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Making the Most of Conference Opportunities: Insights from Emerging Evaluators by Stacy Huff and Tyler Clark

Hello, AEA365 community! Liz DiLuzio here, Lead Curator of the blog. This week is Individuals Week, which means we take a break from our themed weeks and spotlight the Hot Tips, Cool Tricks, Rad Resources and Lessons Learned from any evaluator interested in sharing. Would you like to contribute to future individuals weeks? Email me at AEA365@eval.org with an idea or a draft and we will make it happen.

Stacy Huff and Tyler Clark

Hello! We are Stacy Huff and Tyler Clark, doctoral students in UNC Greensboro’s Educational Research Methodology (ERM) Department program evaluation track. We are also emerging evaluators who have learned a lot about the challenges of navigating the conference-presenting process. Today, we want to share what we’ve learned over the years, from our experiences with submitting proposals, presenting at conferences, and planning our own graduate-student led conference (EViE), and emphasize the importance of creating spaces for emerging evaluators.

As graduate students and emerging evaluators, we are often expected to present our research at conferences, but the skills associated with conference presenting are not always explicitly taught and can, quite frankly, be intimidating. Submitting an abstract to a large conference can be a high-stakes experience with potential for rejection and limited opportunities for feedback. Although these conferences are competitive to encourage growth, sometimes it can become a daunting task.

Through our experiences planning our graduate student-led conference, we have learned the importance of creating spaces for emerging evaluators to practice all aspects of conference presenting, from creating an abstract, to submitting a proposal, creating the presentation, and actually presenting. Emerging evaluators need access to opportunities to review conference proposals, practice writing abstracts with constructive feedback, and spaces to practice presenting in a low-stakes, safe space.

As both conference proposal reviewers and presenters, we have a few lessons learned and tips that we’ve picked up that we’d like to share:

Lessons Learned

  • Give specific details! Let the reviewers know why your presentation is special. It will help them to assess and potentially provide you feedback on your work.
  • Just ask! Missed the deadline? Need a specific presentation time? Have specific questions? Whatever your concern, just send an email and ask. The humans on the other side of that email are most likely happy to help you!
  • Promote Growth! Provide space for emerging evaluators to grow. Smaller conferences are often designed specifically for folks who are learning the ropes and how to navigate conference spaces.
  • We’re Here for You! A ton of work goes into hosting a conference. The people putting in that effort want it, and you, to be successful. Don’t be afraid to try! Everyone is on your side.

Hot Tips

  • Tell a story! Engaging sessions stand out and create excitement. Don’t just check the boxes of what is required – tell your story!
  • Review, review, review! Any chance you get, volunteer to review conference proposals. It’s great practice to be on the other side. Reviewing proposals will help you to see what style you like, what content is usually in a proposal, and what you need to work on. You can volunteer to review proposals for the American Evaluation Association and other conferences to get this experience.
  • Exercise Your Voice! The only way to find your voice is to use it!
Join us!
  • Take advantage of the opportunity to participate in a low-risk, high-reward conference for emerging voices in evaluation—our conference is May 18 & 19th. Register for EViE now!
  • Follow us on social media @evieconference

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

2 thoughts on “Making the Most of Conference Opportunities: Insights from Emerging Evaluators by Stacy Huff and Tyler Clark”

  1. Devdass Sunnassee

    Totally agree with creating space for emerging evaluators/researchers1 and EViE is a great place to start!

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