Getting the Most Out of Attending

Conferences and Conventions

By Dr. Charity-Mika Woodard, Assistant Professor of Art Education, Emporia State University

Posted on October 15, 2021

This time of year my attention turns to state and national conferences. I love to go to conferences and have been a regular since I was in graduate school. Being from a tiny town, I love traveling to bigger cities, seeing the local art museums, and trying the local food.

A couple of years ago, when the NAEA conference was in Boston, I took four pre-service teachers. It was so much fun to see the conference from their eyes. I loved talking to them about the sessions they attended and what they saw in the exhibitor room. One student had never been on a plane before or even out of our state.

Top Left: With my students at the Kansas Art Education Association Fall Conference, 2017. Bottom Left: With my students at the National Art Education Association Convention in Boston, 2019. Right: : National Art Education Association Convention, Boston, 2019.

If you are attending your first or 100th conference, here are some tips to better enjoy yourself and get the most out of your conference experience.

1. Take lots of notes. So much good information is coming at you throughout the day. I take notes during sessions, but I also carry post-it notes and write down names of the people I meet. This will help jog your memory. If it is something exceptional like the Keynote speaker, I have used a voice recording app to record those great nuggets of wisdom shared. Take lots of photos with your cell phone, too – snap photos of slide shows, teachers’ nametags, and so on.

2. Go to a lot of sessions…but not all of them. At all conferences, I feel double-booked. Having recorded sessions so you can watch later is one of the best things to come from the pandemic. Even though you are running around from session to session, take an hour off to have coffee with a friend or meet a new friend. The point is to enjoy yourself, not kill yourself, making it to everything.

3. Speaking of making some new friends . . . there are interest groups and division meetings; go to these meetings and make some connections. Sometimes we art teachers feel like we live on all alone on an island, being the only art teacher in our building or district, so this is the chance to meet others that love art education as much as we do! Talk to the person next to you.

4. Think about presenting. You can do it! During my first conferences, I was in the mindset of taking. I wanted to know what resources I could get and what supplies I could get free from the vendors. After a couple of conferences, I realized that I had some knowledge, and I could be giving back by sharing that knowledge with other teachers. Presenting a session is a great way to make connections and to share your wisdom.

5. And lastly…join social media. Many things are happening on social media. Share your pictures with the conference hashtag, download the conference app if they have one, and check social media because it is an excellent place to connect and find updates.

I hope these ideas help you and I’ll see you at #NAEANewYork in the spring of 2022!

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