Many of us return from a big conference like TESOL 2012 full of energy and excitement. It’s invigorating to be around other professionals and to share ideas. But once we get home and sort out the laundry and get our lesson plans ready for the week, it can be hard to keep up the enthusiasm. Here are some ideas for how to follow up on what you’ve learned.
- Organize your notes and handouts. Remember how desperately you wanted to make sure that you got a handout for each session you attended? Well, what are you going to do with all of those now? Don’t just let them get buried in a pile in a corner of your desk. Set aside an hour this week to pull them out and review them. Then, on a piece of paper or in a new document summarize a few key points that were useful and interesting for you. Do the same for those notes you scribbled. While you’re at it, why not write up a summary of a session for an Interest Section newsletter?
- Reread the program book. It is frustrating when there are multiple sessions on the program that you’d like to attend. But until you have mastered the art of being in two places in the same time, you have to pick just one. Meanwhile the information that you wanted from the other sessions is still available. The email addresses of the presenters are in the back of the program book. Don’t be shy about sending an email to a presenter to ask for a copy of handouts or presentation slides. Most presenters are happy (and flattered) to be asked. And there’s no need to make an abject apology about how you couldn’t make their session. Everyone understands the scheduling problems. These days many presenters make their slides and handouts available on personal or professional websites. Some presentations will become available in the TESOL Resource Center. You can also do a search on SlideShare. So don’t hesitate to ask—and don’t put this off until next month, because you’ll run out of steam to do it.
- Follow up on your new contacts. Before you forget who those people were, jot a note on the back of their business card. When and where did you meet? What did you talk about? Were you supposed to send them something? Is there a way that you can connect or collaborate in the future? Should you get connected on LinkedIn or Twitter?
- Start planning your own presentations for next year. While the excitement is still flowing, think now about what you might submit to present at next year’s conference. What was new or interesting? What good ideas do you have to share? Surely you saw a presentation or two where you said to yourself, “I can do better than that!” And you probably can! Download a copy of the Call for Proposals for TESOL 2013 in Dallas Texas. The deadline for submissions is 1 June 2012. Maybe you could collaborate with a colleague. Not ready to present? How about reviewing proposals? Reviewer application deadline is 20 April.
- Review the publisher’s catalogs. There’s never enough time to work your way through the entire exhibit hall. So take out some of those publishers catalogs that you stuffed in your bag and look through them carefully. Focus on what would be most useful for you and your students. Then follow up with a request to your local representative or the publisher’s website or phone number.
- Make some ideas actionable. When you get back to the real life of your job, it’s hard to find time to implement your new ideas from the conference. Make a resolution to put at least one new idea into action. You might also set aside a certain time each week to read one of those new books that you brought back.
- Share the professional wealth. Probably not everyone from your program was able to attend the conference. Schedule a brown bag lunch or an afternoon workshop to share a little of what you learned. If your trip was sponsored by your institution, let them know that it was a good investment and that you’d like to come again next year. Part of building our profession is sharing our knowledge with others.
Have you got other ideas for how to make the most of what you learned? Please share them in the comments below.