STN Prep Time

Are we ready for a national convention of 3,000 dedicated video students and teachers? Maybe.

I am taking 20 kids to Seattle March 28-31 for the annual STN Convention, an event that began in 2004 with 500 attendees, and has now grown to become the nation’s largest gathering of high school and middle school video producers in one place. It can be overwhelming, but it really does not need to be.

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Here are some simple tips for those attending for the first time, or for the first time in a while:

1—Encourage the kids to do their best in the contests, then get out of the way. Let them fail, or succeed, on their own merits. Besides, if you are caught assisting in the on-sites, your kids get DQed. Explain that to mom and dad when they meet you at the airport.

2—Go to sessions that might take you out of your comfort zone. Listen to presenters that challenge the way you normally do things.

3—Visit with vendors. Ask questions. Find out about the latest, coolest, newest thing coming your way, because it will arrive eventually, and you will have to deal with it. I remember “digital” video being a far-off concept. The idea of non-linear editing? In high school? Never.

4—I hesitate to say “network” because it is overused, but hey, STN is a network. So meet folks. Swap ideas, find out what they do, and how they do it. You see a kid using a fancy, new-fangled gizmo? Go up to them and politely say, “Can you tell me about that, because it looks cool.” Get ready—kids love to share with curious teachers.

5—Thank some of the key folks you see working their tails off. Folks like Charles and his crew that produce the in-house (and online) broadcasts of the convention’s big sessions, like the opening, the closing and the film fest. They are unsung heroes every year. Or how about Jeb, the guy who runs the contests, which means no sleep, lots of stress. They are around, and a pat on the back can mean an awful lot.

If you are not going this year, follow the live streams via the STN website and see what all the fuss is about. One highlight, which has been the case from the very first year—STN’s closing awards ceremony is hosted by students. It is a nice experience for them, and a valuable reminder for the rest of us that the event is really first and foremost about the young people, the ones who give it life and energy every year.