While I loved my time in St. Louis and did learn some things, the main thing I think I learned is that huge conferences are not my best learning setting. Just as if you put a kid with ADHD in a huge expo hall then handed them a list of 10 concurrent learning sessions and told them to pick the one they think will be most informative and navigate to it not only on time but well in advance so they will have time to find a seat--oh and also find food somewhere along the way and tune out the 5,000+ people walking by throughout the entire ordeal, it probably wouldn't work out so well for them, the same is true for adults with ADHD. Like me. That basically describes my experience. The sessions I managed to get to and find seat in--or even standing room--were good and I enjoyed them and even learned a thing or two, but overall the experience was overwhelming. Fun, but overwhelming.
Several things did work really well for me:
- Opportunity for one-on-one conversations throughout the event, including to and from it. Who knew basically the whole plane on both the outbound trip and return trip would be full of ASAE attendees? Well, of course anyone who's ever attended before did, but I didn't know to anticipate that. While I'm not usually one to enjoy talking to my seat mates on a flight (read: I close my eyes and pretend to be asleep the whole time so I don't have to), I really enjoyed having a chance to meet and have great conversations with the people sitting next to me on both my flights. One was a vendor and one worked at a nonprofit, but both were super friendly and we had great conversations, and I learned a lot about both their respective companies. And even though both the expo hall and social events were glitzy and social, I had a lot of great conversations, met a ton of cool people, made some great connections, and learned some good stuff. So while I may learn best sitting in front of a computer or reading a book, the social aspects of the meeting added a dimension that you can't experience online. (And I realize that was said like a true extrovert, which I'm actually not.)
- The iPad and iPhone conference apps. Props to ASAE for having both iPhone and iPad apps. While it was sort of a pain that they were both separate and I had to build my schedule twice, it wasn't actually that much of a pain because it gave me the chance to go through the sessions several times and get an idea of what my options were. I confess I didn't so much as crack the covers of the paper program. Programs, plural, actually--the one sent beforehand in the mail and the one given on site. For someone who basically needed a trail of breadcrumbs to figure out what session was where and when, the iPhone app was indispensable.
- The Ignite sessions. Five minutes, personal topics, compelling speakers--what's not to like? For the attention-challenged like me, Ignite is an ideal format.
- Joe Gerstandt. I'm obsessed with him. Even though I don't really like touchy-feely sessions like his, he is a phenomenal speaker and inspired even me, the cynic. I mean, really, what's not to like about a guy who does an Ignite session called "Why Profanity Kicks A$$"? When they post the link to the video I will post it here so you can see what I'm talking about.
- The Parties. Ok, sorry but I liked the parties--sue me. Thanks Higher Logic, Avectra, DelCor and, of course, YAP.