Make the most out of your 2016 Convening attendance!

by Laura Vitale, Digital Media Specialist

The National Convening on Personalized Learning is the largest conference exclusively focused on personalized learning in the country. It’s a great opportunity to bring your understanding of student-centered learning practices to the next level, but it can also be a bit overwhelming. Which break-out sessions should I attend? Who do I want to connect with? What questions do I want answered?

There are always a lot of choices, but it’s good to remember that what you get out of a conference is also dependent on what you put into it. For some, this might be the first time you’ve attended the event while others may have been participants since the first conference back in 2010. No matter how many Convenings you’ve attended, we want you to have the very best experience possible. Below are a few tips on getting the most out of your attendance.

Before you attend
Set your goals
Everyone has different goals when attending conferences. Take a few minutes to think through what you want to get out of the Convening. Would you like to…

Learn something new?

  • Make a note of the break-out sessions that are covering topics you would like to learn more about.
  • Plan to walk through one of the Fishbowl sessions on Friday afternoon to see educators and learners in action.


  • Take advantage of dedicated networking time on Thursday morning or plan to attend a meet-up or two on Thursday afternoon.
  • If you’re looking for more informal networking, check out the Recharge Station and network while you power up your laptop or cell phone.

Find a solution to a challenge?

  • Consider signing up for one of the Expert Office Hours.
  • Suggest a topic for one of the Un-Conference sessions on Friday afternoon.

scope out the agenda

Scope out the agenda
Now that you’ve decided what your goals are, take a few minutes and look through the agenda, making note of your “can’t miss” sessions and plan your schedule accordingly.

Make it social
Reach out to your social network using the Convening hashtag #PLconf16 and see who else is attending. Make plans to connect sometime during the conference.

Prep your talking points
Take a few minutes and fine tune your “elevator speech.” It doesn’t have to be lengthy, just include:

  • Your name
  • Your district/school
  • Your position
  • A brief description of your PL experience


At the Convening
Put yourself out there
One of the best benefits of the Convening is the chance to make new connections and learn from each other. Try to introduce yourself to at least one person you don’t know each day.

This next one can be a bit intimidating, but try to sit at a table with people you don’t know at least once during the conference. Remember, you have your elevator speech to get the conversation going and there’s always the weather to fall back on if conversation lags!

Finally, don’t be afraid to share your own expertise or admit you want to know more about something by suggesting a topic for the un-conference.


Continue being social
Engage in backchannel conversations during the Convening using the conference hashtag (#PLconf16). If you want to continue a conversation face to face, plan to connect at lunch, during a break or at the Recharge Station.

Make sure you exchange contact information with your new Convening connections. Bring business cards if you have them, or just keep track on a notepad.

After the Convening
Keep the momentum going
Take some time to reflect on the event – what inspired you, what surprised you, what you still have questions about. Review your notes and work out a plan for putting what you learned into action in your classroom, school or district.


Share your experiences
Share what you learned via your social networks or with others in your district who were not able attend. Talk to your students about what you learned and share something new you’d like to try in the classroom to make it more personalized. If you have a blog, write about it!

Follow up
Make sure to reach out to the new connections you made at the Convening. Find them on LinkedIn or follow them on Twitter if you use either of those networks. Join the Personalized Learning Google Community if you’re not already a member. Connect with Institute staff if you have questions about something you heard or want help figuring out next steps.

Take time to email at least a couple of the new people you met with follow-up questions or answers about things you talked about. And finally, don’t forget to make plans to connect at the 2017 Convening again next year!