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Guide to the Geographical Association’s Annual Conference for new participants

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The Geographical Association’s Annual Conference (‘ #GACONF15)  is a fantastic event, especially for geographers that are often within small departments or isolated within schools.  The power of networking and learning face-to-face is really powerful – and continues to help me in my current role.  If it’s your first time, here are some of my tips.  They aren’t official…..

1. There will be loads of free stuff to tempt you into the exhibition.  I recommend visiting twice.  The first is a cruise around, spot potential stands that you’d like to explore.  Then, don’t go to one of the sessions.  Instead, spend the time walking around the exhibition area which will now be empty of most people (sometimes I can be found writing my presentation in the corner…).  This gives you time to talk to the people on each stand (head to the ones you’re interested in first).  This has a couple of advantages.  The first is that you can make some great contacts with companies and a second is that you have them to yourself so can really ask them questions and have a demo of the product.

2. Drink coffee.

3. Plan what sessions you’d like to see carefully.  Try to have a theme before hand and stick to those sessions.  In the past, I’ve found the best sessions to be from university academics; the teacher-to-teacher sessions and those run by the various groups.  Hang about after the talks to speak to the presenters, many will give some extra tips / contact details.

4. Get on Twitter if you’re not already.  Follow the hashtag and use it to get in touch with the speakers and other attendees.  Put your twitter name on your badge and bring along some business cards – give these to the people you meet so that you can follow up contacts later. 

5. Come along to the social aspects – the TeachMeet on Friday night and the (un)official Beer Meet. Details here.  Come and say hello – don’t think that you have nothing to contribute and you’ll find most people there are down to earth teacher types who don’t take themselves too seriously.

6. Think about becoming an activist by joining one of the committees or special interest groups – some of the best work the GA do is by the volunteer army.

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