After 18 months of virtual school, online conferences, and Zoom get-togethers, I know many of us might be feeling digital fatigue. That said, the sudden increase of virtual conferences can truly be a benefit to us all and give us access to high quality PD at our own convenience and without the travel (though, I do miss the Paper Valley). For one more year, the WAFLT Fall Conference will be virtual. As we prepare for August and November events, I wanted to take a few moments to share some tips that I have found help me make the most out of my virtual conference experiences while still making me feel connected to my WAFLT family across the state.
1) Get Comfy
Many virtual conferences call it “PD in your PJs” for a reason! Figure out the best way for you personally to be comfy while learning. Maybe it’s on your couch with a big cup of coffee (or other beverage, we won’t tell) or maybe it’s in a plush office chair with a notebook ready — whatever works for you is the correct way to attend the conference!
2) Control Time! Use pause and rewind on On Demand sessions
We’ve all had those moments at conferences where we miss a comment while taking notes or get distracted during a session. Luckily, many virtual conferences, including the WAFLT Fall Conference, offer a number of sessions On Demand. This allows us to control time! We can pause and reflect, rewind and revisit, and even jump around the session if needed. You control the flow of information for those sessions.
3) Take advantage of the Virtual Meet-Ups
Major benefits of conferences are the connections and relationships that you build with other attendees. Virtual conferences that offer meet-up sessions give a great way to recreate these connections with other attendees and allow for shared learning. At the WAFLT Fall Conference this year, there will be a number of integrated Zoom meetups to allow you to make that human connection with other colleagues and enjoy the company of like minds. Make sure to join those meetups to help engage with the community!
4) Attend signature events to be part of the community
Like with tip 3, it is important to feel like a part of the community of the conference, and attending signature events is a way to do this. Enjoy these shared experiences with other attendees from around the world and connect via chat functions in order to be more a part of the virtual conference. At WAFLT this fall, that could include two different Keynote addresses, the awards ceremony, the Language Association meetings, language share sessions, or the WAFLT Business meeting. Use these as ways to feel more integrated with your fellow conference-goers.
5) Share your learning on social media
Whether face-to-face or virtual, using social media feeds like Twitter can bring your professional learning and conference experience to the next level. This is a great way to find connections with other participants or begin a conversation that will last well beyond the conference. This fall, share your learning with the hashtag #waflt21 and help build the conversation!
6) Visit the Sponsors/Virtual Exhibits
Sponsors and Exhibitors are so important to helping organizations build high quality conferences, so make sure to show them some love! Plus, often exhibitors will have great deals, trials, or offers to give you if you give them a quick visit. Make sure to visit the Sponsor Zone at this year’s WAFLT Fall Conference and learn more about the companies and organizations supporting WAFLT and language teachers throughout Wisconsin.
7) Access the archive!
Many virtual conferences offer access to some or all of their content for a period of time after their event. This is a great resource for us! It allows us to spread our learning out over time, not get overwhelmed by all the options, and never makes us have to choose one session over another! This fall, participants of the WAFLT Fall Conference will maintain access to all On Demand content and many recorded live sessions for at least a couple of months after the conference concludes.
With all these tips in mind, I hope to see many of you at the WAFLT Virtual Fall Conference on November 5-6, 2021. Our Program Co-Chairs, Andrea Behn and Shaniya Stengl, have put together a marvelous program, and so many of our amazing and generous colleagues from around the state (and beyond) will be sharing their best practices and strategies. It is guaranteed to be a recharging experience for all! #waflt21