What Makes a Great Conference?

In February, I attended a conference on global education with teachers and administrators from across the country. I had an amazing time and left feeling re-energized and excited to be a teacher. Why does some professional development leave you feeling drained, overwhelmed, or frustrated while some leaves you feeling inspired and rejuvenated? What is the key to the latter? What is that magic formula for successful education and teaching conferences?

As I think back to my weekend at the Global Education Symposium, here are some key features that stand out. The next time you are considering a conference, check to make sure that is has these 3 things!

1.     A Great Location

While you might think that the location of a conference doesn’t matter since you will be in meetings and sessions all day, think again. The best conferences are those held in a location that has related activities to do during the evenings or free time. The Global Education Symposium was in Washington D.C. which provided an abundance of things for us to do and see when not in the hotel conference center. On the first day, we had a few hours between check in and the opening reception, so a group of us walked to the National Museum of African American History. Wow! It was amazing. Check out this link for information about educational resources for teachers and if you are ever in D.C it should be at top of your list.


2.     Time to Share

Sometimes the best resources, information, and advice do not come from the presenters but from the attendees, especially if the conference has a very specific theme or purpose. If it has brought like-minded educators together, make sure that there is time for collaboration and sharing among the participants. One of the sessions that I attended included a “gallery walk” activity and sharing of best practices. We were told to bring work samples in advance so I knew that I would have the opportunity to see global education in action from some of the best teachers in the country.


3.     A Full Agenda

I recognize that this might not be what all teachers want. Maybe you go to conferences with hopes of relaxing days, since we all know that our typical teaching day is fast-paced and incredibly full. However, I can honestly say that I do not like traveling to another city to spend multiple days away from home and work only to have 4 short sessions and hear one speaker. I also get frustrated when there are many sessions I wish to go to, but they are all scheduled for the same time slot. The Global Education Symposium schedule was packed with interesting sessions and speakers. When I left, I might have been tired, but I also felt like it was worth the long-distance travel. Someone from our group took to social media and asked participants to sum up the conference in one word. Here are some of the responses:










I think these words say it all. If your education conferences do not leave you with words like these, maybe you should seek out some new professional development opportunities?

Special thanks to IREX and the Department of State for hosting a wonderful conference!