by Rayna Freedman
When I walked through the exhibit hall of the MassCUE Fall Conference I was saturated with friendly faces of our vendors and their products that aim to support various facets of education. Here is what I knew about our vendors. They support our Conference by purchasing a booth to teach others about their products. Setting up a day early requires a lot of work on their end to create a booth that entices Conference attendees to stop by. Some purchase sponsorships to provide extras for our Conference participants such as a picture with Pat the Patriot or the Super Bowl ring. Others purchase a suite so they can work directly with attendees to demonstrate practical applications for their products. Their support helps MassCUE keep the cost of the Conference affordable for our attendees. Last fall I started to wonder what being a vendor felt like. That was a missing piece for me. I also wanted to improve our vendors’ experience, but being a classroom teacher I had no idea where to begin.
An epiphany hit me like a ton of bricks! I should be a vendor to truly understand what it is like for them to work a conference. This
March I had the opportunity to be part of the BrainPOP team as their certified educator at the ASCD Empower Conference in Boston. I was not there to sell their product, but rather to show off how I use it in the classroom and encourage others to learn more about what BrainPOP has to offer. The booth was already set up when I arrived. I was told to wear comfortable shoes because the days
were long. Armed with a water bottle and student work on a Chromebook, I worked on the vendor floor for three days. I was shown how to use the lead retrieval system, but I had no idea what to expect beyond that. Although I only witnessed a small glimpse inside the life of an exhibitor, I was able to come away with some ideas to improve our Fall Conference vendor experience.
Bring People to the Vendor Floor
I discovered being on the vendor floor is exhausting! Some days the exhibit hall was empty for hours because, once people visit vendors they want to see, they do not return. There needs to be more than one reason for attendees to come to the exhibit hall. This year there will be more activities on the vendor level than ever before at the MassCUE Fall Conference! This will draw crowds into the exhibit hall!
Make Personal Connections with Vendors
I learned from speaking with others that the vendors appreciate a check in from the people who run the conference. At our Fall Conference this year, MassCUE board members will be engaging in conversations with vendors on a deeper level. We want to hear about their experiences to make our Conference even better for them to attend.
A Thank You from Attendees Goes a Long Way
It is also hard to talk to people when they walk by and seem disinterested, but I encourage our attendees to visit with vendors, ask
questions, and see how their product can enhance student learning. Even just saying thank you for being here goes a long way!
Exhibitors Are Hard-Working People Who Are Passionate About Their Work
This experience also showed me that the vendor floor is a small piece of what exhibitors do. There is traveling, leaving families for
periods of time, visiting schools across the country, meeting with stakeholders, and working long hours. It was challenging and not something I would leave my day job for anytime soon. I now have a greater appreciation for what our vendors do in our exhibit hall. I am thankful to have had a chance to walk in their shoes for a few days.
Rayna Freedman is in her 18th year teaching 5th grade in Mansfield. She is MassCUE President elect and co conference chair of the fall conference. She is always seeking new opportunities to learn.
– Rayna Freedman (firstname.lastname@example.org)Print this post