Making the Most of Your Conference Experience

The fall conference season in full swing, and AOE’s fall conference tour just began with our recent stop at the Iowa / Nebraska Art Educator’s Conference.

AOE Writers Cassidy, Jessica, and Chelsie at the IA/NE Conference!

This upcoming week we will be talking all about Art Ed Conferences!  From tips to getting the most out of your conference experience, to insider strategies to creating amazing presentations, we’ve got you covered when it comes to all aspects of “Art Ed Conferences” – Because nothing motivates you like being surrounded by other art educators! Let the fun begin!


Making the Most of Your Conference Experience


Have you ever attended a conference and left feeling that it was a waste of your entire day?  Well, not this year!  With these simple steps, you will be sure to get the most from your conference experience.

1. Prepare – Before you register, take a minute to think about why you are attending this conference.  What are your goals?  What are you excited to learn about?  Is your focus technology?  Advocacy?  Grant writing?  Make a list of what you specifically want to get out of the conference.

2. Make your schedule – Now that you have your goals, look through the conference listings and see what sessions align with your goals.  Pick out your sessions and create a schedule for each day that you will be in attendance.  Be sure to leave time for meals, cruising the vender section, and networking with others.  I also highly recommend signing up for a new creative experience.  Check out art teachers at the 2008 Art Educators of Iowa Conference participating in an iron pour below.

How often do you get the opportunity to work with molten iron?  It was an once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Also, consider signing up for additional activities outside of the normal sessions.  Some conferences offer a teacher exhibit, local museum tours, a networking cocktail hour, or an exhibition of student work.  Participating in a teacher exhibit can look great on a resume and other experiences provide a fun, social way to connect with other teachers.

3. Conference Day – You will want to bring your schedule, business cards and a folder with paper and pencil with you to the conference.  Make sure you show up prepared and on time for each session.  Most presenters will go over the goals of the session during the first few minutes of the presentation.  If you realize that this session is not going to meet one of your goals, it is okay to get up and leave the session quietly during the first few minutes.  As a presenter, I would prefer that you quietly leave rather than stay and look completely bored.  It’s okay to take charge of your learning and your time, as long as you do it respectfully.  At the end of the session, take time to visit with the presenter and others in attendance.  This is a great time to exchange business cards and contact information and ask questions.

4. Review – After the conference, review your handouts and write down everything that you learned.  If you were one of the few (or only) to attend from your department, consider sharing information with your colleagues or administrator.  This could be great professional development for your team.  This is also the time to send a quick thank-you email to presenters who really ignited your learning.  You could also add links to new ideas and material on your class website or blog.

5. Goal setting – Pick one or two things from the conference to implement this year.  Did you learn a new lesson to try in your classroom?  A new iPad app to incorporate?  Did you gain new insight on an artist or a technique?  Are you motivated to try a new fund-raising opportunity?  Sometimes there are so many great ideas they can seem overwhelming.  It helps to choose one or two to focus on and build from there.

6. Think about next year – Conferences would cease to exist without educators motivated to keep art teachers collaborating and informed year after year.  Think about what you could do to help next year.  Do you have a new program idea to present?  Are you interested in volunteering your time to run a booth?  Are you awesome at designing pamphlets, T-shirts or newsletters?  Want to organize an exhibition?  Reach out to your local art teacher organization and see if they need help.  Chances are, the answer is yes!

Here’s to an amazing conference season full of new, exciting ideas and motivated teachers!

How do you make sure to get the most out of a conference?  Share your tips below.

Heather Crockett

Heather is AOE’s Project Manager and an expert in differentiation, curriculum development, and assessment. She is a veteran teacher in the art room and at the graduate level.


  • Marni Oberpriller

    It saddens me as I think of the lack of support as districts “deny” Art Educators opportunity to attend THEIR annual core content conference and connect with peers. I when I say deny, I mean to say many districts have hurdles in place that make attending difficult and costly for Art Educators to attend!  When I request a stipend. I”m told my district doesn’t see the conference content as “sustainable.”
    In addition, I am expected to use personal days to attend (as you Ladies put it) “Rediculously Relevant” Professional Development! At the same time, I have had to waste so much time sitting through other content areas’ PD sessions throughout my career as an Art Specialist. 
    Heather, thanks for your suggestions.  I have not yet attended a conference where I have taken the time to set goals for myself a head of time. I just plan to attend of my own accord.  I typically go through the motions of looking at the schedule in advance online, making choices/changes, attending sessions — and sometimes leaving early if the session doesn’t work for me.  There are times too, where I’ve been disappointed when two relevant sessions are scheduled at the same time slot and I have to choose one or the other with neither being offered again.
    After venting here. I realize what I need to do is take the initiative to set a goal to plan and present sessions for my own personal advancement; and perhaps then be recognized by District and Admin for my leadership and District PR initiative .

    • Marni,
      You are right, it’s really sad to think Art PD isn’t regarded as highly as other content areas, and there are so few PD opportunities to help us continue to validate why they are so important. We hope to continue to empower art teachers here on AOE and help you meet those goals! I am glad you took the time to comment, your thoughts are important and need to be heard.