Bigger Conferences, Bigger Challenges

Written by Mike Lawrence, CEO & Marisol Valles COO/CFO, CUE

CUE_AnnConf_2015_yellow_wht_blueAs educational technology advances and more schools and universities adopt innovative learning solutions, CUE’s events grow and expand. Last year, our Annual Conference was our single largest event since 2001, and we felt it. Parking and room space were tight, registration and food lines were longer and we suffered a significant failure in network connectivity at two of the three conference venues.

As CUE’s staff leaders, we had prepared for the increase in attendance, ramping up in all areas to best provide for the anticipated increase, increasing orders, volunteers, expanding hotel block and shuttle service, even setting up the largest general session and overflow rooms in CUE’s history. Many of our preparations were successful, but attendees still reported frustration with the challenges a nearly 6,000 attendee event carries. More details on these issues were detailed in this document shared with CUE’s Board and Conference leaders back in April, 2014.

This year, CUE is taking measures to improve the experience for all attendees, and we wanted to let you know about these before packing your bags for the CUE 2015 Annual Conference in Palm Springs.

Expanded Space

CUE has reimagined some rooms to provide larger space for popular sessions, and opened up our General Session stage in Oasis 4 for large capacity sessions. Our intent with these changes is to provide more seating opportunities for the most popular of sessions.

Additional Featured Speakers

Speaking of popularity, CUE has invited back past keynote speakers Hall Davidson, Leslie Fisher, and ‘Lead Rocker’ Carol Anne McGuire to lead sessions on the main stage of the conference. We anticipate these sessions could draw as many as 2,000 conference attendees from other rooms, to ease the issues faced in smaller rooms. This is of course in addition to previously announced featured speakers: Kathy Schrock, Jon Corippo, Joy Zabala, Jennie Magiera, Adam Bellow and Sugata Mitra!

New Badge Distribution Solution

Piloted at our Fall CUE conference last year, a new badge distribution solution will be implemented at CUE 2015. The system allows attendees a much faster experience picking up their badge, bag and ribbons by utilizing a barcode solution that registered attendees bring themselves (on paper or digitally). Those without barcodes can still swiftly register by typing in their name and/or email address used to pre-register, it just takes a few seconds longer.

Completely Revamped Network Configuration & Bandwidth

CUE has invested heavily in supporting the Palm Springs Convention Center in network infrastructure and bandwidth upgrades. We selected PSAV as our new network provider and have been meeting with them regularly since last March. CUE subsidized an equipment upgrade at these facilities, also requiring that they upgrade their bandwidth to 1Gb, burstable up to 10Gb and install fiber throughout the facility. In addition, we have brought in Resilient Communications to oversee PSAV as they install, configure and deploy our network for the event. We are utilizing CUE’s reserve to fund these efforts, as we expect the upgrades to support our efforts through the CUE 2018 Annual Conference. The estimated cost of these updates to improve network connectivity is estimated to exceed a half million dollars in 2015-2016.

New Audio-Visual and Media Providers

In addition to new Network providers, CUE selected new AV and Media providers for this year’s Annual Conference – for the first time in 22 years. These two teams will ensure that we have an unparalleled AV experience for our session rooms, main stage and spotlight rooms, as well as top-quality recordings and in some cases, live stream them to the world.

Attendance Cap

In an effort to provide a high-quality experience for all attendees, we will be capping attendance at Annual for the first time in 30 years, mirroring our practice at Fall CUE for the last two years. By keeping our numbers the same or lower than last year’s event, we can better assure availability of resources, space and quality of experience for attendees.

Given our current registration numbers, we expect we’ll hit this cap by February 27, the pre- registration deadline. With the cap in place, we will not offer on-site registration, so it’s imperative to those wishing to attend that they get their paid registrations in as soon as possible. Those whose schools or districts tend to be slow processing requests are recommended to register using a personal credit card and then seek reimbursement from the district directly to protect their spot. Those encountering difficulties with this approach should contact the CUE office directly to assist. If we do not hit the cap by the pre-registration deadline, we will continue online ‘late’ registration until we do, or March 6 at the latest.

Code of Conduct

Since launching its new five-year Strategic Plan last July, CUE has been reviewing all policies and procedures to make sure that they reflect our new mission and vision and hold true to the principles on which our nonprofit was founded, comply with current nonprofit law and, of course, continue to align with our members’ and the broader educational community’s values.

One of these issues that hits close to home for all is the CUE Code of Conduct. CUE has for years expected attendees and members to act in their best professional manner when at in-person or online events. But when they stray from professional behavior, it forces us to reexamine our efforts in how best to protect all involved with CUE activities while they are in our care.

Towards this end, CUE is currently working with members, volunteers and those supportive of our efforts to collaborate in the development of an updated Code of Conduct for all CUE activities, online and in person.

Beyond 2015

While these changes will certainly improve the experience in 2015, CUE leaders are exploring many other solutions for 2016 and beyond, even the possibility of moving to a new venue entirely. Other potential solutions include: remote conference opportunities, use of the CUE Guide to pre-emptively determine interest in sessions and place in rooms accordingly, utilizing nearby hotel venues such as Hard Rock Hotel, Hyatt and Riviera, and taking advantage of available outdoor space. We invite other ideas and suggestions through our online evaluations and social media.

As always, CUE remains focused on inspiring innovative learners for the future through world-class professional learning events for educators. We look forward to a future in which as many educators who wish to attend our events are free to do so and experience firsthand CUE’s powerful learning.


Mike Lawrence is CUE’s Chief Executive Officer. An educator for the last 20 years, he worked as a teacher, administrator and professional developer prior to starting at CUE in 2005. He received the CUE Gold Disk in 2010, and recently served two terms on the ISTE Board of Directors. He is the Director of the California Student Media Festival, was named one of NSBA’s “20 to Watch in Educational Technology” in 2012, and received ISTE’s Making IT Happen Award in 2013. | mlawrence@cue.org  @techmaverick 

Marisol Valles is the Chief Operations Officer and CFO for CUE. She began working for CUE in 2003 and is energized by the educators with whom she gets to work. Her superpower is hospitality and managing details. She’s the one that keeps all the plates spinning for the nonprofit, and does it all with a smile. At CUE’s 2013 Annual Conference, she was a recipient of ISTE’s Making IT Happen award, and she’s also a proud mother of two! | mvalles@cue.org

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Mike Lawrence