Conference Nibbles and Bites

I’ve just recently picked up fishing as a new hobby, so please forgive excessive fishing references for a couple weeks.

When you go fishing, the goal is usually pretty self-explanatory.

Catch fish.

However, we rarely set a goal before we head to the water and define what a successful trip will be. There are times when we catch multiple fish, but the outing still doesn’t have that spark. There are times when we get a few nibbles and bites, but land ZERO fish and still have a blast battling it out with some bass (or crappies or jacks or…).

So it would seem that the criteria for success isn’t as simple as it first appears.

I’ve been attending and presenting at edtech conferences for a decade.

I’ve canceled presentations where no one showed up, presented in massive theaters, and decided to turn a presentation with a smaller audience into a conversation mid-stream.

I’ve done zero presentations at a conference and been a listener/learner or put together 8-10 different sessions to fire through with various collaborators.

I’ve learned about machine learning, Marzano, mentoring, Mythbusters, makerspaces, and even some things that don’t start with M.

I’ve been a part of single school conferences and presented on an international stage.

“Okay, we get it. What’s the point?”

With all those experiences under my belt, I still can’t define what makes a conference feel successful with any level of clarity.

Something that conferences, fishing, live concerts, and education at large have in common is that there’s value in the experience that may not fit perfectly into a list of criteria for success.

I’ve also never had to sit down and truly determine what value exists for many of these activities. There is never a shortage of stories of powerful learning and relationships built at the end of most conferences, so it’s rare (read: never) that someone says “rate that conference from 1 to 10 based on the success criteria you laid out before going”.

So what are your criteria for success when traveling to a conference or trade show?

What expectations exist for you to be able to attend?

Does your organization look to collect certain metrics at a show?

Leads scanned at a booth? Meetings taken? Time spent with stakeholders? Presentation attendees? New networking contacts?

Before we hit this next conference season, I’m going to lean in and set-up success criteria and create some expectations for myself.

What about you? What are your nibbles and bites going to be at the next conference you’re attending?