ELT Conferences: Highs and Lows
by Pravita Indriati.
Conferences. It is one of those words commonly used in ELT that sound formal and professional yet fancy to me (like CELTA, DELTA, Master’s, and PhD). It is formal and professional in how much it is worth for our professional development, but fancy since we need to have enough money to afford the registration fees and travel expenses. Unless, of course, we are lucky and the company or school where we teach offers the opportunity to attend it for free.
I attended my first conference back in the year 2013, when I first joined iTDi community and was invited to do a group presentation. I was still “green” in the world of professional development at that time and did not have any experience in attending conferences, not to mention presenting. But deep in my heart I was convinced that this would be a great step for me and would be good for my future. For my debut, I went through worries and stage-fright. I was worried about my presentation, worried that the audience would be more experienced than me, worried about the questions and public opinion. But then it went well, people in the audience were engaged and interested in the topic. It was quite an adrenaline and emotional rush, I must say! Ever since, I became addicted to learning with and from other teachers, presenting and networking at conferences, and part of the reason could be that I enjoy the rush and that feeling of accomplishment in the end.
After that first presentation, I have been participating and presenting at several conferences, both online and offline: RSCON, TEFLIN, JALT, and GESS Indonesia. Some proved to be the greatest experience, with lots of fantastic, long-lasting impressions, not to mention worth the travel. Others ended up disappointing due to the disorganization and were not worth the money spent on them.
After some of those experiences, I feel that conferences find their ways to make more money. With the word “international” in the title, an event immediately sounds more appealing and attracts more attendees. Holding the conference in a beautiful location makes for yet another good selling point. I went to one international conference in Indonesia that took place in a wonderful tourist destination. The scenic location worked as a perfect bonus to why people went there, and I was one of them. In addition, they worked in partnership with a luxurious 5-star hotel as their venue so that the participants could take the expensive hotel-conference package, which cost an arm and a leg for Indonesians who presented in their own country. However, the conference turned out to be not as good as it promised to be. There were many short presentations that were not inspiring at all as some of the presenters were simply chasing for the conference certificates as a part of their employment requirements. The fact that I did not learn much left me feeling disappointed. On top of that, the way the organizers worked with the presentations and rooms was completely messed up. If it were not for the networking (and travel), I would think twice about coming there.
For me, a regular teacher who does not have a teaching degree, joining conferences really opens doors and creates opportunities for networking and future career. Some colleagues might say I am being an attention seeker by choosing to attend conferences. Well, if you work for your career and love professional development, going to a conference is a great way for you to learn. I love learning and going to conferences helps me to expand my knowledge and professional network, especially with some ELT experts who are really open to giving other teachers help and support. I am not a conference certificate hunter, I join conferences as I find it beneficial for me. I have the thirst for knowledge and learning and I will go an extra mile for this. I have never been one of those lucky employees who get financial support from the company, nor am I paid well enough to afford this. In fact, I save up.
So, if you like learning, sharing ideas and networking, attending conferences will be a good opportunity for you. You might find that some conferences are better than others, but ultimately it will be worth your time. If you are a language school teacher like me, presenting for the first time might be challenging, but trust me, it is worth it, too. You won’t know what you can get unless you try. And here, I would also like to give a big shout-out to iTDi for continuously supporting and encouraging me to develop professionally!