Hi everyone! Every year the TpT conference continues to grow, and I always look forward to the opportunity to both learn from others and share ideas. I’ve been fortunate to be an attendee at every conference, and for the past 2 years have been able to participate on a panel. I realize that as the conference has grown, it’s much harder to make connections and to know what to expect. So I decided to write this post to help those attending the conference for the first time. These are my top 10 tips for getting the most out of your first conference, and I hope they make your week feel a little less intimidating.

1. Try to make a few connections before you leave your home.

I decided very late in the year to attend my first conference, so I didn’t have a roommate or any plans. Luckily, I was a part of a Facebook group and had met a few other Sellers through it. Even though we hadn’t met in person, knowing there would be some friendly faces made a huge difference for me. Taking some time to reach out to people on the forums or on social media can have a big impact on your conference. Instagram is a great place to make connections! Find other attendees and try to make connections before you head out!

I think finding new friends is so important that I created a Facebook group that I’d love for you to be a part of! The group is for any Seller who wants to reach out and hopefully make lasting connections for your conference. People have met roommates, set up carpools, dinner dates, and more! You can find the Facebook group HERE.

2. Set goals for the upcoming year and choose sessions accordingly.

Each year, TpT is offering us more quality sessions to choose from. It can be overwhelming figuring out what to focus on. Some sessions will seem more entertaining, some will be great for your business, and some will have presenters you don’t want to miss. Maybe you want to get better at product photography, learn more about social media marketing, or get some help with taxes. Having these goals in mind will help you pick the perfect sessions for your business. Some people tend to choose sessions their friends are going to, or to hear from Sellers they look up to. But we all have different goals, and our businesses are in different places. Choose sessions that will propel your business forward!

3. Set a few actionable steps before you head back home.

After sessions, you will likely feel both exhilarated and overwhelmed. You’ll have a ton of new product ideas, marketing strategies you want to implement, and new projects you want to start. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough time in the day to get to all of them. Before you head home, write down 2 or 3 actionable steps you want to complete before Back to School or winter break. Once you get home, you will be hit with chores at home, preparing for your school year, and more. But if you set goals before you leave, you’ll immediately know what you want to get started on when you have free time. Use the motivation you find at the conference to set the tone for your next few months!

4. Make time for FUN!

There is always time to rest when you get home! Take the time to meet other Sellers and build lasting relationships. It can be as simple as grabbing a coffee, going to dinner, attending an event, or even grabbing a drink at the bar. Even though the conference is for our business, it’s often a place you will meet some of your closest friends. Enjoy this time and try to soak up every second, and remind yourself that you can sleep when you get home! This time comes once a year, and you’ll never regret spending a few extra hours with new friends or being inspired by other Sellers.

5. Be fully present.

It’s easy to focus on what’s waiting for you at home. Maybe you have a classroom to decorate, a house you’re moving into, or little ones that can’t wait for you to return. But this time is important for your business. Try to set everything else aside and commit to making these few days just about your TpT journey. Allow yourself to forget about the rest and focus on what you’re learning and who you’re with.

6. Don’t worry about bringing “swag”.

My first year I brought business cards, buttons, and marketing materials. Once I was there I realized that I was with my peers…not my ideal customers. Of course, Sellers buy from each other, but ultimately, people are at the conference to grow their businesses and network. Instead of trading business cards, I encourage you to find each other on Facebook or send each other an email! You’re much more likely to connect that way in the future. Having a button or something to identify yourself can be helpful, especially if it matches your TpT or social media picture! It’s best to save your branded products for when you’re meeting with teachers who are your customers.

7. Bring your productivity tools.

After sessions, you’ll likely have a brilliant idea you want to get started on right away. I definitely wouldn’t recommend working instead of eating or sleeping, but before you go to bed, work for 20 or 30 minutes on your new product or idea while you’re inspired! Bring a notebook and make dedicated pages for products, marketing, photography, or any other subjects that inspire you and jot things down as you’re in sessions. Keep your laptop in your hotel room in case you want to work in the evenings. (You probably won’t want to lug it around all day.) My friends and I have had several late-night work sessions at the conference. Everyone is super fired up and feeling invincible; take advantage of that time! Your phone will probably die with the long days, so I recommend getting a mobile charger.

8. Bring multiple options for clothing and shoes.

Typically, for sessions, people dress professional but comfortable. Many people wear jeans, and others wear dresses. You’ll likely be walking a lot so bring comfortable shoes. For attending sessions, it’s also a good idea to wear layers! I’ve been in conference rooms that were freezing and rooms that were warm. It’s distracting to be shivering, so bring a jacket if you get cold easily.

Because plans aren’t usually set in stone, I’d bring options that allow for some flexibility! One night you might want to grab a nice dinner with friends and want to wear a favorite outfit. If you’re planning on heading to Disney, you probably won’t want to wear what you wore to the conference. This is definitely one of the trips where having options will help. Especially if you don’t know exactly what all you’ll be doing.

9. Make time to chat with Team TPT.

Everyone from TPT is truly excited to meet you! Even if it’s intimidating, take time to introduce yourself. It’s easy to just focus on a few members of the team, but there are tons of other amazing team TpT that work directly with our stores. They’ll have special badges on to identify themselves, and if you watch, they’re often all alone! Step out of your comfort zone and say hi, they want to meet you too. As TpT grows, it’s harder to know everyone at the home office. But it’s also super exciting to see someone on the Town Halls that you’ve had a conversation with! I’ve always enjoyed the conversations I have had with every member of team TpT!

10. Expect to be a little overwhelmed.

I saved this one for last, because I think it’s the most important. Even 3 years in, I’m still surprised at how overwhelmed I feel during parts of the conference. I consider myself an extrovert, but it’s exhausting meeting tons of new people each day. You’ll hear so many incredible ideas and want to do it all! That feeling can often lead to “I don’t even know where to start!” It’s totally normal and okay to feel overwhelmed. It’s even okay to tell someone “This is all super overwhelming to me!” In those times, write your ideas down, and breathe. Stay engaged in the sessions, take notes, but you always have to recognize your own limits. Come back to your notes in a few weeks when you’re feeling more refreshed. When you go to your room each night, you’re probably going to be so exhausted you can fall asleep. That’s okay, too. Everyone else is probably feeling the same way as you. If you go into the conference expecting these feelings, it won’t be so discouraging. You’ll be able to identify it and move on.

I truly hope these tips are useful to you! I know that other seasoned attendees probably have a ton more to add! We also have a special event planned for first timers, and I can’t wait to meet you all. Don’t forget to join our Facebook group for First Time Attendees! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me in the Facebook group or email me at haleymoconnor@gmail.com! This is going to be the best year yet, and I can’t wait to experience it with you!

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First time attending the TpT Conference? Check out these 10 helpful tips from Teacher-Author Haley O'Connor on how to get the most out of your experience. Haley is a former 1st grade teacher from Dallas, Texas. She has been selling on TpT since 2012, and is fortunate enough to work on TpT full time. When she’s not creating products, Haley spends time volunteering at a Children’s Home and mentoring students. She is most proud of her Character Education Curriculum, because she believes students are most successful when there is a strong classroom community. Haley believes in the power of relationships in the classroom, and encourages teaches to explicitly teach empathy, kindness, and respect.