Speaking of Conference Season

March and April can be officially called ELT Conference Season (easy to notice on Twitter and Blogs!) I decided to share some of my thoughts about conferences, mostly feeling inspired by the great posts, and partially because I am not attending any this spring.

Mike Griffin posted his Conversation about Conferences, and raised several great questions about these events in the 21st century technology era (Important Note: the format of his post is a surprise for readers, by the way, plus he offers a list of related links to go and read more about attending, presenting and socializing!)

My favorite questions from Mike are these two: What is the main purpose of such conferences? Is it for students in the end?

My initial spontaneous response to the second question was and is ‘Yes, definitely, how can it be not so?’ Hope it is true for … everyone in ELT? (apologies for the idealistic point of view)

As for the first question, I found one possible answer in Hana Ticha’s post where she is comparing conferences with pop concerts.

One quote from Hana: I suppose that people go to conferences for similar reasons why they go to pop concerts; they want to hear their favorite presenters (pop stars), listen to their favorite topics (music) and be there with other like-minded people (the audience).

My thoughts in response: people are ready to pay for the ticket and sometimes travel long distance to actually see a concert and be closer to the ‘star’. Is it (a little bit?) similar to the situation with ELT conferences where in one place and time zone you can meet, talk, listen to, ask questions, and simply have a good time with those great people? They don’t always need to be stars, by the way, but could be your colleagues you only get to meet once a year.

My second thought is that unlike pop or rock stars, we [teachers, trainers, material writers, etc.] are not really ‘just’ audience of the ELT big figures, but colleagues, and this shared passion for the field is one more reason we want to be connected. (I think I can replace ‘we’ to ‘I’ and completely identify with what I was saying above)

This post was written by Sharon Hartle in anticipation of IATEFL 2014, although many ideas on how to make the most out of a conference experience can be helpful for other events, I think.

My favorite tip from her great list is 4C (quoting a part of it): Remember to take time out to relax, to have coffee and chat with people and to sleep, or just to walk around the city and have fun. I can only add one more thing: look through the list of participants, if available, and plan to meet those people you have questions to, talk in person, make connections during those coffee and lunch breaks. I sometimes doubt which is more valuable in a conference: presentations, sessions, swap shops or… those coffee breaks (hope no-one feels offended!)

While reading others’ posts about their conference experiences I realized that I have not been a presenter or even a participant in a large event for almost four years now (Time flies!) Between 2000 and 2010 I attended a national or international ELT gathering at least twice a year, sometimes more, and most of the time I was presenting or co-presenting with a colleague. I was then enjoying my extended break with more international training experience. Now I reconsider the importance of connecting with like-minded souls, and I actually feel like I am ready to attend and share some of my experience with responsive and critical audience. I think this means that you will read something from me about a conference in 2015. No specific plans or promises at this point! 🙂

One more possibly related link to my earlier post about helping to prepare a presentation (might be helpful for those of us who are not going this year but planning a (Grand) Comeback for the future?)

Are they also having a conference this spring? Image from http://www.gorod.dp.ua/photo/author.php?author_id=14557 by Goroganin

Are they also having a conference this spring?
Image by goroganin from http://www.gorod.dp.ua/photo/author.php?author_id=14557

About Zhenya

teacher educator, evidence-based instruction trainer, PD Coach https://wednesdayseminars.wordpress.com/
This entry was posted in Learning Thoughts and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Speaking of Conference Season

  1. ven_vve says:

    Hi Zhenya,
    Your post reminded me that there was a period when I think I overdid conferences a little – at one point I attended 3 in as many months. It was this, I believe, in combination with organizing regular TT/PD sessions at school, that led to a false feeling of overconfidence and a sense of having nothing left to learn, which I think is dangerous in any profession. Then there was a longish period when I didn’t go to almost any conferences at all; ours is a small school and was hit hard by the recession – we simply couldn’t afford it. Having experienced both extremes, my view is that you should choose your conferences wisely, and attend those events that will allow you to fully benefit from the experience, regardless of what you see the benefit(s) to be: networking, exchange of ideas, learning experiences, or something else entirely.

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    • Zhenya says:

      Hi Vedrana

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing your own experience of attending too many conferences as opposed to not being on any of them. What you said about feeling overconfident (in any profession, and especially in our field of dealing with PD) is really interesting and makes me think. Was it mainly because of the conference presentations you were making? Seeing? Did it happen as a result of setting a new school up and working with a lot of less experienced colleagues and having to make a number of decisions all by yourself? I like the conclusion you made about choosing wisely and having your own set of criteria (and a sense of purpose) for a decision to be made. I think it works regardless of a specific field we work in 🙂

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  2. ven_vve says:

    Probably for both the reasons you suggest. We didn’t actually set up a new school; we took out a loan and bought it. Maybe the fact that I had a whole new set of responsibilities, which I seemed to be coping with quite well, did make me feel as if I was somehow in possession of greater knowledge than “just” a teacher – a huge mistake, I can tell you!

    Like

    • Zhenya says:

      I like it Vedrana – ‘Greater than ‘just a teacher’ – this looks good for a reflective blog post about the role(s) of a professional development mentor/coordinator/director in a school, and what challenges it brings. You mentioned ‘a whole new set of responsibilities’ – and I imagine it is also a new set of skills, new levels of knowledge, and many more aspects that are (almost?) never discussed and shared?
      Thank you for thinking on this together!

      Like

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