ACTFL 2019 Conference Hacks


Attending a large conference can be overwhelming. So many sessions! So many exhibitors! So many new people to meet! To help you out, we collected some amazing tips from our instructional strategists. Deborah Espitia, Cristin Bleess, Jay Ketner, Jen Carson, Helen Small, and Michelle Olah know how to get the most out of a large event like ACTFL. Below, their best suggestions for ACTFL 2019: 

Have a plan 

The more planning you do ahead of time, the better off you will be once you get to the conference. It’s a good time to decide: do you want to go narrow and deep on one or two topics, or wide and varied on many? Focus your attention on what you want to learn and base it on the direction you are going with your teaching. Take the time to really study the program (it’s available online weeks ahead of the event) and figure out which sessions will fill your needs. 

If you are attending ACTFL with colleagues or friends, make a plan together. Go to different sessions and then meet up for lunch to discuss what you learned. It’s like getting twice the PD bang for your buck! 

Pro tip: Download the ACTFL 2019 App and build your schedule there. Remember, if you build your schedule through a web browser, you’ll have to recreate it on the app, so why not just use the app to start with? 

Get inspired 

One of the best ways to start ACTFL is to attend the orientation session for first-time attendees early Friday morning. Then stay for the ACTFL Opening General Session with the featured keynote speaker and the announcement of the Language Teacher of the Year. It’s an inspiring and energizing way to kick off your conference experience. 

Pro tip: Be sure to attend sessions by the current and former Teacher of the Year winners, as well as the “best of” sessions from regional conferences. 


Just think—all these people who are attending sessions or wandering the exhibit hall are there for the same reason: to become better language teachers! Don’t hesitate to strike up conversations during sessions, breaks, or at various other events during ACTFL. Make connections that will help you become a better teacher. Stay connected after the conference on Twitter or via email. This is a great time to build an online professional learning community. 

Pro tip: Have business cards handy for networking purposes. No cards? Take a picture of your new friend’s name badge so you can look each other up later. You may also want to update your contact information in your phone to share easily with others. Another creative suggestion is to print your name, school, address, email, and social media handles on stickers. They are easy to peel off and difficult to lose! 

Don’t skip the exhibit hall 

Be sure to spend some time in the exhibit hall. People at the booths will be happy to chat with you about ways you can help your students learn a language. You never know what conversation might spark a great idea that you can take straight back to your classroom. 

Pro tip: Don’t be shy to ask for free resources, samples, or catalogs to browse later for ideas or to remind you of products and services that caught your eye. 

Plan to share with your colleagues 

Professional development does not end with ACTFL. Plan to share what you have learned with your colleagues back home and see what new directions or ideas come from those conversations. It’s a great time to re-energize not just your own teaching, but those around you as well. 

Pro tip: Whether in a notebook or on a laptop or iPad, be sure to take good notes at all sessions. Many presenters will also upload their PowerPoint presentations or handouts to the ACTFL website or app for easy access later. 

Don’t forget the necessities! 

You will be walking a lot between sessions and throughout the exhibit hall. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes! Understandably, you may be overwhelmed by all the sessions and people at ACTFL. Take time out for breaks, meals, and catching up with colleagues. Those times are just as valuable as going to sessions.  

Do you have tips to share? Tweet your tips to @WaysidePublish and don’t forget to include #SpeakUpForLanguages, #ProficiencyTalks, and #ACTFL19. 

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