Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Preparing for Convention

I've been going to homeschool conventions off and on for many years.  This first one was a small local convention I attended our first year.  I only went as a participant the one time, but the last two years I've had a different perspective as a vendor. It has given me new appreciation for the other side of conventions!
Our booth for www.peareducationalproducts.com
This week, though, I'll be a participant. I started attending the Midwest Convention the very first year they had it, when it was located on a church campus outside of Cincinnati. Now, however, this convention was massive.  Honestly, I don't know how new homeschoolers would take it all in.  With a little preparation, however, you can get a lot more out of the experience.

I usually just skim the vendor participant list. I always budget for some impromptu purchases, but overall I use the vendor hall just to look.  I may have a particular subject narrowed down to two programs and will take the opportunity to hold them in my hands and talk to the vendor.  In general, though, I don't make major purchases (but I have been known to make some if I'm really listening!)  I tend to make my purchases the very last day, so I can ponder if I really need the item.  I also use the vendor hall time to just browse lesser known vendors and see what is out there.

Usually, though, I'm there for the workshops. Some time slots have over twenty workshops offered!  How in the world does one decide?

First, I print off the schedule, with just the titles, not the whole description (to avoid pages and pages).  I pull up the descriptions on my laptop.  I usually have a couple workshops I'm drawn to, so I read those first. Then I read any workshop description that is even remotely applicable to our homeschool.  I often end up crossing some off and adding others based on the descriptions.  Make sure you read the bio of the speakers, too.  It will give you a feel for their perspective on the topic.

In previous years, I would be able to narrow it down to just a couple or as many as a half dozen in the same time slot. Some have readily available recordings and get crossed off the list.  For example, many of Andrew Pudewa's talks are available for purchase at the IEW website.  I usually end up purchasing many of the recordings at the end of the convention too.  Sometimes I make the wrong choice in which to attend.  I have left one workshop for another on my list if it ended up being not what I thought.  Tip: Sit in an area where you can easily escape.  I once ended up in an overfilled room, on the floor in the front corner.  I wanted to poke my eyes out and plug my ears the whole time because the speaker was giving some misinformation.  It was impossible to leave the room gracefully.  Seats by the door are now my choice.

You always know which are the great workshops because you'll hear others talking about them and the available recordings will constantly be selling out.  If you hear a particular speaker is good, look ahead in the schedule to see if they are giving another workshop later, even on another topic.

I highlight my choices, using a designated color for first, second, and third choices. Because I've been to the Midwest Convention numerous times, I've heard many of the speakers already.  It makes choosing so much easier.  Also, with teens, many of the topics no longer apply here.  We've got the reading down, I've figure out unit studies aren't my thing, and I could probably present Homeschooling 101 myself.  I have most time slots narrowed down to one or two workshops of interest.

Now the rest of my preparation will be focused on comfort. See those shoes in the pic above?  Most. Comfortable. Shoes. Ever!  I purchased them to walk around Disney for our last vacation and I dug them out for this week.  Skechers Go Walk if you want to make a shoe run. I also plan to pack a light jacket or sweater.  The rooms are always freezing.  I pack a notebook and pen for notes, but I usually just use them to doodle since I have trouble sitting still.  I may bring some knitting along this year to help with that. I highly recommend packing some snacks to eat on the run and bottled water.  This year I think I'll have time to catch a proper meal, but several years back I hardly had time to eat between sessions.  I do best with high protein snacks, like beef jerky or cheese.  If you are a coffee drinker, you may want to scope out a coffee shop ahead of time.  (Hint: There is one right outside of the vendor hall in the convention center.)

Aside from packing, I'm ready to go. Once I get my morning Starbucks, I will be prepared for each day at convention.


Diane Allen said...

Have fun at the convention! I'm going to have to get some of those shoes, they look a little more "shoelike" than my running shoes.

Anonymous said...

I love the Cincinnati Convention. My roommates were great, too.