In 2014, I was able to attend the TESOL Convention for the first time in Portland, Oregon. I had been to quite a few national and local conferences and conventions, but being part of an international convention truly exceeded my expectations. Of course, in hindsight, I feel that I could’ve gotten more out of it if I had been better prepared. With the hope of helping you have the best possible first-time experience, here are my top three tips for first-time convention attendees.
1. It’s All in the Planning
When attending your first TESOL Convention, seeing the schedule for the first time can be quite overwhelming. You’ll find many concurrent sessions and alternative activities to choose from, so how do you sort it all out? When I attended TESOL 2014, the first thing I did was download the app. If you’re more of a paper and pencil kind of person you can always get the program book, but trust me, you’ll want to at least give the app a try. It will for sure help you create the ideal itinerary to guarantee you don’t miss any of the sessions in your fields of interest. If you like to be an early planner, you can even start now directly on the website. Remember to also check out the ticketed events, which this year prove to be quite relevant for today’s ELT professionals, and don’t forget to watch the recorded sessions of the ones you missed.
2. Don’t Shy Away From Networking
Don’t waste this opportunity to network! When traveling to an international event, it’s likely to feel a bit intimidated, which is why you’ll feel the need to go everywhere with a co-worker or other acquaintances you already know, and which I did and later regretted. I know for some teachers, networking is usually not a priority when attending events, but don’t underestimate the power of getting yourself out there. These events are made to bring people together from all over the world, so don’t shy away from this opportunity.
3. Make Time to Go Out and About
Although the TESOL Convention will most likely keep you quite busy, don’t forget to make time to get to know the city. At the TESOL Convention you’ll also find some social events you can participate in, but you can also explore on your own. During my last TESOL, I was able to go see Cirque du Soleil, which was in town, making it an unforgettable trip. The fact of the matter is that many people take these conventions way too seriously, so don’t forget to relax and have a good time.
In TESOL 2018, I’ll be attending for the second time, and as an ambassador, I plan on not only making the most of this experience for me, but I’ll be sharing it with everyone on social media (#TESOL18). Be sure to follow along!
Tatiana Gómez Ramírez is a Colombian English language teacher with over 15 years of teaching experience, which includes young learners, English for specific purposes, and exam preparation. She also managed business English programs nationwide for influential companies in the country. In the last three years, she has dedicated herself to consulting and training teachers with Oxford University Press, British Council, and her startup, ELT Think Tank.