Best tech for conferences

This post continues Jenny Hill’s  exploration of the intersection between technology and learning, and how we can embrace the digital revolution without shutting ourselves, our stakeholders, or our learners outside the pod bay doors.

Professional conferences are not only a great way to meet great minds and learn new things, but they’re just a blast. Conferences are like summer camp, for adults.  Everyone is making new friends and eating weird food together and you probably only see these people once a year.

All that said, I couldn’t get nearly as much out of conferences that I attend without my bag of gadgets. Tech is an essential part of conference attendance and solidifies the professional development we get from these events. As a frequent attendee and speaker, I have a set of key tech tools that I use to get the most out of the experience.

1. Smartphone:  iPhone or Android, I wouldn’t be caught dead at a conference without my smartphone. First, when you meet new people, it’s so much easier to grab a photo of their lanyard or scan their barcode than to keep track of business cards. Secondly, conference wi-fi is notoriously sketchy, and using your phone as a hotspot will cure all kinds of problems. Third, it’s the best way to access the backchannel that is surely going on on Twitter!  I make far more connections with my smartphone than I’d ever make without it.

2. Digital pen: There’s something to be said for taking physical notes in a notebook.  Some studies have shownthat taking notes on paper improves your conceptual understanding of a topic, and that’s nothing to sneeze at, as a learning professional. But I have a hard time relying on the pen alone, when I can use a digital pen that will link up my notes with an audio recording that I can review later!  I love my pen from Livescribe and it has been super useful to me in capturing presentations so that I can continue to mentally work through the concepts later.

3. Ultrabook: I know, I know. Why on earth would I need a computer too, when I have my phone and my pen?  There are some things that you just need your laptop for at a conference, and presenting is one of those things.  You can trust there’ll be a VGA hookup for the projector (you brought an adapter, right?).  I recommend getting the lightest high-powered ultrabook you can find. For me, anything over 4 pounds is too muchto haul around an expo floor for an hour. Today’s tech is much more portable, and ultrabooks are just more reliable at serving up visual-heavy slides for a presentation without completely losing battery. I have tried presenting from tablets and phones before, but nothing works as seamlessly as the old laptop/clicker combo.

4. Clicker: Speaking of clickers, if you’re going to be presenting, you’ll want one of these.  My personal clicker is a Logitechthat has served me well.  I do have my eye on a new version, though. If anyone has one of these, tell me how you like it!  I like something small enough to keep at hand so that I don’t feel like I should put it down (which distracts your audience).

5. Honorable mention- iPad:  I don’t usually have a tablet on me when I’m out on a conference floor.  I do, however, tend to catch up on my conference hashtags and start reading my new books back in the hotel room on my iPad.

Whew! with these things in my conference bag, the only thing left to do is get ready to learn!  What will you be bringing to I4Pl 2017 this year? What are your must-have tech gadgets when you attend a conference?

Jenny Hill, CPLP, CTDP has over five years of experience creating engaging, accessible, and effective learning experiences.  She works with a wide variety of clients to ensure learners can reach their potential and do their most meaningful work.  She has spoken on a number of learning and accessibility topics, and has presented at the Brightspace Global Users’ Conference and The Accessibility Conference at the University of Guelph.  She has written for Learning Solutions Magazine, as well as other publications and blogs. Contact her on LinkedIn.

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