Monday, November 13, 2017

Getting the Most out of Conferences

I leave for the national ACTFL Convention in a few days. This will be my third ACTFL convention which I have attended after having taken a 2-year hiatus (I have written a blog post about attending the 2014 ACTFL Convention), and I am looking forward to it. Because I have attended ACTFL Conventions before, I know exactly what to expect in terms of its overwhelmingly massive size and session offerings.

On last week's #langchat discussion on Twitter, the topic was the upcoming ACTFL convention, and folks were sharing their thoughts on numerous convention-related questions. This got me to thinking about what I have learned about how to survive conferences in general. Let's face it: conferences can be big, impersonal, and overwhelming. Here are my tips on how to get the most out of a conference:
  1. Do not feel like you have to attend every session. Pick and choose your sessions wisely. It is very easy to develop "information overload" from attending too many sessions and to burn out.
  2. Know your learning goals ahead of time. Is there a particular topic/strand which you wish to follow? This will help make selecting which sessions to attend much easier. For me, at this ACTFL Convention, I specifically want to attend sessions dealing with technology in the world language classroom. As I have a graduate degree in Instructional Technology, I want to learn more about new technologies for my curriculum but viewed through the lens of Comprehensible Input. 
  3. Take time for yourself. Take advantage of down-time if there is not a session which interests you. Grab a cup of coffee, tour the exhibit hall, find a place to plug in your phone, etc. Use this time to recharge yourself.
  4. Take time to network, to meet new people, and to reconnect with those whom you only see at conferences. There are so many people whom I know (or know of) that I only get to see at conferences. Some of my favorite times at conferences are when I am sitting alone off to the side at a conference in order to recharge myself or to prepare a upcoming presentation, and people will come/go at their leisure to talk with me. 
  5. If possible, share/discuss with others at the conference what you have learned. In turn, find out what sessions they attended and what they learned. Use that time to begin processing the conference.
  6. If there is something of great interest which you learned from a particular presenter, do some follow up. Talk to the presenter afterwards or contact him/her during/after the conference. Do not let your learning stop at the session door on the way out.
I hope to see and to meet many of you at ACTFL this weekend. Please take time to introduce yourself to me! 

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