5 ACTFL 2018 conference hacks

We asked our instructional strategists and veteran conference goers to share their best tips

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 five  great tips from our instructional strategists. Deborah Espitia, Cristin Bleess, and Jay Ketner are veteran conference-goers and know how to get the most PD bang out of a large event like ACTFL.

Have a plan

Wayside booth at ACTFLThe 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.

Pro tip: Download the ACTFL 2018 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 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 Year winners, as well as the “best of” sessions from regional conferences.


Just think—all of these people who attend sessions with you or wander the exhibit hall around you are there for the same reason: to learn to become better language teachers. So don’t be shy 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. 

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. And you just never know what conversation might spark a great idea that you can take straight back to your classroom.

Pro tip: Don’t by 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 at the end of 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.

Do you have tips to share? Tweet to us using #followtheowl and #ACTFL18.