The 16 members of our Masters class planned and hosted the 9th Annual #GREAT16 Conference! We had twelve days to plan the international conference–then host and present at it! It was the first time any of us had planned a conference and for some of us the first time we presented. Overall, the process was a bit stressful given our time constraint and lack of experience–but it was definitely worth it. Each and every member of our team had big smiles as well as a newfound confidence at the end of the day.


My friend, Chelsea Edwards, and I were lucky to both be passionate about our presentation topic: Sketchnoting. For about a week, Chelsea and I worked for a week to research/study sketchnoting in an effort to become experts. I had a great time working with Chelsea, who is a creative, hard-working, friendly and positive educator! It really makes all the difference when the person you are planning with is on the same page as you. So–thank you, Chelsea!

After our research was done, we decided to create our presentation collaboratively on Google Slides (consisted of tons of our new sketchnotes!) and would continue to edit  as we got closer and closer to the conference. A few days before the conference, we completed a “dry-run” for our instructors who gave us valuable feedback. Here’s what I want to share with you if you happen to be prepping to present at a conference:

  • Dry-run, dry-run, dry-run! Run through your presentation for somebody (even if it’s your mom). Not only will you work out the kinks, but you will feel more comfortable/knowledge about your slides–allowing you to destress and be yourself during the real thing.
  • If you’re an expert on your topic, you should not need more than a few words on your slides. Think about how you teach to your students each day–if you read words off of a Powerpoint, you would loose your students’ attention within 5 seconds. I think it’s fair to say that teachers are the same way!
  • Check and double check links, sound, etc. that you provide–everybody’s time is precious and so is your sanity. Don’t get stuck frantically trying to solve a link issue while presenting!
  • Avoid showing videos over 3 minutes–and if you do, make sure it’s a life changing video that you stop to discuss often!
  • Engage with the audience and give them the opportunity to have a voice–when you present, it is all about the people who are there to learn from you. So, make it about them! I think it is great to start your session by make your attendees feel comfortable and letting them know you are there for them.
  • Give time for PLAY and practice! Try not to stand up and lecture the whole time. Think about your own classroom–we never lecture to our students all day without letting them get up and move and explore and touch stuff! Let your attendees do the same–they are eager to!
  • HAVE FUN! Try your best to relax and be yourself. If you put in the hard work, the positive results will happen:)

You can check out the “CliffNotes” version of our presentation, here. You can also view live tweets from our presentation and the #GREAT16 conference, here. Please feel free to reach out to either Chelsea or I on Twitter to share your Sketchnoting experiences!

@ch3dwards                             @MissStasiak

The rest of our #GREAT16 conference day went very smoothly! I attribute that to some of our planning–we all chose to be on a specific conference committee (web design, logistics, keynote, social media and closing session). We assigned liaisons to help the communication run smoothly. Something I would reconsider next time when planning a conference (especially with a large group of people) is discussing and agreeing on norms. Deciding on norms might have helped some of the stress and tension between committees and committee members. We set norms for our kids in our classrooms, so we should do the same when working in large groups, too!

A major lesson I learned throughout the conference planning process is trusting your team members. I am the type of person who wants to make sure everything gets done–and I will do it all by myself if I have to! I have worked with some awesome peers in my masters program and dividing the work was imperative to the success of our conference. It also allowed me to gain new ideas from others who thought of things differently than I would have (and the ideas were way better than what I had in mind!). This is a lesson I continue to learn as a progress in my teaching career–we need to rely on others for help to survive! It’s also equally as important make sure you get your jobs done, too.

In the end, the stress and anxiety was totally worth it. The experience I’ve gained from planning, hosting and presenting at a conference will stay with me. I will have a deeper appreciation for future conferences I attend, and I will also be able to offer insight to others planning conferences. Maybe I will even host a conference of my own one day!

Side note: We decided to add a “Goosechase” to our conference–this is an idea I got from my colleagues at my district. Throughout the day, teams competed to complete missions our conference team had assigned. Goosechase is easy to use and a ton of fun. Assign team captains and have multiple people on a team to increase the number of participants for no cost! It was a great way to get people to interact with each other and have something to do during any downtime. Sometime you will want to consider is setting norms for using the app during a conference/in your classroom–we did not anticipate the people participating distracting others in sessions! Check out some of the awesome pictures below.

goosechse7 goosechase2 goosechase6 goosechase1 goosechase3 goosechsae4 goosechase5