We Volunteered at #ISTE18 – The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
As we planned our trip to Chicago for ISTE 2018, Jeff suggested we pick a couple of times to volunteer and help out with the conference. We chose a 2-hour stint as an “Ask Me” helper and a 2-hour stint on a different day to help in ISTE Central. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly. Okay, maybe not ugly.
ISTE volunteers receive a conference-themed t-shirt and a volunteer-only “shoe bag” tote. This really is one of the best reasons to volunteer aside from helping people.
As “Ask Me” station monitors, we sat posted outside of the Microsoft Corporate Presentation room on the first floor. We were not given much instruction (see “The Bad” below), so we fended for ourselves as best we could. What were we asked?
“What is the name of the street behind you?” A: S Indiana Ave; via Google Maps
“Where are the keynote authors signing books?” A: ISTE Central, near book sales; We guessed and hoped we were correct
“Where do I get the shuttle bus to my hotel?” A: We directed them to the conference bus depot; we knew from experience
“Do you know where the third Playground area is? I was told there is a ‘C’ area.” A: We couldn’t find reference to a third area, so we directed them to the INFO booth on the third floor
“Where is the Apple Corporate Room?” A: We used the ISTE app to locate the room, then direct the person to it.
“Do you know where (such-and-such vendor) is located in the Expo Hall?” A: We searched for the vendor in the ISTE app and directed the person to it.
“What are these tickets for?” A: Various tickets were used for raffles, session entry, etc. We walked through each ticket the attendee had, explaining what to do with each one.
“Do you know more about the buffet upstairs?” A: We had no idea. we directed the person to the INFO booth on the third floor.
“How many people does Room (such-and-such) sit?” A: We had no idea, but were able to make a guess based on random things we had heard from other ISTE workers.
“How do you get to the Hyatt (or Marriott) from here?” A: We tried to figure this out, but even asking PAID folks from ISTE, we could not provide accurate answers. We tried.
“Where is Michigan Avenue from here?” A: We found the road via Google Maps, then directed the person toward it.
There were MANY other questions as well.
As an “ISTE CENTRAL” volunteer, David was assigned “Poster Distribution.” Jeff was assigned to the bookstore. David’s job was to hand out posters of the ISTE student and educator standards to passersby. For the first hour, he hounded folks waiting in line to have books signed by Andy Weir (“The Martian”). It’s easy to give away stuff to people waiting in an extra long, slow-moving line. The second hour was not as productive, though David basically shoved the posters in the faces of anyone coming into/out of the Expo Hall. Jeff helped attendees with book choices to match interests, helped them locate favorite author publications, and steer them toward resources with more current data as opposed to those which might be deemed outdated.
Conference volunteers are given little to no direction and/or instruction.
The “Ask Me” volunteers seem to have it worst of all. There is no orientation, no “here are the top 5 or 10 things you need to know,” no number/text to use in case someone asks you questions you cannot answer.
If you are in a conference volunteer shirt, people assume you are an “Ask Me” person, even if you aren’t. Luckily, we had been, so we knew many of the answers being thrown my way while we were working the ISTE Central area.
Volunteers are not given/asked for any kind of debriefing after their shift. A debriefing might have helped circumvent some of the above-named issues for future volunteers.
David’s only “ugly” moment came when one attendee talked down to him for not knowing the answer to a question since David was wearing a volunteer shirt. David let the guy know that he would happy to find out from an ISTE Staff member, but the frustrated attendee tromped off. Ah well, you can’t win them all.
The GOOD of volunteering far outweighs the bad and the ugly. We wholeheartedly recommend volunteering at the next ISTE event! It is a great way to help folks, but also a fun way to meet more of the educators that attend this annual event. Stay Tuned for ISTE 2019!