5 Tips for the ISTE Exhibit Hall

The ISTE conference is just around the corner. For many K12 educators in the US this is one of the most anticipated events of the year, and understandably so. There’s practically something for everyone interested in ed-tech.

The exhibit hall is at the top of the to-do list for many ISTE attendees. Whether you are  experienced or a newbie to the endless array of ed-tech companies, products, hawkers and “tchotchkes” (i.e., booth baubles, stuff, junk, etc.), the experience can be overwhelming and you may not get the benefit you want from the experience.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer some tips based on what I’ve learned over more than a quarter of a century of exhibit halls, both as an attendee, as well as a “schmoozer” for a couple of exhibitors. I’m going to skip things such as have a plan, review the exhibit hall map and so forth. Consider these something more like ed-tech insider tips.

Tip #1 - Any company can have a booth. All it takes is money. I’m not saying that to be cynical, but I want you to understand that having a booth doesn’t legitimize a company or its products. Don’t get me wrong, many companies have a booth because they genuinely want to be there and because they want to interact with customers. Just don’t read anything in to the existence of a booth or lack thereof.  

Tip #2 - Be skeptical of claims about products’ effectiveness, performance, etc. don’t take the claims at face-value. If a vendor claims that their product will increase engagement, improve assessment scores, save money, or anything else, ask questions? What do they mean by “engagement”? How do they measure that? How do they know that something will improve assessment scores? Do they have research to back it up? Save money? How? How much? Under what conditions? You get the idea. And don’t be afraid to “drill down” with questions. If they can’t answer your questions and don’t try to find someone who can or offer to connect you with someone who can, be even more skeptical.

Tip #3 - Please don’t dominate the time of the booth staff. Unless you’ve made an appointment or the hall isn’t busy, if you want to have an in-depth discussion about a product, schedule some time during or after the conference for follow-up.  Other people may be lurking who want to talk to the exhibitor as well, but may be too polite to interrupt.

Tip #4 - Please don’t air your complaints about the company’s products, pricing or employees to exhibit booth staff. It’s highly unlikely that they can help. Putting these people on-the-spot in public is not professional. If you do have an issue to discuss, ask if you can speak with an executive or better yet, follow-up through your account team after the conference. If you tell them that you’d like to escalate an issue because you are not satisfied, most account teams will be more than happy to assist.

Tip #5 - Enjoy the experience! Learn about new companies, products and services and reacquaint yourself with others. Don’t be so intent on getting through your “shopping list” that you miss out on the unplanned and unexpected. You never know where that hidden gem may be.

And finally, remember to make new friends, face-to-face, not just virtually. That’s the real value of a conference. Product webinars are a dime a dozen, but getting a chance to talk with colleagues from across the country (and globe!) is all too rare for most educators. See you in Philly!

Bob Moore has enjoyed a career of 26 years in education technology. His work has included more than two decades as a CIO in K12 schools and several years as lead strategist for a multi-billion dollar global ed-tech business, as well many years of active leadership in organizations such as CoSN. In 2012 Bob founded RJM Strategies LLC and works with schools and ed-tech business clients as a strategist, advisor and subject matter expert. His life’s work is grounded in his tenacious commitment to vision, innovation, integrity and practicality. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobMEdTech. See Bob's Profile and Connect on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/pub/bob-moore/0/ba4/675/ 

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