Valuable learning opportunities for educators are vital to ensuring continuing development. A well prepared and inspiring conference can go a long way to meeting such needs and give opportunities for teachers to share, collaborate and explore the latest in education innovation.
The Middle East has seen a rise in education events in recent years. Large conferences such as GESS/GEF, which has been running in Dubai for the past three years and BETT, held in Abu Dhabi 2016, have raised the profile of the potential digital technology, has to transform learning regionally.
Teach Meets, free education “unconferences” have also become popular amongst schools in the region. SPARK, formed by a group of Dubai educators in 2013, has held 20 such ‘Teach Meets’, providing a forum for teachers and leaders to get together and learn from each other. It is fascinating to observe the number of teachers who are willing to exchange ideas with one another in this exciting format for professional development.
Putting together an exciting event, fit for purpose can be challenging. I have used the following formula to successfully produce conferences: PASS-IT – Planning, Audience, Subject, Speakers, Impact and Technology.
You cannot ‘over plan’ an education conference. Start by determining the purpose of your event. Identify the message clearly for the presenters and the audience. Start with the basics, budget, venue, timings, and structure. Then expand as resources allow. On the day, always expect the unexpected – speakers not turning up, sessions that over run, not having enough chairs and technical glitches. Even with the best- laid plans, things can go wrong. Be flexible and go with the flow!
Your audience at an education conference will reflect the nature of the region, and that is wide ranging. With 17 different curriculums in Dubai alone, appealing to all is a challenge. In order to stay relevant and competitive, an event must employ strategies that aim to satisfy the individual needs of audience members, as well as connect with the audience as a whole. By using the data attendees fill out when they sign up, you can create opportunities for networking and increased engagement.
This will depend on your intended audience, pick something simple, punchy and on topic. Popular foci for conferences in this region are Digital Innovation, SEND, Wellbeing, subject innovations and best practice in pedagogy.
It is your speakers that will make or break your event, so source these wisely. Great speakers get booked up well in advance, so think about this very early on. It is likely if you are hosting a substantial event in the Middle East, you may need to y speakers in, which is expensive once you incur travel and accommodation expenses. Bear in mind, there is an array of locally available, talented educators. Visit the websites of previous events in the region and social media channels for contact details.
Measuring the success of your event will depend on calculating attendance and the post conference survey. Question attendees on the new challenges and insights they have taken from the conference and how they intend to take their learning forward.
Audience members should be encouraged to tweet and post pictures of their experiences on social media outlets. A variety of rich, captured moments can help spread the word about your event and also catalogue interesting moments from the conference.
There is undoubtedly huge potential and demand for education conferences in the Middle East. The challenge is ensuring yours is relevant, impactful and that your attendees leave bursting with fresh ideas.
By Rachael Edgar
Rachael’s career in education spans over 17 years. She has taught in schools in the UK and the UAE. Rachael has held a variety of leadership roles for teaching and learning. She currently works for DESC, an outstanding school in Dubai and leads SPARK, a thriving not for pro t professional development organisation.