By Team iCEV on July 19, 2022 at 2:43 PM
As educators, understanding the importance of lifelong learning is paramount not only for the students but also for yourself. When attending conferences, you’re able to connect with other educators from all over the country, learn more about hot topics within the industry and get inspiration for the upcoming school year.
However, attending conferences isn’t just about showing up and sitting in on a few sessions. In this blog, we’ll walk through how educators can make the most of the summer conferences to truly reap all the benefits available when they attend a conference.
Pre-Conference: Preparation is Key
1. Determine Your Goals
Most of the time when you decide to attend a conference, you have a list of goals in mind that you’d like to accomplish. Whether that is networking with others in the education field, learning more about a specific topic or finding inspiration, you should walk into the conference knowing what you’d like to take away from it.
2. Do Your Homework
Depending on the goals you have set for yourself, create a schedule of conference activities that directly impact those goals. If you’re interested in attending sessions, watch videos of the speakers or do a little research into the topic to determine if the session is a good fit for you. If you’re looking to network, find events happening during the conference and after-hours happenings to give yourself the best chance to meet new people. Don’t forget to schedule some time for rest and to unwind!
Additionally, you can always find valuable information on the conference website. From conference maps, a list of events, sessions and possibly a list of attendees. By looking over the list of attendees, you can do some pre-conference research into who will be at the conference that you would be interested in connecting with. If there is no attendee list, see who is already interacting with the conference hashtag or tap into your own network to get a pulse on who will also be in attendance.
3. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare
Preparation is key when you want to maximize your conferences. Be sure to set your out-of-office response, wrap up any lingering projects and clear your mind before taking off for the conference. Taking in large amounts of information is already a difficult task but when coupled with stress or anxiety from work, it can be even more difficult to process all that you’re learning.
Additionally, once you’re at the conference you want to make sure you’re ready for whatever that day brings. To prepare, have a way to collect new connections’ contact information and have a way to give out your contact information. Hint: LinkedIn has a QR feature that makes connecting SO easy!
Conferences are intended to be fun so enjoy yourself. While making a schedule can keep you on track, don’t be afraid to be flexible. Maybe your new friends want to grab lunch instead of going to another networking event, determine if that’s something you’d like to do and go for it! You will only have as much fun as you allow yourself to.
Post Conference: Reflection is Necessary
1. Follow Up
If you made some great connections during the conference, don’t forget to keep the conversation flowing with a follow-up email or thank you note. These connections could turn into mentors, future colleagues or even lifelong friends.
2. Brain Dump
You’re ingesting a lot of great information during the conference but once you go home, it’s easy to draw a blank. Once you’re back in the hotel room or at home, review your notes and write down your main takeaways, action items or any other information you feel is important to hold on to. You can even create a list of things you want to research or learn more about. This brain dump gives you a way to organize all the information in one place.
Whether you felt inspired by a speaker, learned a new skill or met awesome colleagues, what does it all mean to you? It’s important to make sense of your experience to understand the value you personally gained from attending. Did you meet your goals? If yes, what did you gain from achieving your goals? If not, what are other valuable takeaways and what can you do better next time to hit your goals? By taking the time to determine how the conference impacted you, it helps create a game plan for next steps.
4. Take Action
First, you should share what you learned! You can share your takeaways with your boss, colleagues or even on social media like LinkedIn. Sharing your insights is a great way to not only articulate the value add from the conference but to spur conversations with other conference goers or even your own team members who might also have ideas.
Determine actionable items from your reflection. Were you inspired to start a CTSO at your school? Then get started! Are you wanting to learn more about a topic in education? Get to researching! Conferences continue to add value the more you dig into the insights you learned during them.
Lastly, find your next conference! Now that you’ve maximized this conference, continue to be a lifelong learner and keep digging for new information and ideas.
Looking to practice maximizing a conference? Look no further! Join iCEV on August 3rd at 10:00 AM (CST) for a FREE virtual professional development seminar. Register today through the button below, review all available sessions and build your agenda around what sessions you would like to attend.
About the Author
McKenna Garrison joined the iCEV marketing team in 2022 as the Content Marketing Specialist. Originally from a small town on the Gulf of Mexico, Garrison attended Texas Tech University from which she graduated with a B.A. in Public Relations & Strategic Community and an M.A. in Mass Communication & Media Studies. Garrison looks forward to bringing more of a storytelling element to iCEV social media pages. She also hopes to connect other CTE educators from around the country to the incredible curricula and resources iCEV has to offer.