A Behind the Scenes Look at the Teachers Pay Teachers Conference
You've been on the fence for a while now. Should you stay or should you go?
I know. I've been there.
I've been to several Teachers Pay Teachers annual conferences now and my experiences have varied. Here's a behind the scenes look at my experience at the 2015 conference in Vegas. I'll show you how I spent my time there and hopefully give you a better sense of what the TpT Conference is like.
If you're looking for tips on how to prepare and how to make your experience successful, read this post. It gives a thorough overview of how to plan so that your experience is not only memorable but also worthwhile.
On Tuesday, my husband and I left Ohio for the desert. We decided to use the conference as a perfect excuse for a mini-vacation. Looking back, we should have extended our trip as our four scheduled days flew by and were consumed mainly with TPT activities. A "problem" I'll remember next year!
(As a side, I can't say how thankful I am to have a husband who supports me and this business of mine. I love this picture of him in his t-shirt. He wore it around the casino like a walking billboard for everything just so.)
Vegas is one of our favorite places to visit. However, I was skeptical about making my first trip years ago. My view of Vegas was only what I had seen in movies or on TV and it didn't seem like my ideal place for a vacation. I don't gamble, know how to play many games, and have little tolerance for alcohol. Little did I realize that there's so much to do there that you could easily spend a week without ever hitting the slots or drinking a drop. It's a mecca for foodies and show lovers alike.
Together we've been to Vegas several times and it's our habit to make a few stops as soon as we land. First, we stop at a drug store to pick up supplies. Several gallons of water, snacks, and chocolate are a must to get through the week. Next up is In-N-Out Burger. We have a bit of an addiction, if truth be told. Being from the Midwest, we get to indulge in this deliciousness only once or twice a year. So, it's our first meal when we land and typically is one of the last before we leave. Not so healthy, but all bets are off while on vacation.
Stomachs full, we headed to the Palazzo. We stayed here for the first time last year, became completely spoiled, and now refuse to stay anywhere else. The resort itself is stunning with features that make you stop for a second look. The rooms are spacious and comfortable. Each is a suite and each comes fully equipped with a bathroom fit for royalty, a separate living area, and small work space.
When we arrived, the room we requested wasn't available. Long story short, we were offered a much larger space for a small fee and took it. Typically I'm not one for upgrades, but this one was well worth it. The upgraded suite contained a second seating area, bar, and massive walk in closet in its additional 300 square feet. We could have moved in.
While we usually request rooms facing the back of the property, the recent flood of teachers left few options upon check-in. Although our upgraded room faced the strip, we were far down enough to have a somewhat unobstructed view of the mountains.
The first event of the trip was the Real Housewives of Teachers Pay Teachers Meet-up. Hosted by Mrs. Jones' Creation Station, Sara J Creations, and A Dab of Glue Will Do, the luncheon was designed to bring together full-time sellers. The three ladies planned a fabulous event that included lunch, a Skype session with Lara Galloway, a copy of her book, a swag bag, and custom t-shirt. I was fortunate enough to be seated with incredible sellers including Becca, Miss Giraffe's Class herself, Emily from Education to the Core, and Emma from Creative Classroom.
It was the perfect sized event to meet others in my niche and actually interact with them. I highly recomment finding a similar get together should you attend a future conference.
The famous Blogger Meet-up was on Wednesday night. Over 1100 teachers packed the Galileo room of the Venetian Conference space excited to meet the friends we've made online. By chance I nearly bumped into Michelle of The 3AM Teacher. She's as wonderful in person as you would think. So gracious and kind.
Attending alone was a big mistake for an introvert like myself and I soon found myself overwhelmed. I left after a short time and headed back to my room for my PJ's and comfy couch.
However, a couple of hours later, I redressed and headed back to the party as it was wrapping up to accompany a friend who had just arrived in Vegas. Along with meeting Alexis of Laugh Eat Learn, I also got to meet Jillian of Starr Spangled Planner, Meredith of Creativity to the Core, and the super energetic Kayla of Top Dog Teaching. Four ladies I admire and wish I had talked with more. Well worth the second trip!
For dinner, we headed to B&B Burger and Beer. On our last trip to Vegas, my sister and I went there together for lunch and were so impressed with the food that we went back for dinner with my husband. It's quickly become one of our favorite places for quick food like burgers, sandwiches, and shakes. It's our go to spot when we want good food and don't want to leave the resort or spend a hundred dollars on a meal.
You really can't go wrong here - we've sampled nearly half the menu and everything is delicious. Attention to detail can be found everywhere. Even the garnishes are amazing like the ginger snap placed atop the caramel milkshake. Not just any snap, but the best I've ever tasted.
My bag was packed and ready to go full of session notes and battery chargers (man, those things were heavy!).
While I was at the meet-up, my husband lovingly ran a few errands including picking up breakfast for us from Bouchon. During our last visit, we treated ourselves to dinner at this hard to find gem and later found his bakery stands scattered throughout the resort. Although we didn't have time for another dinner there, we made one quick stop at the bakery for a chocolate almond croissant and bouchon.
Thursday started with a networking session and I met up with several great sellers including Beth from Adventures of a Schoolmarm. We recently connected through Instagram and I was so thrilled to meet her in person.
Lunch was Lobster ME, which is another requisite stop on every trip. Seafood is my absolute favorite and lobster rolls rank among my favorite meals. Again, being from the middle of Ohio, it's a rare occasion when we're treated to high-quality seafood, especially lobster. I could eat here every day of the trip.
Before the official welcome started, I joined my pals from Illinois. Two of whom were on my Master Teacher Team last year. Although I had just seen them in May, it was wonderful to see familiar faces, have a second chance to catch up, and meet their friend, Liz. The three have just opened a collaborative store called The Three Amigas and were excited to learn the ins and outs of starting a TPT store.
The welcome session kicked off with short presentations from Amy, Paul, Adam, and Rachel Lynette. It was an inspiring time where we were introduced to nearly the entire TPT team (including 49 new hires!) and learned about upcoming changes. (We sat too far back to get decent pictures, so I apologize in advance for these.)
Can I quickly share how much I respect these three members of Team TPT? First, there's Amy, who in essence is the face of TPT. I can't imagine the team without her as she works tirelessly to promote seller happiness, a job for which she's recently been promoted to Director. Her presence in the forums has created a community like no other. Of course, without Paul, the team wouldn't exist at all. I'm thankful for his "hunch" that teachers needed such a resource and his courage to act on it. Finally, Adam, who recently joined this little family of ours and made significant, positive changes all while keeping the family feeling in tact. I appreciate his transparency, willingness to listen, and care for the success of the company.
My sessions that day were Teacher to Teacherpreneur with Erin Cobb, Advanced Marketing Panel, and the Motivational Panel. Erin's session was a no-nonsense look at what it takes to move from being a teacher to a teacherpreneuer. As like last year, she gave great advice for making your TPT business a success and reminded us that success doesn't come easily or over night. Hers is a byproduct of late nights and binge working sessions. She warned us of the negative effects of such binges, but also gave hilarious tips for reducing work in other areas. I think there will be scores of teachers hiring help to clean their houses in the next few weeks...
The Advanced Marketing Panel provided specific tips to improve our presence on social media. Each panelist was an expert in a different area, so we received a fair overview of several different platforms. One of the best tips given, and one I learned months ago, was to pick one or two areas and master those rather than feeling the need to master it all. One of my biggest mistakes first starting out was to think that I needed to build a presence on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, etc., etc., etc. There's no way to do that well when you're first starting, so why try? Just find what works best for you and do it well before trying to master anything else!
Three of the panelists on The Motivational Panel are sellers I most respect on TPT, so attending this session was a given for me. Jen Jones of Hello Literacy, Angela Watson of The Cornerstone, and Jonathan of Created for Learning encouraged us with practical tips for managing our TPT business with the rest of our busy lives.
There were so many great moments that day, but this was the highlight. Apparently, one of the participants in the Blogging Panel session mentioned my blog in front of everyone. I don't know who it was or what exactly was said, but this text just about made me cry. I was overwhelmed and clearly had a hard time believing it.
Creating a recognizable brand has been one of my goals over the past year and I've spent countless hours trying to achieve it. Even at the expense of expanding my store. Having a clean, cohesive aesthetic is incredibly important to me and having others recognize it is one of the best compliments I could receive.
I completely forgot to take any pictures during my previous sessions and was determined to get at least one during each on Friday. However, after looking at this sole shot taken during Your TPT Business, I realized session photos might not be in the cards for me this trip. I could never make it early enough to get a decent seat and my place in the back provided me a better view of participants' heads than of the presenters themselves. (I had to laugh when I realized that I had taken a gorgeous shot of Emily Liscom's head and Annie Moffatt's shoulder.)
Led by Amy and Jared of Team TPT, the two gave a simple overview of protecting your TPT business, managing taxes, and finding professional support for advice.
The rest of the day consisted of Expand Your Impact by Angela Watson, Sensational Data by members of the TPT team, and Write What They Need by Jessica Ivey. Of all the sessions I attended, Angela's was by far the most helpful. Full of authentic tips for marketing yourself appropriately, creating related products, and finding innovative sources for reaching new customers, I was disappointed when her time ended. If you've never visited her blog, you must.
The day ended with Happy Hour. While waiting on friends, I met up with Miss Giraffe again. She saved me from the awkwardness of tackling the massive group of sellers alone and I so appreciate her for it! I have to say that meeting her was one of the best parts of the trip. Honestly the most authentic, kind, and humble seller I've met.
The Primary Pack hosted a meet-up in the Bourbon Room after Happy Hour. One last chance to meet familiar faces and new friends. I stopped in for only a few minutes before heading to dinner at Yardbird. Oh. My. Word. Best chicken I've ever tasted.
Our last day came way too quickly. Just before checking out, I said a quick goodbye to my friend Sara and met her husband for the first time.
I felt I needed at least another day to connect with certain sellers and another couple of days to spend time with my husband. We left the hotel only once, saw not one show, nor visited any of the sites like this trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower from our last visit. Definitely have to remember that for next year.
Did you attend the conference this year? What were your top take aways or best moments from the week? If you haven't yet made the trip out to Vegas for a conference, I highly recommend you start saving for next year. It's an opportunity you won't want to miss again and can't be found anywhere else. To hear about more experiences, visit the Elementary Entourage's page for other Viva Las Vegas posts!
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