Things NOT To Do! (;-P) At The AEA Conference by Sara Vaca

Hey! I’m Sara Vaca, independent evaluator and part of the AEA365 team. I’m not in Cleveland (sad face) this week (as I just came back for the European Evaluation Conference (EES) in Greece), but I wish I was, as I love evaluation conferences.

I am not an expert compared to so many admired evaluators who have been going to AEA conferences since 1990’s, but from my experience with 3 AEAs, 2 EES and 1 SAMEA (South African Evaluation M&E Association), here are things I learned not to do anymore.

Cool Tips: Some things NOT to do! (;-P)

  1. “Don’t talk to other people you don’t know”

We are all shy to start a conversation with someone you’ve never met: you think you are not that interesting, maybe the person is not that interesting and that you don’t have much in common. But I’ve learned that many, many times the person is interesting, she or he finds you interesting too, plus you have plenty of things in common that occasionally even bring other unexpected developments.

  1. “Improvise your program: Don’t look at the program in advance, and 5 minutes before sessions, just choose one randomly”.

Well, chances are you end up missing things that really interested you!

  1. “Study the program in detail and decide in advance what you will be doing at each moment”. Well, some improvisation is always welcome, as unexpected meetings, acquaintances and events happen at some point of the conference that are worth not missing too.


  1. “Don’t go out in the evenings or by night”

To be honest, this one has never happened to me (maybe is my Spanish blood), but I know friends who want to keep it calm and they go back to the hotel as the sessions end. Well, each one has to do what is best for them, of course, but mingling after conference hours is a great way to know colleagues in a different circumstances, and of course, of having fun!

  1. “Stay up all night”

Well, let’s not get crazy either, and if you want to enjoy the sessions and have the stamina to go through it all, you also need some reasonable resting time, no matter how fun the night might seem.

  1. “Pretend to go to every single thing you think you should go”

Even if you study the program, allow certain flexibility and try to be reasonable and keep a balance, don’t feel frustrated if too many things happen or simply too many good sessions overlap and you miss plenty that you would have liked to attend.

Please take all these as personal ideas or suggestions, hoping they resonate with you and help you have a better experience if this is your first time. And please feel free to share more “Not to do things” in the comments, or if some of these Don’ts on the contrary work very well for you! :-)…

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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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