As many people do, I'll be attending a conference soon. In instructional design or really any field, conferences can be a nice place to share your research, your work, or learn from your peers, and build your professional network. However, if your new to attending conferences or just need to revamp the way you view conferences, this post is here to help you!
Session Selection & Reflection
Your first conference can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many different topics and different discussions that are being held and how do you know which one to attend? First, I always try to attend sessions that are of interest to me. Something that I am familiar with. Something that takes a topic a new direction or looks at it through a new lens. These sessions always benefit me to look and evaluate my own work. How can I make what I'm doing better? How can I apply these new skills into my own environment?
Second, I try to attend a session that I am not familiar with. You attend conferences so that you can learn and explore new ideas or thoughts. By attending a session that you know nothing about - it can open your eyes to a new topic. Surprisingly, these sessions may benefit you. While the topic may not be familiar there may be a new research method or a new tool that can be useful in your own environment. It is sometimes scary being open to learning and sitting in a room with a lot of people who are interested in a topic that you know nothing about. However, you never know how these sessions can play out. And at the end of the day - if you didn't learn anything new - you only wasted one session. Guess what? There is a new one starting here in a few minutes anyway...
After you have attended a session -make sure to take notes and reflect on what you learned. Chances are you'll be going to a lot of sessions in one day. Taking notes and reflecting on what you have learned that night can help you retain information to use later on.
Networking & Gaining Visibility
You will be amazed at the amount of networking that can be done at conferences. You may be involved in a round table discussion where a new idea pops up. Turns out the person next to you is actually a major author or researcher in the field. You now have impressed that person who wants to work with you. This is great!
Say you are looking for potential educational programs or jobs. Going to conferences is actually a time where companies and universities explore different qualities or characteristics in people for those positions. These can turn into mini informal interviews that can turn in your favor if done properly. Even if you don't get a job right then and there - you now have a connection with a person who may know other people who are looking for a person just like you! Keep in touch with these people you meet. Follow up with emails and build relationships. Again, you never know when these will work in your favor.
Good luck as you attend your own conferences. Here's to hoping you are able to make the most out of them!