It’s not them, it’s me. – Why I can’t do big conferences anymore.

Tonight my Twitter and Facebook feeds are reminding me that this week signals the biggest education conference in Australia. I won’t be there. I’m giving my seat to someone who will enjoy it and respect the opportunities it gives them.

For a little while now I’ve had a love-hate relationship with these huge affairs. These evangelistic affairs that bring educators from all corners of our country, or city in which they are held. I’ve turned up, grabbed my dangly name thingy and show bag, with a heart full of hope and a mind open for inspiration I’ve headed for the main hall, or cocktail evening, looking for a friendly face to hang with. The infamous ‘hug circle’ kicks in, and the back slapping begins. At this stage, I’m still full of hope. Buoyed by conversations of innovation and success.

And then it ends…

I take my seat to listen to the keynotes, pull out my Twitter and search for a hashtag, and wait… and watch… and sit silently… and then it all falls apart. I begin thinking about the cost of the keynote, the fact they aren’t from our corner of the globe, wonder what brief the conference crew gave them, and if indeed they are on the money. I then look at their presentation decks and wonder how they get paid ‘said bazillions’ to stand in front of a stock standard boring deck with pixelated cartoons and images squished onto a screen, and then I’m off to the net to ‘look into that thing I heard about the other day’ cause, well, I’m bored.

You know why else I don’t want to go? Because I’m angry and worried for our innovators and early adopters. I’m worried because for close to 6 years they’ve turned up to these shindigs, left with a head full of ideas but rarely do they leave with a suitcase of how-to implement their awesomeness. In 6 months they’ll have lost the spark they felt because the keynote only got 50 mins to fill their heads with ideas not concrete strategies. That’s not fair. No one can do that over and over again. No one.

Please don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for these events, but it’s for those who are either sharing their journey (with how-to steps) or those new to the wonders of a future focussed, technology enhanced learning space.

So, why don’t I go to share my journey at mega conferences, you ask? Because I have done so since 2008 and now it’s time for others.

It’s time for me to build some new stories to tell. I’m back at school for the first time since kale was put in juices, and I need to be there. I need to try things in situ and get ready to share those steps to others.

And you know what…. When I’m ready to share, I don’t want to share to 20 people in a little box at the end of a long corridor after lunch on the second day, I want to work with a huge room filled educators. I want to kick the butt of keynotes past and mix it up so every single person walks out of that room with a strategy to succeed. I want to make a difference. I want to make an impact.

So basically, I’ll stay at school and do my thing, and send a staff member who just bought their first laptop last week.

PS – some of you might say… “But what about the networking?” Sure, I love that bit, and will miss chatting with EduBuddies and EduHeroes, but between the coffee chaos and the lunch conga line, I can have a pretty good conversation somewhere online when the universe isn’t dropping in with hugs and invites to dinner sessions that lead to awkward seat grabbing behaviours. I prefer my educhats from my lounge or a quiet cafe when going about my daily grind.


Written by

Deputy Principal Innovation in 4 NSW High Schools. Besotted with organisational change and creating schools that give relevance to learning.

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