Here are my final thoughts on the SHAPE America conference. Overall it was a fantastic conference that I would recommend to anyone and everyone. Now that we have that understood let’s look at some of the glows and groans (stole that from Jorge Rodriguez) of the conference.
Let’s start positively with a glow. The wifi was the best network that I have ever been a part of. Bar none. I have been to Google Summits that had worse wifi. This network was quick and strong. You never lost a signal or had your internet slowed down the entire time. They had two access points for each room mounted to the ceiling. It was so flawless that Mike Ginicola hadn’t even thought about how great it was. I would compare the wifi to a referee or umpire. They are at their best when you don’t notice them. That was the case here. No one noticed it.
Now to a groan. The sessions were poorly spread out. You had multiple sessions of the same thing going on at the same time. That makes no sense. TGFU was a major theme this year. Someone on the committee should have asked if the presenters could level them beginner, intermediate, and expert. They could have staggered them in that order so that people could go on a learning journey. This could be true for technology, sports education, or any other major idea. They put Mike Kaczala at the same time as Paul Zientarski. That doesn’t make sense either. Both of these speakers are going to attract the same audience. A solution to this would be a committee that could solely be used to look at the accepted sessions and give feedback on when they should be spread out. If this is not able to be done make sure people on the committee are social media savvy and can identify which sessions will be the highest attended and spread them out. Even if they do make the recommended changes I am sure someone will complain about the scheduling.
Glow: The check-in to the conference was the fastest easiest thing I have ever done. It was well organized and I was in and out in 3 minutes.
Groan: They had sessions spread out all over the place. The social justice panel was so far away that I had to Uber to get there. (dramatic I know) It seemed like there was little importance placed on the panel. They also had sessions in the hallway. No idea what that was about but I would feel less than appreciated if I was put in the hallway. I don’t know if this was known going in and people were cool with it but I would have been too distracted to pay attention with people walking around and being loud.
Glow: The app worked well for me. In full disclosure there seemed to be problems leading up to the conference with it but when we were there it was flawless. Would recommend they keep that again.
Groan: Some great sessions were in really small rooms. I don’t know if this was poor planning or just a result of the schematics of the center. It was difficult to be in a TGFU session that had only one grid. Dr. Beighle and Dr. Pangrazzi were in a tiny room. Someone had to know that these sessions would be packed!
Glow: There was a fantastic makeup of people. I saw tons of black and brown people. Most people would not have noticed or cared but it makes me feel good that our organization is drawing teachers of diversity.
Groan: There weren’t backup plans for a storm. A lot of sessions were canceled. One idea that SHAPE could use is to waitlist people. Tell them they did not get in but if they are coming to the conference anyway and someone cancels they will be asked to fill the spot. With the quality of people at this gig, I am sure we could have rustled up 25 presentations easily asking people that day to fill in. I am sure there are always cancellations. I wouldn’t expect someone to come only if they are on the waitlist but I would imagine lots of quality sessions were turned down by people who still attended.
Glow: The SHAPE America Podcast! Finally, we are harnessing the power of social media and multiple platforms. Get the stars that are still teaching on the air! Celebrate and amplify how great SHAPE is. Collin and Matt did a fantastic job stepping up to the plate!
Glow: The speakers in every room were rocking. They were all hooked up to soundboards. The mics sounded great. This was a first class job well done by the venue.
Groans: Nothing to do Tuesday night. I know some may have considered Tuesday to be the preconference but judging by the quality of sessions given Tuesday you may have to rethink that. You had the National Health Teacher of the Year presenting! The standards-based instruction session was filled with thought leaders. If you are able to deliver this kind of caliber on day 1 set something up for people to bond right away.
Glow: The Sheraton. They let us use and abuse their hallway. We played PaddleZlam for hours and security was super cool. They didn’t even notice the dent in the wall thanks to Dave.
Glow: The Eastern District made us proud. They ran a fantastic conference in tandem with SHAPE. There were always people smiling and willing to lend a hand.
Glow: The vendors. Exhibit Hall was amazing. The sponsored events were amazing. Kudos!
Let me reiterate again how pleased I was with this conference. SHAPE America you know how to organize a group of people to celebrate and learn together. This was my first national conference so I don’t have any others to compare it to but wow was I impressed. The glows outnumbered the groans! That says a lot.
I would like to finish this final reflection blog of SHAPE Boston by thanking every volunteer who helped put this together. You are amazing people who will never get the accolades you deserve. Without volunteers, the best-laid plans go to waste. I can safely say I speak for every attendee when I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Now get started on Nashville!!