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How to Make the Most of Your Theatre Education Conference Experience

Opening reception for the Theatre Education Conference

For most theatre educators, the school year is in full swing, and your time is likely caught up planning your show schedule, building sets, and finding new Thespians for your cast. And while that’s plenty for anyone to handle, there’s one thing you can’t forget to add to that mix – professional growth and development.

Your school district may have professional development options throughout the year, but how many of them are tailored to theatre educators? If the answer is not many, the Theatre Education Conference has you covered.

What is the Theatre Education Conference?

The Theatre Education Conference (TEC) is our annual teacher-focused event designed to give educators learning opportunities through keynotes with industry leaders, interactive workshops, and a space to network and connect with their peers.

And this year, the focus of TEC is YOU.

Theatre teachers play a vital role in the lives of their students and the school community and culture. Yet they’re often met with increased censorship or divisive regulations and laws that can make it challenging to create the inclusive culture the arts are known for. That’s why this year, many of our sessions are focused on empowering educators and providing the tools they need to create safe environments within their program.

So whether you’re already booked (or at the very least ready to write a justification letter), the real question is how do you make the most of a registration?

5 Planning Tips for the Theatre Education Conference

Just as lesson plans help your classes move smoothly, conference plans can take some of the guesswork out of your trip to TEC. Here are five tips to help you get started.

1. Pack for Success

Depending on where you’re coming from, Florida weather can certainly be shocking – from sunny conditions with highs in the 90s, sweltering humidity, or scattered thunderstorms and rain – all in the same day. So be sure you have a good mix of clothes to keep you comfortable in mostly warmer weather. And remember conference halls can get chilly, so throw in a sweater for good measure.

But don’t just worry about your outfits, also be sure to bring supplies to make the most of your schedule. Make sure you have something to take notes (laptop, tablet, or classic pen and paper), chargers and battery backups for your devices, and water/snacks so you can stay energized throughout the day.

Finally, be sure to bring materials from your theatre program. This is a wonderful opportunity to get feedback on scripts, lesson plans, or just plain old boast about your Thespians with fellow educators.

2. Build Your Schedule

With sessions ranging from navigating the ethical choices in the art we consume to crafting your program’s story, your schedule will quickly fill up. Luckily, your mornings will always start off with an insightful keynote.

But after that, things can get tricky. Since you can’t join every session, how do you plan your perfect schedule?

Think about your goals: What are you hoping to achieve on stage or in the classroom this year? Often, this can help narrow down some of the choices. Be sure to pay attention to the session titles and descriptions to find the ones that would be most valuable to you.

Look for alternate times: Many of our workshops happen concurrently. So, if your goals don’t help narrow the decision, remember many of our workshops have a second session in the afternoon so you can always experience more than one.

Give yourself time to decompress: With so much content at your fingertips, it can be easy to overbook yourself. But with K-12 teachers having some of the highest burnout rates around, this could also be an opportunity to start building habits for the new year.

Bonus Tip for EdTA Members

More than a few of our presenters are long-time contributors to EdTA. Be sure to visit our Learning Center for on-demand webinars and courses that can help make up for missed sessions.

3. Be Strategic with Networking

People networking at Theatre Education ConferenceAs much as we all like to think that networking happens spontaneously (and technically it does), making valuable connections benefits from a little planning.

For some folks, that could mean identifying who you want to meet ahead of time – for example, that teacher you’ve followed on Instagram for years and have plenty of questions for. For others, it can be pre-planning questions or icebreakers to help make things a little less awkward.

Need some ideas? Try these:

  • What inspired you to become a theatre teacher?
  • What are the most exciting productions you’ve worked on with your students?
  • What’s one play you think every student should experience, and why?
  • What are some unique classroom exercises your students love?
  • How are you encouraging individual expression in your students?

There are two formal networking opportunities at the conference:

  • Day 1 – The First -Time Attendee Networking Reception (invite only) is from 5-6 p.m. Take this chance to polish some of those icebreakers because it’ll be followed directly by the Opening Reception.
  • Day 2 – Our main Networking Reception, complete with cocktails, is a great opportunity to meet fellow attendees along with exhibitors.

4. Explore the Exhibit Hall

Whether you’re between sessions or just need a little brain break, the Exhibit Hall is another great option to schedule in your day. Not only is it an amazing opportunity to learn about new products and services that can help elevate your program, but also, it’s a chance to connect with reps from companies you’re already working with so you can easily ask questions directly.

Be sure to check our list of exhibitors and start planning your must-visits. Plus, if you want to have some extra fun, be sure to ask about our Exhibitor Passport when you arrive for a chance to earn prizes.

5. Make Space for Experiences

Of course, we know everyone is focused on growing as theatre educators and coming away with plenty of ideas for your Thespians. The conference is also a fantastic opportunity to get some much-needed relaxation time – even if it’s still just the beginning of the school year (it might not feel that way).

The Tradewinds Resort is already a popular hotspot, with unique on-site dining, pools, and plenty of activities. However, if you’re looking to get out an explore a bit more, there are plenty of spots nearby, including:

  • Award-winning beaches (ranked #1 on TripAdvisor in 2021)
  • A vibrant art scene, including the Salvador Dalí Museum and The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art
  • Fun thrills at Busch Gardens
  • Raymond James Stadium (home of the Buccaneers) & Tropicana Filed (home of the Rays)

See You in September!

And that’s a wrap!

We’re so excited to have theatre educators from around the country join us this year. And while we know you’re busy, with a little planning and a few of our suggestions, you’ll be ready to make the most of your Theatre Education Conference registration.

As a reminder, the last day to register to avoid late fees is September 8, 2023!


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