Happy conference week! I’m Elizabeth DiLuzio, lead curator for AEA365. Today, let’s talk about ways to get the most out of a conference.
Go broad – Identify a few topics you would like to learn more about. These could be methods you’ve heard evaluators mention that piqued your curiosity, topics you’ve read about in AEA365 that you thought were interesting, or challenges you are facing in your work. Find sessions that will speak to these topics, and ask lots of questions.
Meet new people – This doesn’t have to be impossible just because it’s a virtual conference. Use the in-session chat box to respond to the content you’re hearing, to ask questions of the presenters and attendees, and to converse with others in the room. It’s an excellent way to interact that isn’t possible in person. Relatedly, pay attention to the names of people showing up to the same sessions as you. Spark up a conversation about the conference with a few of them. You could ask them how the experience is going for them, what they thought about one of the sessions you both attended, or what upcoming sessions they have on their agenda that they’re looking forward to.
It’s okay to be a groupie – Are there AEA365 authors who really spoke to you this year? Is the author of your go-to evaluation handbook hosting a few sessions? A plenary speaker who you’d like to hear more from? Don’t be afraid to search for sessions based on who is speaking. No matter where we are in our paths as evaluators, we all appreciate the support of our peers.
Diversify your session types – Did you know that there are different types of sessions offered throughout the conference? Strike a balance between more and less interactive ones. This will give you the opportunity to both sit back and learn as well as to dialogue with your peers.
Share your learning with others – An excellent way to cement your conference experience is to write up a summary of lessons learned, curiosities to explore, and next steps. Why not share some or all of your reflections and new resources with your colleagues?
Most importantly, enjoy yourself! Don’t forget to take breaks to stretch, eat, and recharge.
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