Educational leaders are changemakers and can be fierce advocates for their field. If they truly want to maximize this impact, administrators, principals, and those considering a leadership role should regularly attend educational leadership conferences to learn, network, and gain new ideas. At conferences, educational professionals can see the latest trends, meet pacesetters in the field, and discover valuable new resources. Yet what makes one conference worth attending over another? Read on to discover what makes a good conference, how to get the most from attendance, and more.
There’s no shortage of conferences for educational leaders. How can a professional discern which opportunities are best?
Another consideration is to identify high-quality conferences that are a wise investment. While some conferences can be extremely valuable from their first launch, others can take a few years to hit their stride. Regardless of whether a conference is in its first or 50th year, it’s important for its host and speakers to ensure its trustworthiness. When evaluating a conference, prospective attendees should ask questions such as the following:
Educational leadership conferences can be exciting events because educational professionals and companies unveil new ideas, technologies, research, and goals. When considering whether to attend a conference, potential conference-goers should evaluate whether it fosters innovation and idea exchange. For example, the 2018 SXSW EDU conference featured sessions on emerging technology and data, two innovative trends in the education field.
Conferences that actively seek feedback about what attendees would like to see covered are more likely to meet their target audience’s needs. It can be useful to ask the conference host or colleagues who have attended the event in previous years if the facilitators take feedback to heart and implement it from year to year.
Adrian Segar, conference designer and facilitator and author of Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love, notes that the main benefit of large conferences is the sheer number of voices, perspectives, and years of experience on display. However, this can affect interactivity. Prospective attendees may want to consider choosing a conference large enough to offer diverse perspectives—including those of administrators, policymakers, curriculum developers, and instructors—but small enough that they can get their questions answered and develop meaningful relationships.
Segar also points out that conferences structured to support participation can be ideal for attendees. Quality conferences need to be organized and provide a seamless experience that doesn’t hinder attendees from gaining new knowledge and connections, but they should also be flexible when necessary to respond to participants’ needs and requests as they arise—such as impromptu round table discussions or a longer break period between sessions to accommodate an engaging question and answer session.
Prospective attendees may also wish to consider the structure of the topics presented. Questions they may want to ask themselves include the following:
After selecting educational leadership conferences to attend, educational professionals should make a plan to maximize their time. The plan, whether simple or complex, can be a great way to set their expectations and know what they wish to accomplish before the conference date arrives.
The first and most important priority for potential attendees is to identify their goals. For example, educators who want more information about educational leadership and policy they might want to consider a conference dedicated to the topic or even a conference where they can curate their experience by selecting sessions relevant to the topic. Educators who wish to expand their networks should look for a conference with plenty of networking opportunities.
Further, the learning styles familiar to most educators can impact the conference experience. Knowing one’s learning style—such as preferring to listen to lectures (auditory learner) versus preferring to try out firsthand how a new education technology works (kinesthetic learner) will help attendees their activities wisely.
Most conferences release their agenda of sessions, expo hall hours, presentations, round tables, keynotes, happy hours, and other events well in advance. It’s wise for attendees to review the agenda and select sessions ahead of time, so they’re able to achieve their goals. If educators are interested in deepening their understanding of student accessibility, for example, they could earmark the talks relevant to this topic, and they could make a list of speakers with expertise in this area to whom they wish to introduce themselves. It’s important for educators to sign up as early as possible: First come, first served opportunities, such as early registration discounts, may be available only to those who sign up early. Finally, attendees should plan to connect with others over social media, update their online resume ahead of time, and pack or wear comfortable but professional clothing.
After attending a conference, attendees often return home with plenty of notes, as well as a wealth of new connections. By recalling their personal goals, attendees can outline their next steps while the experience is top of mind. For example, if their main aim was to make new connections, attendees can transform connections into relationships by following up with the contacts they met. If they discovered a new technology that’s perfect for their classroom at the expo hall, they can approach their administrative staff about purchasing it for the school. In this way, attendees can make the most of the event, long after it’s over.
In addition to attending educational leadership conferences, professionals in the education field can ramp up their credentials and knowledge by earning a Master of Education (MEd). You can take the next step to further your career by completing LSU Online’s MEd in Educational Leadership program. Learn more about how this program can prepare you for a rewarding educational administration career, prepare to enter the educational support services world, and enhance your classroom teaching skills.
AASA, The School Superintendents Association
Association of International Education Administrators
Conferences That Work, Characteristics
LSU Online, Master of Education in Educational Leadership
The Edvocate, “The 10 Best Education Leadership and Education Policy Conferences of 2019”
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