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  • Nancy Ruther, EdD

Conferences: Are They Really Worth the Hype... and Trouble?



Why did Nancy and Alexa travel all the way to Tacoma, Washington from across the country to attend the International Virtual Exchange Conference (IVEC)? Was it worth their time and treasure?  Their answer is YES. Great presenters, lessons, new colleagues and ideas… definitely good value! 


And for you? There are many ways to get to YES. Yes, attending a conference in your field provides opportunities to test your ideas and methods with your peers.  Yes, you can promote your best ideas and enhance your voice in the field. Yes, for your campus or your home company, it brings new ideas and helps you gather new tips and tricks. 


The key is to choose conferences wisely. It is a great way to use university professional development funds. This year’s conference investment can pay off for years, continuing to feed your teaching and professional insights. And the colleagues you meet can be a great source of feedback, camaraderie and even job connections well past the meeting itself.  And if travel is just not an option, consider presenting virtually. Many conferences are now offering this possibility to provide greater access to presenters and participants alike. 


For Virtual Exchange, IVEC is the place to learn all about it from organizations both large and small. The international draw of the conference is also notable. After all, at Gazelle International our mission is to help universities make their international strategies work  -- to collaborate across boundaries, borders and cultures! Nancy and Alexa were able to meet educators from all over the world - South Africa, South Korea, Germany, Denmark, Russia, Brazil, Liberia… and more.


Here are some general tips for making the most of a conference:

  • Check out the conference app if there is one. People often use these apps to create networking events and share rides. You never know - you may make a good connection by sharing a taxi with someone!

  • Attend the breakfast or lunch sessions if there are any. These are great, low-key ways to network and also save you money by not buying your own food if you are on a tight budget.

  • Plan what sessions you want to attend ahead of time - and have a backup! Sometimes sessions fill up quickly, so it’s a good idea to get there early if possible and have a backup plan in case the session you wanted to attend is full. 

  • Bring business cards. This is an easy way to exchange contact information with others - you won’t regret spending a few dollars on these. 

  • Take notes! Jot down the information you learn, names of people you meet, and things you want to look into. Even if you have a powerful memory (lucky you!), there is a lot of new information to absorb at a conference. 

  • Use Twitter if you have an account. It’s a great way to promote your session if you are presenting, and it’s also an easy way to let your network of colleagues know what you’re up to. #AcademicTwitter is a powerful tool. The conference will likely have a Twitter handle, or at the very least, a hashtag. 

These are all strategies used by Nancy and Alexa at IVEC to promote Nancy’s two sessions, “The Art and Science of Creating the Virtual Exchange Syllabus” and “VE Outcomes for Programs, Teachers and Students: Are We Measuring What Matters?” Check out Twitter for a summary of the key takeaways from the presentations: https://twitter.com/Nlr51


If you’re interested in attending next year’s International Virtual Exchange Conference, it will take place in England in September 2020. 



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