I’m on my way back from an ELT conference. As I was thinking back over the past couple of days, reading through some notes I made, it occurred to me that this would be a useful post in this ‘A to Z’ series, as conferences such as these are a great source of inspiration and information for ELT writers. Below are a few suggestions of how to make the most out of an ELT conference if you have materials-writing in mind.

Publishers stands

A conference is a great opportunity to look at the most recent materials that have been published. Both big, well-known and smaller, local publishers have stands at events. The people working on the stands will be happy to let you browse and take a close look at anything of interest. They’re also likely to have sample materials you can take away or QR codes you can link to. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions too. They’ll welcome the opportunity to talk about their products.

If you are trying to break into professional writing, asked for the names of commissioning editors who work in your sector or age group. Compare the materials on different stands. Ask about the book’s USP (unique selling point), think about features you might like to include in your own materials and why not give the publisher your details so they can add you to their databases of prospective collaborators?

Talks

Go to talks by presenters who are working with the same kind of students who you are writing materials for. You might also want to look for talks on current trends in ELT, so you can find out more about what’s happening. Not only will the presentation be of interest but the speaker might share some references which you can go back to later to read further. This might be a useful website or a link to a report of some research findings, etc.

Talking of research findings …

Some talks are all about people presenting their research. It might be worth going along with your ‘ELT writer cap’ on, and considering questions such as ‘How might this information impact my materials?’ If a session is particularly useful, make a note of the speakers contact details so you can look them up or get in touch and perhaps read an article they have written or watch a recorded webinar on a similar topic.

Speak to teachers

For me, one of the best things about going to a conference is having the chance to speak to teachers. In my experience, they are always keen to share ideas and experiences. Initiate discussions about materials. Most teachers will be interested and have something to say on the topic. A simple comment along the lines of ‘I love materials that…’ could lead to a light bulb moment for your own work. Again, why not share contact details so that you can continue conversations or just be connected on Social Media.

Go prepared

Face to face conferences can be a little overwhelming so it’s a good idea to go prepared. Here are a few tips:

  • If you have a business card, don’t forget to take some along.
  • If you don’t, have a card, write your contact details on some note paper beforehand, to hand out. LinkedIn is where it’s all happening and a good place to suggest people connect with you.
  • If possible, check out the programme before you go and plan which talks you definitely don’t want to miss. You can also see which publishers will be there, and perhaps look at their websites before you go and make a note of any questions you’d like to ask them.
  • Sometimes conference speakers make short videos before the event explaining what they are going to be talking about. It’s worth watching them as you might notice one that goes unmissed in the programme.

Online conferences

The blog post is about face-to-face conferences but not everyone has the opportunity to attend such events. Also, there are far more online and hybrid events. But much of the advice above is also relevant. Another thing to keep in mind is that most talks are recorded so if you sign up, you’ll have access later to recordings of the talks that you weren’t able to attend. That’s definitely a bonus.

What are your experiences of ELT conferences? Do you have a local one? Have you ever given a presentation yourself? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Kath

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