It’s All About the Conversation: My CIC Top Three

The inaugural Talent Development Scholarship Program from AEP, supported by Jim McVety of First Step Advisors, is intended to help professionals new to the educational resource community learn, grow, and network at one of the industry’s most important events. Winners receive a full pass to AEP’s Content in Context (CIC) conference, as well as guided networking provided by veteran AEP members. Before and after the CIC, scholarship winners will contribute articles to Educational Publishing.

Here, 2011 scholarship winner Lauren Baideme, Marketing Coordinator for eChalk, reflects on her experience at the CIC and offers advice for those interested in the Talent Development Scholarship program and/or attending CIC for the first time.

A little less than a year ago I had the great fortune to attend AEP’s Content in Context Conference as a Talent Development Scholarship recipient.  Having just recently been introduced to the business side of education through a new job in marketing at a company called eChalk, I was bright-eyed and motivated…but somewhat clueless about where to start. The CIC provided the perfect opportunity to find direction.

Reflecting on my experience one year later, I realize that CIC delivered on its promise: not only did it provide context for the current state of educational publishing (i.e., the shift to Common Core Standards, budget woes amidst the fiscal crisis, the edtech revolution…), it also provided much-needed direction for my career as both a marketer and an educator.

As a marketing professional, I was particularly interested in the session “So You Think You Know How to Use Social Media.” eChalk, like many other B2B companies, had recognized the potential for reaching customers through online social networks.  However, we hadn’t yet fully conceptualized the how, what, when, where and why. Among the many valuable tips and how-to’s shared by the CIC presenters, the nugget I took to heart was the notion that it doesn’t matter whether you’re on the publishing side or the educating side – social media is all about being part of the conversation.

The advice I received from the session’s presenters continues to help both me and eChalk find our social media voices in the larger edtech conversation. But the lesson extends beyond social media – by attending as many CIC sessions as possible and rubbing elbows with individuals from all sides of the industry, I realized that success boils down to the quality of your conversations. You have to know and understand your customers and colleagues before you can be trusted as a thought leader and partner. Until you’re an expert in the field (and even after), that means doing your homework.

Luckily for us, this homework is the fun kind that includes a field trip to CIC. For those interested in the Talent Development Scholarship program and/or attending CIC for the first time, I recommend committing to a few additional assignments. They’ll help you make the most of your experience and enhance the value of your conversations, both at the conference and long after.

My CIC Top Three:

  1. Set Goals
    With all there is to do and see, the CIC can seem overwhelming.  Get cozy with the schedule and a highlighter and decide which sessions are on your “must-attend” list. Once you’ve committed to a few, decide what you want to get out of them. Prepare a few questions you want to have answered – if any go unaddressed during the sessions, introduce yourself to the presenters or panelists and use them as conversation starters.  
  1. Network
    As a Talent Development Scholarship winner, not only are you introduced to the industry’s heavy hitters, but you are also provided with a conference mentor to guide you and help introduce you to others. If you aren’t set up with a mentor – choose your own! There are hundreds of friendly experts eager to chat. Scan the program for individuals of particular interest and seek them out. To keep the conversation going after CIC, collect business cards and send thank you notes.
  1. Reflect
    Some scribble, others blog, I journal. Whatever your method, make sure to take notes and reflect daily on your experiences and conversations. A year later you’ll find that you’re still benefiting from the words of wisdom jotted in your program’s margins. 

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