Not many people know that my background is in business and economics. Not many people know this because it is a well-kept secret. Nevertheless, I like to dust off the Michael Douglas power-braces every now and then and get all business speaky. With that in mind, here’s my list of ten go-getter strategies for the participant (with special relevance to all teacher bloggers) looking to maximize their IATEFL conference experience.
1. Go through the schedule of the event with a fine tooth comb
This event is big; I mean, really big. Don’t go into it without a plan. Decide in advance exactly what – and who – you want to see. Get an idea of a killer question you could ask the presenter based on the description of their session. This might just lead to a conversation after and a valuable contact for the future.
2. Do a thorough Twitter search of anyone presenting at the event
The IATEFL participants are starting to make this pretty easy for you by being quite vocal in the days leading up to the conference (check the official #IATEFL and unofficial #IATEFL2014 hashtags to see what I mean). You can decide who you want to follow and initiate conversations beforehand. This works quite well for people like me who, despite being happy to stand up in front of a bunch of teenagers every day, is actually something of a recluse.
3. Use the Twitter and Facebook jungle drums to announce that you’ll be visiting conference X in city Y
Let everyone know you’re coming. You’ll probably be able to initiate friendships that could lead to possible future collaborations. You don’t use Twitter? Get started now!
4. Find out if any of the attendees have a blog or a Twitter / Facebook account
Think how good it would be to know what’s going on in someone’s teaching life before you bump into them? Also, have a scour of people’s Twitter and Facebook streams before saying hello at the event. You’ll be able to strike up a conversation about what they’re enjoying at the moment or that thing that’s really annoying them.
5. If you’re a blogger, it might be an idea to prepare a couple of post-dated pieces so you don’t have to fret about writing something just before or during the conference
You could revisit an old post if you’re stuck for something to write about. Did you attend the same event last year? See what you said then and reflect on it. Here’s a great example from Ken Wilson about the ISTEK event here in Turkey.
6. Bloggers… Get that absolute belter of an article ready during the days leading up to the conference, and unleash it on the day of the event
The chances are that people will be checking out your blog during or just before an event, so make the most of this window of opportunity and wow ‘em (my pre-conference effort is here, BTW).
7. Bloggers again… In the lead up to the event, think about how you can write posts that will lead to conversations
If you’re interested in a particular methodological argument or have a strong opinion about a certain piece of technological gadgetry, make sure you share that opinion and that you’re interested in what others have to say on the subject. Also, look at what the IATEFL registered bloggers are writing about for inspiration.
8. Exploit the likes of Twitter and Facebook for all they’re worth
Use the event’s hash tag (I’ll remind you, it’s #IATEFL in case you don’t want to scroll up the page and find it). People will be using Twitter Search or nosing around in Facebook to find info about the conference: make sure they found you.
9. Make a video about something and post it on your blog (I know, another one for bloggers!)
Scott Thornbury did this a couple of years ago to great effect (although who wouldn’t recognise him?). Videos can be much better for getting people to recognise you than photos, plus they are still a relative novelty in the blogosphere. People will think you’re clever and techy and want to be your friend.
10. Blog about as many people who you know will be at the conference that you want to connect with
Don’t be shy: discuss on your blog what you might want to talk to. People like to feel special and this will make them feel special. For example, my last three posts have been about teacher bloggers who I’d like to meet at the conference.
This should be enough to keep you busy over the next few days. I’ll hopefully see you all at IATEFL next week!
Confession: I originally wrote this as a guest post for Burcu Akyol’s blog (I can’t believe that was 3 years ago!) and thought this was a good chance to give it another airing!