National conferences are a great source of professional development and are full of networking opportunities for staff at every level. In the 5 years I spent running a school in the UK, the English UK conference was a must attend event for me as it gave me a chance to meet with a large number of key industry people in a short amount of time and keep up to date with developments within the industry. Now I am back in Australia I am happy to say that the English Australia (EA) conference is just as useful.
This year was my first time at the EA Conference, and it will definitely not be my last. Held every year around September time, the conference is a great chance to get your professional development and networking done in a quick and effective manner. I am lucky in that I work for an organisation that sent quite a few staff members to the conference this year. I think it is safe to say we had one of the biggest contingents among all providers there with teaching staff, academic managers, marketing and homestay staff in attendance.
For our academic managers, the conference kicked off with speed mentoring. Yep, it is what it sounds like – speed dating with a different objective. This gave them the chance to ask questions of and get advice from experienced industry professionals. It was done in a stress free and structured way and the Lexis English academic managers came out of it with some useful insights and advice.
For the marketing staff there were sessions on various topics from agent expectations to networking to region specific marketing as well as ample time to go and visit the booths of various companies that could assist with the running of our organisation. Teaching staff were treated to sessions on exam preparation, methodology developments and research work. Homestay staff had networking breakfasts, sessions, and the chance to meet with large scale accommodation providers. Basically there was something for everyone. I even met some people who had paid for themselves to attend the conference – serious dedication there!
On top of this I was lucky enough to be giving a presentation in conjunction with Cambridge English. I was even luckier to have people thinking it was worthwhile attending – I did have some fear I may end up talking to myself. If you have never spoken at a conference like this, I’d strongly recommend it. There is a certain amount of validation involved in having a room of your peers listen and interact with you on a topic you’re passionate about. I also found that speaking to people both during and after the session raised interesting issues for further thought and development. So in that respect my session on professional development was actually PD for myself too.
Basically the point is these conferences are a great way to grow professionally. A great chance to meet new people who are invested in the same industry you are. If you have to beg, borrow or steal (not that we condone stealing), get yourself to one of these conferences. If you are open-minded and ready to learn, they are well worth the price of admission. Plus you can also get your hands on loads of free stuff!