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Education conferences as a professional development option for the K-12 sector (and how to zhuzh them up)

In August, our team will attend seven different Australian education conferences. Across the year, we will likely go to more than twenty. Since 2012 our team has been involved with hundreds of events as speakers, MCs, attendees, and exhibitors. For years we also ran our own event EduChange, with thousands of people coming through the doors and engaging in community building and professional learning in Melbourne, even once at the gargantuan Royal Exhibition Building.

We like events because they represent a great opportunity for us to meet with educators and K-12 staff to share what we are doing at EC by Go1, and we also get to meet plenty of content partners and invite them to bring their ideas into our platform.

Over the years, we’ve come up with some thoughts on how they can be even better. For the attendees, for the schools who send their staff and, hopefully, for the world.

Thought 1.

No-one can speak on a main stage for longer than 20 minutes. It’s what the TED conference did and what we did at our events as well. What this does is condense a talk down to the most important elements. It forces presenters to ‘strip away the unnecessary, so the necessary can be heard’ (as Steve Jobs would say). Many of our courses on EC Premium are stripped down in this way into small, accessible pieces of learning that can be applied. The cognitive psychologist George Miller called this ‘chunking’ and found that the average person can hold seven chunks in their working memory. If you think back to an event, what would be the seven ‘chunks’ that you actually remember and apply back in school?

Thought 2.

People should be able to buy in-person or remote streaming tickets.

Not everyone lives nearby the convention centre of their capital city. In fact, many people who work in schools don’t even live near an airport to fly to a capital city! To democratise access to professional learning for all schools, we’d love to see more events streamed live. It’s something we did at Educhange events, and now with EC Premium, all of our content is available anytime, anywhere, when someone has a device and some WIFI.

Thought 3.

It would be great if sponsor’s ‘stuff’ was greener.

Stuff. It’s a very common feature of education events. As exhibitors, we all feel we have to provide it, and many attendees have come to expect free things to come and listen to what we have to say. But how many flyers, squishy balls, bags, pens, USB sticks, keyrings, soft toys, and t-shirts have you thrown away over the years? With t-shirts in particular, did you know that almost 3000 litres of water are needed to farm the cotton for one? We’d love to see an event where sponsors were encouraged to be more environmentally friendly with the stuff that they use to attract people to their stall. Like giving out well-made stuff people will use for years (which costs a lot to produce, often more than $20 an item, so please keep that in mind attendees!). Or a flyer with seeds that grows into a tree when it is planted back at school. With EC Premium, the environmental impact is the electricity you are using to run your laptop or phone and to power the data centre holding all of our courses. We can all still work to make sure it’s solar-powered!

Thought 4.

Give as much space for the local heroes as the edu-celebrities.

Most education conferences like to ensure that they have some edu-celebrities on their bill, and to be fair; many attendees will decide if they are coming along based on how famous the speakers are (we learned this from experience at our own events)! But what if it was a 50/50 split, with some famous, professional speakers who are likely to roll out their stump speech they’ve been giving for years (oops, did we say that!) and some fresh faces who are in schools doing incredible work? Sometimes the fresh faces need some support to really nail their stage time, but that is totally doable. At EC Premium, we’ve certainly got famous faces, and they get lots of views every month, but we keep trying to uncover new talent and share their ideas with the world. Fingers crossed, more events can do the same!

Well, that’s us off our soapbox for now. Hope to see you at an event soon, and gift you something sustainable, that you’ll use for years and come back to us in half a decade and say, ‘my old one wore out; can I have a replacement?’ 😉

PS. A big thanks to the people who run education events. They are a LOT of work to put on!

Aaron Tait

Aaron is a co-founder of EC by Go1 and Vice President of Marketing. Since 2012 Aaron has developed and delivered professional learning programs K-12 education staff across the world. He is the co-author of the books Edupreneur (Wiley) and Dream Team (ASCD).

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