Getting the Most Out of #BbWorld17

peach building in new orleans french quarter
name tag from bb world 16
My name badge from BbWorld16 and a friendly 3D printed octopus that says Hello!

I have been to several BbWorlds, and I love the experience. It is an energetic and vibrant whirlwind of technology. After awhile, you learn to navigate it, but it can be intense for new attendees. It is difficult to know how to spend your precious time while surrounded by so many choices of sessions, events, and opportunities to interact with Blackboard clients and staff. I was brainstorming some tips for a colleague who is attending for the first time, and thought I’d share it with everyone who is attending.

Here is my list – if you have attended before, what would you add to this? Or do you disagree with any of my suggestions?

General Tips

stephanie richter enjoying a bean bag chair at bb world 13
Me, getting some much-needed rest on the giant bean-bag chairs at BbWorld13 (maybe they’ll be back this year?)
  • Wear comfortable shoes!!!! BbWorld inevitably involves a lot of walking, and you don’t want to end up choosing sessions based on which are closest. Plus, you’ll definitely want to wander New Orleans after hours, or if you are arriving early/leaving late.
  • Pack professional yet casual clothes, plus some fun items for going out in the evenings. Most people will wear jeans throughout the conference, but it is New Orleans, so you may want to go out on the town in something nicer.
  • Download the mobile app when it is announced. You can bookmark sessions you want to attend, access maps of the venues to find that hard-to-find room, and find contact info for any speakers or attendees you meet.
  • Follow the conference hashtag on Twitter – a lot of attendees will be tweeting using #BbWorld17, and sharing what they have learned in sessions. Even if you don’t personally tweet, you can follow along to see what is going on in the sessions you aren’t able to attend.
captain mark kelly presenting the keynote at bb world 16
Captain Kelly presenting the keynote at BbWorld16 – he was amazing!

Sessions

bill ballhaus on the main stage at bb world 16
Bill Ballhaus on the main stage at BbWorld16
  • Build your schedule early, because there are too many sessions to pick from in the moment. You can build your schedule online now, or in the app a week or so before BbWorld.
  • Every session will be fabulous, but some are “Can’t miss”.
    • Definitely attend the keynotes – Blackboard books some amazing speakers.
    • Look for product roadmaps for, well, everything they provide. I find these to be really helpful in anticipating support and upgrades for the next year. This year there are roadmaps for Learn, Collaborate, Mobile, and Blackboard Intelligence (Analytics), at least. I may have missed some, too!
    • I highly recommend the Executive Listening Session, which is traditionally held during the last set of sessions on Thursday. During the listening session, several key executives are available as a panel to answer questions directly from the audience.
  • If you have a question for the presenters, use the microphone! The rooms are usually quite large, and you want to be heard.
attendees waiting for a conference session to begin
A packed house for my session with Jason Rhode on Blackboard Portfolio at BbWorld16!

Presenting

  • Be prepared for a crowd. Some sessions will be small, but others could have 200 people. Don’t feel bad if your session doesn’t draw a huge crowd, either – there are so many great ones to choose from! (The photo is from my session last year with Jason Rhode on Portfolios – it was great to have such a full house!)
  • Upload your slides in advance, through the Presenter portal or on-site in the Speaker Ready Room. The people who attend your session will definitely want to take home all of your great ideas.
  • In addition to your slides, share any other resources you can. Examples of courses? Yes! Documentation I can repurpose with my own faculty? Absolutely! A checklist, project plan, timeline, or communication samples? Yes, please!!!
  • Be engaging, and let your enthusiasm for your topic show. You are safe among friends who are just as interested in learning management systems as you are!
  • Stick around after your session, because people will want to ask more questions.
panel presentation at bb world 15
Excellent panel from 2015 with Navneet Johal, Doug Cohen, Stephanie Richter, Andy Mitkos, and Eric Kunnen (L to R)

Networking

jason rhode at the knowledge bar at bb world 14
Jason Rhode rocking the Knowledge Bar at BbWorld 14
  • Join the Blackboard Community Site before BbWorld. Not only is there a BbWorld channel where you can start conversations ahead of the conference, you can follow people you meet on the site, to stay in touch after the conference.
  • Talk to people after their sessions, or over meals. Everyone is very friendly and happy to meet new people. Many of us have fairly small shops on our campuses, so events like this may be the only chance to talk to someone else who does the same thing you do!
  • Bring business cards – you’ll want to give them to other attendees and
    stephanie richter and greg long receiving exemplary course award at bb world 14
    Stephanie Richter and Greg Long receiving Exemplary Course Award at BbWorld14

    vendors both. I try to write down some context on my card before handing it off, like the conference and the topic that I am interested in further conversation about. Otherwise, it is really easy to forget why you have someone’s card.

  • Meet Blackboard staff – There are so many opportunities, including roadmap sessions, meals, and the Knowledge Bar. You might even have an opportunity to join a product feedback session or focus group. These are excellent opportunities to form connections directly with Blackboard staff, which can come in handy when you have questions about your next upgrade or configuration.

Finally, be sure to get out of the conference! It’s difficult, because the session are great, and the conference and related events can go from dawn to dusk, but it is still important to enjoy your location. Fortunately, New Orleans (host of BbWorld for 2017) is known for nightlife. Not sure what to do while you’re in New Orleans? There’s a long thread building on the Blackboard Community site with tips for you!

Add your own tips for BbWorld in the comments. I look forward to meeting you at BbWorld!

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