Conferences provide educators the opportunity to step outside their schools to see trends, issues, and innovations happening in their field.
Among other benefits of conferences, teachers can fulfill professional development requirements to maintain their teaching licenses. Here are a few ways that conferences provide value to educators and advice on how to choose the right conferences to attend.
Learn What’s Going On
Attending conferences can be an efficient way to catch up on new trends in the field, as well the possibility of meeting people with unique viewpoints and techniques. Conference topics can range from subject-specific teaching tactics to handling classroom disciplinary issues to incorporating e-learning into your curriculum.
Regroup, Re-energize, Regain
Burn out can happen quickly in this profession. Conferences are a great way to revitalize the commitment to education. The opportunity to make new contacts and develop professional networks can strengthen the desire to learn and regain lost motivation.
Conferences offer a variety of presentation opportunities for teachers and educators to share their expertise. It’s yet another way to network. For those ready to take the plunge, here are some tips:
- Outline a topic first – Plan first and then build.
- Don’t get wordy – The slides are a reminder, not a textbook.
- Include matching graphics – Choose dynamic images that work with the topic.
- Include stories – Adding personality and experience through anecdotes can keep the topic moving and keep your audience entertained.
- Have a script and practice it – Know what you plan to say. This way it flows naturally and comes across more authentic.
- Back it up! On a computer, on a jump drive, on a friend’s computer – The only time things seem to go wrong is when you’re not prepared for them.
Find the Right Conference and Be an A+ Participant
There are so many conferences out there that it can be hard to know which ones to attend. Here are 7 strategies for getting the most out of your experience:
- For someone new to education conferences, start small and local. The large national conferences are wonderful, but they can be overwhelming to someone who’s new to them. Consider starting at the regional or state level. Or try something even smaller, like Edcamps that are springing up.
- Look for specialties. There are subgroups on various education topics that either hold their own conferences or offer what’s called “tracks” at larger conferences. Tracks are a set of conference sessions that are rooted in a specific subtopic. For example, a large conference covering many aspects of education could have tracks on Reading and Literacy, Principals and Administration, or Ed Tech, among others. All the sessions in that track would be identified as such, making it easier for the attendee to narrow down programming choices.
- When attending a conference, look for the corresponding app that has been created specifically for attendees. Large-scale conferences often have apps to help navigate the conference, both literally at the facility and figuratively through the conference offerings.
- Take advantage of pre-conferences or orientations. Large conferences often offer these types of sessions to help first-time attendees get their bearings. They’re worth the time to attend. Networking bonus: Bonding time with other first-time attendees.
- Can’t attend a particular conference? Look for online streaming sessions or Twitter hashtags. Often keynote speakers will be streamed live or recorded later for public viewing. Attendees commonly use specific hashtags to report what they’re learning. It can be rapid-fire, but it can also be a fun and easy way to pick up some of the learning when conference attendance isn’t possible.
- Study the schedule ahead of time. The conference’s schedule is usually online or in print ahead of time. The pressure to decide between sessions can be difficult to manage on site. Studying the options ahead of time will make it possible to weigh opportunities and make the best choices. It can also help attendees get that front row seat at the most popular sessions – having to preregister is not uncommon for top speakers.
- Build in breaks. Take time for breathers and down time at conferences. Use some of that time to go looking for free swag. There’s never a shortage of free swag.
Learn more about Capella University’s online degree and certificate programs in education.