Are large conferences needed anymore?

This blog post is a not only a response to Tim Childers New World Order and  I Can Relate but a continuation of a conversation I have had a few times in the last couple of days.

In the last 3 weeks I have been all over the place. I am part of the SC Midlands Summit Planning team. We kicked off June with 600+ educators attending a two-day conference. It was a great two days. The feedback was awesome and reminds us why we do the conference every year. Then I attended the Summer of Summit by Summit Schools in Redwood City, CA. Again another small conference with about 150 attendees. This week I attended #ISTE2014 in Atlanta, GA with 15,000 people in a massive conference center.

It was my 12th ISTE conference so I know the drill. I expect all the crowds and know that many sessions are going to be full. But yet, every year I hope for the best. I hope that it will be different. Sure, there are lots of alternative ways to learn at the conference like the playground, poster sessions, bloggers cafe, or just conversation. But I guess my question is, is it worth it to spend all that money for conversations in the hall? Technology makes connecting to people SO easy to meet and talk with people do we need large conferences to make that personal/human connection? By no means am I saying ISTE is a bad thing. ISTE is great for those new to the profession looking to receive a massive amount of information. I just wonder for me if a full registration is really what I need since I end up frustrated that I can’t get in to the sessions I want to attend.

Let me take a moment to go over my take aways…

The Surprise
Only device I needed was my iPhone. I have never attended a conference before without bringing a laptop of some kind. I had my Chromebook in my backpack for two days and decided to leave it in the hotel on day 3 since I hadn’t taken it out.

The Great
It’s always great to network and meet new people doing things you wish you could or taking the journey down the road you just travelled. I was able to meet a number of people who I will be spending time with at DENSI in a little over a week so that was great.

Seeing Jessica Donaldson and Tim Childers. These two people get me. It’s always awesome to spend time with either one but this year, I was able to see them both.


This ISTE was the first for one of my cousins. It was great seeing the conference through his eyes. Welcome to the ISTE Club, Joe!


Kevin Carroll and the red ball was amazing! His story is an inspiration and made me think about my own passions and how to keep moving forward with them. My favorite remark of the keynote was “If your dreams don’t scare you, you aren’t reaching high enough.” It gave me something to think about.

Poster sessions, as always, never fail. It’s a great opportunity to talk with people  who have worked on specific projects.

The Lack Luster
As I mentioned before the full sessions. I don’t understand why I have to get to a session 30 minutes early to get a spot in line to get a seat. It defeats the purpose of attending any sessions. I know there are many people think it’s so yesterday to attend sessions but my district was gracious enough to pay for my registration, the least I can do is attend sessions. 😉

The sheer size of the conference center was daunting. I didn’t arrive to the conference until Sunday morning so it took my a good bit of Sunday to get the layout. Of course this is something that is necessary due to the amount of attendees.

The noise. This might be one of those times you respond,’What?’ But for me ISTE is overstimulation and noise on so many levels that an introvert like me is freaking out on the inside. I end up having what I call a bit of ADD. I can’t focus on anything because I am worried I won’t make it in to my next session. I have been around people all day and there has been NO silence. I have to be fun and perky at the after parties. I can go on and on. Being an introvert requires some peace and it is hard to find at large conferences.

So this leads me back to with technology connecting with others is so easy. Do we need a large venue and conference like this? Why do we as educators have to have a venue like a 15,000+ attendee conference to make these connections? I have thought about this and I do not want to have to wait to attend an annual conference to talk to people. And when I say talk to people, I mean learn who they are and how we can help one another. Not just a flash by conference conversation about how great you are or what blog you are writing for, or who you just talked with. (Not that this type of conversation happens, ever)I am going to make  commitment to talking more to my conference buddies via Hangouts or Facetime. Who knows what could happen if we talk and collaborate more often the sky is the limit.

Where does this leave me? Conflicted and invigorated all at the same time. I would love to continue this conversation if you have any input.