Headed to Seattle for the CEC Annual Convention? Great! We have all been to the convention many times and continue to marvel at what a great opportunity it is for meeting people, learning new things, and picking up what’s going on in the field. Following are some tips for making the most out of your time at the CEC Convention & Expo.
Before you leave, be smart about what you pack.
- Wear very comfortable shoes—you will be on your feet a lot! Sneakers are fine at a convention as long as they are in good shape.
- Bring professional clothes for interviewing, casual clothes for site seeing, and something in the middle for sessions.
- Bring address labels to use to sign up for mailing lists, door prizes, and catalogs—you don’t want to have to keep writing your address over and over again.
- Take a pad of paper or a notebook to write down contact information for new friends, job opportunities, notes from sessions, etc.
- If you have one, bring a small rolling cart or a small piece of luggage on wheels. It will make walking long distances easier if you’ve collected freebies and catalogs at the exhibit hall.
Once you arrive in Seattle, get organized.
- Review the convention program and make a list of the sessions/events you want to attend. Then, make a schedule—you don’t want to miss something. Plan to arrive early at popular sessions to be sure that you will get a seat.
- Stock up on healthy snacks to help you get through the day in case of long lines at food vendors.
Buy some water or other drinks—you need to stay hydrated!
Some thoughts on session etiquette.
- Arrive at your session early.
- Turn off your cell phone and/or pager.
- As you are sitting in a session waiting for it to start, introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you—you must have something in common since you are at the same session.
- Get involved in the discussion, ask questions, listen to comments others make—all opportunities to share information and learn something new.
- Be polite when collecting handouts. If they run out of handouts, inquire about how you can get one (by leaving an address label or e-mail address).
Make an effort to network and reconnect with old acquaintances or to make new connections.
- Talk to people. People in education, especially in special education, are happy to talk to you—about what they do, the students they teach, what they do for fun, what they’ve found that works, etc. So, use your time at the convention to talk to people. Need a companion for lunch? If you see someone sitting by themselves, ask if you can join them and strike up a conversation. Riding the shuttle bus to the convention center? Don’t sit by yourself—sit next to someone and find out what they do.
- Is there someone whose research you’ve read in Exceptional Children or some other professional journal and you’d like to meet them? Check the index in the back of the convention program to see if she/he is presenting and go to her/his session. Introduce yourself. Everyone enjoys having their work recognized and you will have made a new contact.
- Check out the social events that are listed in the convention program and go to them. If you are interested in a particular exceptionality, find out when the division is having their social and GO! Imagine a room full of people who are passionate about teaching the same kind of students as you!
- Have a favorite college professor you haven’t seen for awhile? Check out the index in the back of the convention program to see if she/he is presenting and stop by to say hi.
Visit the exhibit hall many times.
- Collect freebies for your students and colleagues. If you want more than one item (pencil, marker, sticky notes, pens), ask first rather than grabbing a handful. Vendors are usually very generous, but keep in mind that they will be seeing a lot of people during the week.
- Use your address labels to request that a catalog be mailed to you unless you think you’ll be ordering when you return home—catalogs can weigh down your luggage when it’s time to go home.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions about materials, games, books, whatever you see that you think may be helpful in your classroom. The vendors are very knowledgeable about their products.
- If you are thinking about relocating or changing jobs, be sure to check out the Career Center and sign up for an interview or two.
- Visit the CEC Store to browse, meet the authors that are available, ask questions, and buy a copy of the Survival Guide!
Take care of yourself while you are enjoying yourself.
- Don’t hesitate to ask questions—there are plenty of people around to answer questions, from finding your way to a session to locating a fun and inexpensive place for dinner or evening social activities.
- Be sure to drink plenty of fluids, eat when you are hungry, and sit down and rest if your feet start to hurt
Have a fabulous time in Seattle!
Joyce Meyer, Maureen Gale, and Mary Cohen