So what happens at ETS?
Well, try in short, lots and lots of presentations. When you register for the conference, you are sent a program guide that lists all of the presentations. These presentations are divided into sessions or sections usually based on discipline or specific topic. There are usually 5 or 6 blocks of presentations: Wed morning, Wed afternoon; Thurs morning, Thurs afternoon; Friday morning and Friday afternoon.
So how do you choose which presentations to attend?
1. Based on the presenter. This can be a good way to see what your friends, heroes or teachers are currently researching. But note, if you chase after the “celebrity” presenters, these presentations tend to be filled to the brim and sometimes are “standing room only” (this happened at a Greg Boyd presentation I went to at the Toronto ETS.) The downside to this approach is that you may miss out on fantastic presentations simply because you don’t know the presenter. ETS is a perfect opportunity to engage new people and new ideas so don’t be afraid to try someone new.
2. Based on the title of the presentation. This can be both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes the title of the presentation is witty and engaging but then the presentation is absolutely dreadful. An example, I once went to a presentation where the title was “Did C.S. Lewis go to heaven?” thinking it would be an analysis of his “The Great Divorce.” Nope. I was so very wrong. The presentation was actually, “No C.S. Lewis is not in heaven because he was an Anglican and not an evangelical.” (I’m so not kidding). On the other hand some of the best presentations are the ones with the boring or even overly technical titles.
3. Based on your area of research. This is a good way to see what is currently hot in your area of study, and also to see what ideas are beginning to germinate in your field. But this approach means that you may limit your learning opportunities as well as your chance to meet new people.
4.Based on a whim. I have done this. I had one slot left on a Thursday afternoon in Atlanta, and nothing was screaming “must attend”. So I listed all of the available sessions, closed my eyes and chose one. It turned out amazingly well. I ended up in a presentation by Timothy Erdel from Bethel. I was so impressed, that I made sure I attended his presentation the next year, and I will probably keep an eye out to see if he presents this year as well.
What else happens at ETS?
Of course there are also the plenary addresses. These are delivered by guest speakers and are related to the theme of the conference. This year’s theme is Caring for Creation and the plenary speakers are Richard Bauckham, E. Calvin Beisner, Doug Moo and Russell Moore. You don’t have to go to all or even any of the plenary sessions. It’s up to you.
There is also a banquet on one of the evenings. I have found personally that the banquet is not for me, but that is mainly because by the time I’ve spent the entire day bouncing from presentation to presentation that I am intellectually drained and want nothing more than a quiet supper and an early bedtime.
But most importantly is the book vendors. This is the most amazing part of the ETS experience. Every single book publisher comes and has a table. They have “hot off the presses” books, classics, must-reads and more. And they all discount anywhere from 30-70% off the suggested retail price. When I went to the conference in San Antonio I was worried about how many books I could buy and fit in my suitcase, so I stood at the IVP booth humming and hawing. And then the rep said, “we can ship it to you!” Perfect! And most of the vendors had the same policy. Wahoo!
Is there an event specifically for bloggers?
I know that at SBL the bloggers would try to get together and go out for supper together. I would love for that to happen at ETS. If you’re coming to ETS and would like to go for supper, let’s do it!
I want to attend, what do I need to know?
All the details, including registration are at the ETS website. But here’s the basic details:
November 14-16, 2012 at the Frontier Airlines Center in Milwaukee. There are blocks of rooms at two hotels (Hilton and Hyatt Regency) or you can book at another nearby hotel if you’re on a tighter budget.
And if you can’t make it this year, next year’s conference is “Evangelicalism, Inerrancy, and the Evangelical Theological Society: Retrospect and Prospect” in Baltimore, MD.