“How to Conference”

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Whether you have some clear business goals in your reasons for attending a conference or if you are simply attending to do some networking, we at Tracker Apps have put together a quick guide for how to “do” a Conference and it’s a threefer!*” For the first entry, we have a few tips from me about how to manage a conference when you are reluctant to get out there and meet people. Secondly you’ll get some more great tips from our CEO and founder, Sally Hirsch, on how to organize yourself and your time when attending a conference. And finally, Malcolm, our Chief Academic Officer will introduce his famous IIS method (Hint: if you want an icebreaker to start a conversation with Malcolm, ask him what his title means).

Networking for the Reluctantly Social – by James Gallagher, Tracker Apps COO

As we come up on our first conference as a company, we have been brainstorming ways to make the most of this incredible opportunity. The three of us at Tracker Apps come from three very distant corners of the globe and it’s not often that we have a chance to get together. We therefore have our work cut out for us, not just for the conference, but also to have some in depth discussions about company matters.

That being said, during the conference, of course, our focus will be on making as many meaningful connections as possible. This kind of opportunity to meet people within IB community is relatively rare, so as a part of our series on networking and making the most of a conference, I’m here as our resident introvert to help you strategize.

For those of you familiar with the Meyers Briggs personality profiles, I consistently come up as a “borderline” INFJ – borderline because I am always right in the middle between I (introvert) and E (extrovert). In other words, I am a “part-time” extrovert. I love meeting new people, speaking to them and finding out who they are, what their interests are and discovering common ground. However, I can only do this for a stretch of time. I definitely don’t have the endurance of extroverts who can meet, greet and talk for seemingly unending periods of time. I have to retreat after a while and have some quiet time to myself before rallying again to go out and meet more people and speak at length. However, at a conference, time is compressed and the pressure is on and it may not be possible to seek seclusion for any period of time.

Now, let’s be clear – if you were to meet me, you would probably have no idea that I’m slightly introverted. I have some very dear friends who seize up in a social situation and refuse to speak to new people – luckily I am not that far on the introverted spectrum. However, internally, it takes some work for me to gird myself for battle (as our brilliant CEO, Sally Hirsch, described it in her piece last week) and randomly go out and speak to someone. The best way to manage this, in my opinion, is to draw up a plan ahead of time.

  1. Divide up your time into digestible chunks. Allot specific amounts of time to the different functions at a conference – the key here is to be intentional about it but not inflexible.
  2. Find out ahead of time if there are specific people at the function with whom you would like to speak. If so, reach out to them prior to the event or make a specific point to speak to them. This is something we are currently doing for our upcoming conference!
  3. Set up a goal for how many people you would like to meet. A person I admire a great deal is Tina Seelig. She is head of Stanford University’s STVP – Stanford Technology Venture Program – a multidisciplinary program that aims to bring together engineers, business majors and creatives for purposes of creating new ventures, whether commercial or non-profit. She is a master networker and is always curious about other people. I attribute this piece of advice on networking to Professor Seelig, where she said – and I’m paraphrasing: …when networking, make it a point to meet at least 2 people separately. Not only have you made two new acquaintances, but it gives you the opportunity to introduce them to one another. You may just be helping someone who is more introverted than you are! This also works well if you need an escape hatch…if you need to leave (for whatever reason), introducing your two new acquaintances gives you an out.
  4. Once you’ve made one new acquaintance, it generally becomes easier to meet more. So remain flexible and don’t give in to the impulse to climb out the venue’s window – in general, after meeting one or two, the next three or four become much simpler.
  5. Ask questions about why that person is at the event and continue to ask questions (of course in a very casual – not interrogative style). Hopefully the other person will reciprocate and ask you questions as well.

Once you have broken the event and the networking down into smaller pieces, a large conference no longer seems as daunting. I certainly hope I’ve been able to help others who find large social situations slightly challenging. And please – at the conference in Hong Kong – feel free to stop by and say hi. I promise, my extroverted side will be out each day of the conference.

How to “Do” a Conference, by Sally Hirsch, Tracker Apps CEO and Founder

Conference! Yeah! Travel! Hotel! Time out of work! Conferences have lots of potential to refresh and revive our professional lives. We can connect with colleagues, network, get new ideas and pick up a few freebies. For those new to conferencing, we offer these handy tips for you to get the most out of the experience.

  1. Strategize! Get your hands on the conference schedule and plan wisely. Pick a theme that you want to focus on for the conference (eg literacy, leadership, service learning) and look for workshops or sessions around these themes. Be prepared that sessions run by keynote speakers or popular presenters may fill up so don’t be shy about getting there early and getting a seat. Larger, more general conferences have a huge variety of sessions. This can be of great benefit if you’re a fairly new teacher and perhaps looking for an area of focus or something to specialize in.
  2. Use your feet – If you’re in a session that isn’t relevant to you, get up and leave. You might feel rude BUT you (or your school) has paid a significant fee for you to attend the conference and so you want to make the best use of your time there. A quick smile and a mouthed excuse to the presenter ‘I’m sorry, I’m in the wrong session’ is a polite way to excuse yourself. I’ve been on the receiving end of these and I completely understand. If you’re a presenter and this happens to you a lot, maybe you need to rethink the way you title or describe your workshop sessions.
  3. Visit the exhibitors- Browse for new textbooks, resources or places to take your students. Talk to the vendors and ask them about discounts or giveaways. They are there to do business with schools and they want to talk to you.

The IIS Method or How to “Work” an IB Conference, by Malcolm Nicolson, Tracker Apps CAO

1. Influence – IB staff are driven by the mission and determined to improve the programmes, help them! The IB programmes are only as good as the collective input used in developing them. The IB is unique in the model of development through the community so use the opportunity to share your experiences with IB staff. They work away from schools and need to hear the reality from a school perspective. Try to talk to someone with Head in their title as they have the influence to effect change, managers rarely do. Make sure you swap email addresses and follow up after the conference!
2. Inform – you have some great ideas you think could make a difference in many schools. If you haven’t been accepted to lead a session how do you get an audience? It is great to network with IB staff at coffee and lunch breaks but also look at who is nodding or asking questions in sessions that chime with you. They could be great allies, so approach them after each session and collaborate. 
3. Share – this connects to influence and inform. How do you share your experiences and new learning to influence a wider audience? The best way is through social media using the hashtag provided by the IB. They let is to show that you can analyse and evaluate like an IB learner. It us easy to share pithy quotes from speakers, but without analysis on your part it is meaningless and difficult to act upon. Help readers to contextualize and potentially help IB staff to implement the educational changes that most keynote speakers promote. 

As you can see, we have some overlap in our tips for “conferencing.” One of the common themes being to strategize or plan ahead. This really seems to be key for making the most of a conference like the IBHK 2019. We hope our tips help – and we look forward to speaking with as many of you as possible in Hong Kong!

*If you are unsure about what a threefer is, then come by and ask us at the conference!

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