Yes, I'm going to San Antonio in less than a month to attend my very first NECC conference. The plane has been booked, the hotel has been reserved, the conference registration has been paid for. I've started my conference planner and I'm starting to add events to it.
What else? Is there something I should keep in mind that first-time goers usually don't think about? Are there any must-attend events, conference or workshops?
Although I will not be in Texas this year - I have attended the past four ISTE events. For a conference that size, I am sure you will be exposed to many, many, ideas, concepts, projects, products, opportunities, etc. Everytime I return - it takes me months to decompress. If I could recommend one thing for a new attendee:
Bring 20 business cards (or contact info) and challenge yourself to meet 20 new people (not vendors). It is the personal network that I have developed that has helped me the most over the years. Over the years I have learned so much more from these contacts than any one event I attended.
Suggested "rules of the road" for attending NECC:
1. Use the online conference planner available at the online conference site (start at iste.org) to plan out your schedule. Go to each presentation, keynote, etc. before the conference to see if there is info (e.g., Web site) there about the presentation or presenter.
2. Get to the presentations early b/c many presentations and keynotes will fill up.
3. Check out the exhibit floor. There's a lot of really good info there, including the vendor presentations. You can feel the excitement and energy on "the floor."
You might consider stopping by what was called the "Bloggers' Cafe" last year, and this year is part of NECC Unplugged. http://www.neccunplugged.com/. The sessions there are going to be highly interactive, and there should be a large group of fun people there most of the time collaborating and sharing with each other.
Depending on where you live, you might also consider coming the Saturday before for EduBloggerCon 2008. http://www.edubloggercon.com/. Some great folks coming for that all-day "unconference."
Thank you for all your helpful replies. The biggest thing I learned which I had not considered before is that NECC is not just about learning and getting information, it's also about networking with other people. I hadn't even thought about bringing business cards. I don't even have business cards! I guess I better figure out how to make some.
And I would've never predicted that someone would suggest hanging out at the bar! But yes, Nitin, I understand what you mean and it's a good suggestion too, even though it's not quite my style.
I found the online conference planner to be extremely helpful. I recommend that for everyone. I'm also going to be joining the NECC Ning and I'll definitely stop by the Blogger's Cafe and check out some of the sessions there.
Unfortunately I'm flying in Sunday morning; I would've like to attend the EduBloggerCon.
The social events aren't all about bars! Do you "Twitter"? There are many people on Twitter planning NECC events, dinners, meet-ups, coffees, etc. that you can join. (Don't be shy, everyone is in the same boat you are!) You will have to make an effort to find some of this conversation, but once you do, just start following people who interest you (if you haven't signed up for Twitter, this will seem murky, but once you sign up, you will be able to connect to people with similar interests).
You can follow me if you like (smartinez), and look at the people who follow me - most are educators and many are going to NECC.
Also, on the business card front - Vistaprint will give you 200 free cards, and another solution is to just print out new address labels (don't forget your email address!), and those work really well too.