There are many interesting annual conferences such as ICEF that organizes worldwide events for language industry professionals (see also the article “Is The ICEF Conference Worth The Time & Effort“).
Visiting and participating in language conferences always comes with quite some time commitment, preparation work and can be very often quite exhausting. Is it worth the effort?
Let’s look into several benefits and dangers of visiting language conferences and what it can mean to your language school business.
Danger 1: Going Unprepared Into A Conference
The biggest danger of going to conferences is to underestimate the preparation it takes to get most out of it. The worst to do is just to pack your suitcase and “be surprised what is going to happen”.
Not being prepared will guarantee you to waste your time and money on things that will feel like you “do something for your language business” while you are very likely to talk to the wrong people and spend money faster than you think.
The best way to deal with this is to take the time to strategically prepare yourself early enough. What do you want to get out of the conference you are planning to go?
What specific know-how do you like to learn more about and what lectures and talks are offered specifically about the topics you are interested in?
With a clearly defined strategy and to-do-list, you are less likely to lose focus and get sidetracked at the conference.
Danger 2: Networking That Is Just Fake Research
Conferences are about meeting people and networking. The worst that you can do is blindly handing out your business cards to everyone that you encounter.
Real networking requires quite a lot of effort and especially with conferences you need to decide how you are going to use your limited time during the conference who to seek out and talk to.
Consider meeting some of the experts that do lectures and talks during the conference. Try to contact them directly and ask them to speak with them after the presentation. It might be worth to consider taking a picture together with you and to feature them on your language school website to tap into their network. Make sure that you offer value in return that wants them to be featured on your website and/or social media to be associated with you.
Danger 3: Overwhelmed By The Choices
Being in the language teaching industry yourself it is clear to most people: your attention span is limited and you can focus only on a few limited lectures and talks during the day.
If you are unprepared and try to decide last minute while you are at the conference it will be quite difficult to make the best choices for what to focus on.
You also will face the problem if you should skip a presentation in favor of meeting with a new potential language school industry contact instead if you have not established clear priorities for your conference visit.
Danger 4: Buying Unnecessary Services & Products
A language conference is not just a place to network and learn. It itself is foremost a business where you get sold services, product and advice that might or might not suit your needs.
If you go unprepared to a language conference it is similar to going to the supermarket with an empty stomach. You will end up buying things that you later regret.
While it is a great thing to use a language conference to get inspired and get new ideas and strategies in front of you, you should strategically limit yourself on what you want to try out and spend your money on.
Danger 5: Will Others Steal Your Ideas?
This concern is one of the most mentioned reasons why people do not go to conferences. But it is also one of the most overrated ones.
Let’s face it. Ideas alone can’t be protected. The success of any company is based on how well ideas are executed.
Companies and their representatives use conferences to learn from each other, so have to accept the fact that successful strategies and ideas are being copied and used by others (is that not the idea why you go to the conference yourself in the first place?).
Conferences offer you a lot of great benefits if you are prepared well ahead.
Benefit 1: Getting To Meet People In Person
Networking with other language business professionals is more efficient if you know them in person – and only if you met them briefly at a conference. Using conferences to meet key people that like to know better is an excellent investment of your time that will benefit you in many ways.
Instead of bumping into people randomly contact your current network and ask who is participating in the conference – or reach out to new contacts that are publicly announced to be at a specific conference you are planning to go to.
Benefit 2: Get An Overview What Others Do
If you prepared yourself well you can use a conference to speed up yourself to get an overview what others do with their language businesses. This is why it is also important to choose the right conferences where you know that key experts and your competition will be there.
Benefit 3: Position Yourself As Expert
Being in person at a conference gives you the credibility you need to position yourself as an expert. While anyone can have a website and present themselves and their business online – nothing beats meeting real people and experiencing their expertise in person.
Conferences are the best way to make yourself known and to give others the chance to interact with you.
The key is to provide interesting enough value for others to get in touch with you instead of just being just another boring conference visitor that tries to catch up with the latest trends only.
Benefit 4: Get Associated
Language school conferences can give you the unique opportunity to join associations that are otherwise difficult to join. Take the examples of IALC or FEDELE – the benefit of showing up as a real person at a conference will enhance the chances that you are accepted into the right associations that will benefit your language school business in the long run.
Benefit 5: Get The Global Picture
Sometimes you just need to break out of your own daily business routine and get fresh ideas and perspectives. Maybe there are trends and strategies that you have never considered before?
Getting the global picture instead of just thinking locally will help you to understand what is ahead in the future of the language school industry.
Traveling to another country for language school conference will certainly give you the same benefits that language students get when they travel to your language school location to book their language training experiencing a new culture and mastering their own skills.