And vendors will appreciate the labels too, since your typed label is bound to be more readable than quickly handwritten information.

Principal Jean Williams has learned from her conference experiences. First and foremost, she has learned to pack so her conference days are comfortable ones. Here are some things Jean carries with her each conference day:

  • Sensible walking shoes (in addition to the shoes you plan to wear that day). Conference sessions might be in different buildings. Also, if your hotel is not at the conference site, you might not get "home" again until evening. Those sensible shoes might be lifesavers.
  • Snacks such as granola or power bars or apples. These small items can provide an energy boost; and they can be pricey when purchased in convention centers.
  • A sweater or jacket. Just in case it gets cold outside, or the AC in the conference center is on too high.
  • A bottle of water. In case it gets hot inside the convention center or a classroom.
  • Highlighter pens. For marking up your program.
  • Paper and pencil or a notebook. For taking notes during the sessions you attend.
  • A set of sticky labels that are preprinted with your contact information. Use them when requesting reprints or samples, entering contests, signing up for freebies
  • Business cards. For making important contacts.
  • Walking-around money. For lunch, snacks, making photocopies, and other incidentals.
  • A small daypack. For carrying all this "junk"!

A picture is worth a thousand words. Take a camera to capture interesting displays to share with folks at home.

Take Five more to read this entire article from Education World's "Principal Files" series:
"Before You Fly Off to That Conference Have You Thought of Everything?"
(Education World -- March 15, 2005)

Take Five: Planning Ahead to Get the Most Out of That Principals' Conference | Education World


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