EdNet 2009 starts this Sunday in Chicago. This is one of the three most important events of the year* for networking and professional development in the education industry. I’ve been attending since the early 90’s with only a couple of absences.
Nelson Heller, EdNet’s founder, has also been a friend and mentor – as he has so graciously been to many of us across the industry. This year the conference is under MDR‘s aegis – and it will be the same top-notch opportunity to expand your consciousness it has always been
Why is this event important? In a nutshell it is all about conversational efficiency. You can talk to more people about partnerships, recruiting, selling, or just “gettin ta know ya” in a few hours at EdNet than you could in two months on the road.
Making The Most Of EdNet
Here a few tips I’ve learned over the past 18 years that might help.
1. Ignore the sessions. The most important work at EdNet happens in the lobby, bar, and coffee shops around the hotel. If your goal is to have conversations with a lot of folks you can’t very well do that when you are sitting in a session.
2. Attend the sessions. That said – there are some wonderful opportunities to polish your knowledge base and see the industry in new ways in the sessions. Take the time to scan the schedule and star the ones you want to try and attend.
3. Be clear about your goals. If you show up without a clear idea of the kinds of conversations you want to have there are endless opportunities to engage in meaningless banter. This doesn’t have to take long – hell you can even do it on the inbound flight. You also don’t have to have specific people or companies in mind, just let folks know what you are after and opportunities will find you.
4. Learn to gracefully exit non-productive events. At some point you will find yourself in a meeting or session that adds no value to your goals. Find ways of exiting these as kindly as you can. You never know when you will want to engage with the folks you are disentangling yourself from – so don’t be rude. But don’t let them waste your precious time.
5. Leave time for serendipity. Some of the best meetings I’ve had at EdNet happened off the cuff. Don’t over-schedule yourself.
6. Your ears are more important than your mouth. There are many people at EdNet in “pitch” mode – looking for anyone who will listen to their story. I’ve found that an enormous amount of market intelligence is available for free – but you have to ask good questions and listen hard to the answers. Leave the pitch at home.