These days many of us end up doing things at the last minute, because life in general, and school in particular, are so full of stuff that needs doing. But if you hope to attend a conference like the Future of Education Technology Conference, 24-27 January, Bett (London), 25-28 January 2017 or ISTE, 25-28 June, it's worth starting to plan as soon as possible, for the following reasons.
Last in, first out
There's an unwritten rule that teachers who ask for time out to go on a training day or a conference later than everyone else are more likely to have their request refused, or permission rescinded, if the school decides that too many teachers will be out that day. You stand a much better chance of that happening if you make your request early.
More time for planning
You'll want to leave work for your classes. If you plan early enough, you should be able to find time to prepare 'spare' lessons that can run in your absence, in case your classes get through the main work too quickly. I've prepared a checklist of things to do the day before, but don't leave it that late!
Be an early bird
Many conferences have a special discounted rate if you book early enough. However, the 'early bird' discount may be limited to only, say, the first 50 people who register. It will definitely finish by a certain date anyway.
Another advantage of booking as early as possible is accommodation. Unless you want to end up sharing a hotel room with someone you don't know, or having to travel miles every day to the conference center, book early so that you can get a room as near to the venue as possible.
Some conference sessions, such as workshops, may be ticketed events, or you may have to choose which (parallel) sessions you wish to attend when you buy the conference ticket. These parallel sessions will probably have a maximum number of tickets allocated to them. Leave it too late, and you could end up in a session that is your second or even third choice. Don't let that happen!
Enjoy cheaper travel
You may even be able to book cheaper train fares, say, if you do it early enough. In the UK, for example, buying a train ticket a couple months in advance often means that it costs less to travel first class than it would do to travel economy class if you waited until the last minute.
Plan your time
Looking at the exhibitors' list and the rota of speakers a while ahead means you can plan your time at leisure – and have less chance of missing out on something you really wanted to do.
Terry Freedman is the author of Education Conferences: Teachers' guide to getting the most out of education conferences, available on Amazon at viewBook.at/conferences, and publishes the ICT & Computing in Education website and the Digital Education newsletter at www.ictineducation.org.