Sunday, January 18, 2015

Five Steps to Being a Conference Presenter!!!


Guest post by Sara Thomas

It is with great pleasure that I write this guest post on my friend, Dr. Will’s, blog.  He wrote a wonderful piece on 1:1 devices on mine in August, so I am more than happy to return the favor. Hopefully I can rise to the occasion.

This post is dedicated to the brilliant friends I’ve made over the past year by virtue of being a connected educator.  There is one in particular who has inspired this post, and I’m sure for her, the content will be very familiar.  I probably left her the longest vox in history about two weeks ago.  I’ll attempt to recap it here.   

This goes out to anyone who is looking for an entry point into presenting at educational conferences.  If you’re doing amazing things with your students or staff, I strongly believe in “paying it forward,” and sharing this information with others, so they can help their students.  Presenting at conferences is one way to do this on a grand scale.

This is for those of you who are where I was a little over a year ago. Maybe you’ve presented at the school or district level, and are curious about going statewide, regional, or national...or beyond! Without further ado, I present…

Five Steps to Being a Conference Presenter!!!

Step One:  Figure out your “thing.”
Everybody is an expert at something.  That’s why it’s so important for us to share our stories. We can all teach and learn from each other...that’s how our profession continues to thrive.  Take a long, hard look at yourself.  What is it that you do exceptionally well as an educator?  Maybe you’re really into digital storytelling, or are a guru at a certain LMS.  Maybe you’re great at facilitating collaboration.  Figure out where you shine, and what you would like to share with others.

Step Two:  Connect!
It may seem that I am preaching to the choir here, because if you’re reading blogs, you are likely a connected educator.  Touché.  However, I have found that there’s an entire spectrum of connectivity.  Think of it as having different belts in martial arts.  Signing up for Twitter, Google Plus, Voxer, etc. is akin to receiving your white belt, which is an accomplishment in itself.  If you want to hit the higher levels, however, you need to start breaking boards, grasshopper!  Jump into Twitter chats (check out Cybraryman’s list here).  You don’t need an invite.  Be like Nike, and just do it!  Also blog.  Blog more.  And, dare I say it, blog even more!  Blogging helps to establish your credibility, while allowing you to share your story and help the profession.  Win-win.  Win.       

Step Three:  Connect some more!
Everyone has their own philosophy when it comes to social media.  I have had many friendly debates with members of my PLN in terms of our approaches.  My personal ideology is to connect with as many educators as possible.  I believe that we can all learn from each other, and don’t believe in cutting off any potential streams of knowledge.

That was the warm and fuzzy version.  Now, it’s time to get practical.  Remember how we talked about the importance of blogging?  A great way to get readers is to make those connections online.  However, it’s not about gaining readers and’s about reflecting and growing with your PLN.  None of us came to this profession to be “Twitter famous.”  When I became a teacher 10 years ago, this stuff didn’t even exist.  What is important is connecting with others so that your students will benefit.  A PLN has stood the test of time, even though it wasn’t always called that.  

Takeaway: Be genuinely interested in what others have to say, and they will be interested in you.

Step Four: Use the search feature on social media.
There are two phrases that have been quite helpful to me since I have started presenting at conferences: “call for proposals” and “call for presenters.”  I used to search both of these phrases at regularly scheduled intervals, be it weekly or monthly.  If something caught my attention, and fit into my calendar (more on that later), I would apply for it.  At first, I would only apply to conferences in my geographical area, but as I became more confident, I began to apply to conferences all over the United States, and even some in Canada.  

Make the search boxes on Twitter and Google+ your friend.  Be realistic, though.  It is no fun being accepted for a session, and realizing that you can’t do it after all.  Some conferences look for virtual presenters.  These are great, because you get most of the perks of face to face conferences while avoiding travel costs.  In mid-2014, I put together a publicly editable spreadsheet to get you started with conferences, and it’s been growing since then.  Please add those you may know as well.  

Step Five: Close your eyes and jump.
Congratulations!  Your session has been accepted.  It may seem scary at first, but you were chosen for a reason.  Rock it out!

Here’s a quick bonus tip: you definitely want to stay organized when it comes to sessions that you have submitted and/or that have been accepted.  I decided to take it old-school, and buy a wall calendar.  Nothing against digital calendars, but I just stay a little better organized when I can physically write the date down.  I pencil in dates for conferences where I have applied, and go back over them in Sharpie if they get accepted.  If the session is declined, I just erase it.  No harm, no foul.

So, what are you waiting for?  Go get ‘em, Tiger!  I hope to sit in your session one day.  Please shout me out on Twitter (@sarahdateechur) if you found this helpful, or have any questions.

About the Author: Sarah Thomas is a Google Certified Teacher and Edmodo Support Ambassador from the Washington, DC area, as well as the leader of the DC Metro Area Google Educator Group.  She is the Technology Liaison at John Hanson French Immersion School, where she teaches Technology Integration/ English Language Arts to middle school students.  Sarah conducts professional development for teacher recertification at the county level, and is a doctoral candidate in Education at George Mason University.


  1. Way to go, Sarah! This is great advice, practical and totally actionable. You really do practice what you preach and share for the benefit of many. Thanks, too, Dr. Will for putting this on the agenda. The demand for this kind of help must be growing.

    1. Thank you so much, Sherri! I really appreciate you. Hoping this post can help encourage people to make those first steps.

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  2. Good stuff here. Definitely share-worthy 👍

  3. I agree with your tips. I also suggest saving a record of what you proposed to present. I also recommend having back-up ways to share or present your session.

    1. Sara this is great! I totally forgot to mention that I copy and paste my proposals into Evernote for easy access. Thanks for sharing that tip!