Convention & Conferences!
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh
Alas, the summer months—at least the summer months as defined by teachers—are soon coming to end. For some of us, the APA Convention marks the beginning of that transition, as classes start just a week or two following the closing presentation, the fond farewell to friends seen too infrequently, and that last flight home. And of course, all sorts of great ideas often come together at Convention and other conferences! So all sorts of possibilities for new beginnings! Despite my fond feelings today, I remember my first APA Convention many years ago. After I got home, I vowed to never attend another convention or conference again!
Let me describe that first trip. The Convention was being held in Atlanta and I drove by myself in an old VW bus that I had purchased for $200. Fortunately, it made it there and back but I needed that old van, as it was also my lodging! I didn’t know anyone at the Convention and as I registered I was handed a schedule the size of a phone book (i.e., the size of a textbook for those of you who are younger). The schedule was overwhelming but I found some “big names” I wanted to see, sat in the back, and was in awe but also overwhelmed. I never spoke to anyone and I think I only stayed for a day or two. Home was a welcome sight!
Over the years, I have learned a lot about how to maximize the benefit of a good conference but also how to have a fun and enjoyable experience. Note that my second conference was NITOP—National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology. What was not to like? Small, totally focused on teaching, lots of good food, and did I mention, it was totally focused on teaching psychology! So, here is what I have learned over the years.
First, different conferences have different goals and benefits. APA Convention is amazing for the vast array of topics. You are a kid in a psychology candy store including just about any topic you want to explore, a diverse impressive array of presenters, a gift shop, and tons of venders with books and bling. Of course, if APA Convention is too overwhelming, you can just focus on Division 2 (STP) programming – a conference within the Convention! Check out STP’s full program! Many of us will just focus on STP programming and events.
In September, I’ll write more about STP’s Annual Conference on Teaching. It is an excellent forum to become connected with psychology teachers across the country and internationally. Of course, STP also pairs up with other international/national/regional/local conferences. To see the full list of STP-involved programming from regional to international, go to the STP webpage and explore the Programming tab.
Second, to really benefit from the APA Convention, you need to do a bit of planning, which includes strategizing on how to meet people for conversation, mentoring, networking, and friendships. Jumping into an old van and winging it is not a good strategy. Note that APA has a nice Convention app, which includes all the programming, a list of attendees, a scheduling feature, and so much more. Want to hear something from APA President Frank Worrell or learn about pivot teaching – just search the app! Want to see an interview with Noam Chomsky or Steven Pinker—search the app. Want to find all the social hours or roundtable discussions, “yes,” search the app.
Now here are some of my additional tips to maximize your APA Convention experience! Talk with others for their suggestions.
Socialize! I’m an introvert so I often struggle with meeting people. However, the friendships that I have developed over the years couldn’t have happened without meeting a lot of these folks at conferences and convention. Don’t know anyone who is attending convention? Not to worry—send a note out via social media and plan to meet some folks who share interests. On the first day of Convention, following my Presidential Address—Psychology and Eugenics: Why this History Matters to Teaching Today—there is an event titled, “Old and New Faces of STP" in the same room. Melissa Maffeo, Director of STP at the APA Convention describes this session: “The goals of this session are to bring some new faces to STP (teaching of psychology should be relevant to most APA attendees, right?), sharing resources that STP has to offer, advertising ways to get involved in STP, and finally, starting conversations about what the future directions of STP might look like. This will be an inclusive and interactive, and fun! session.” This session will be followed by the social hour. This is a good place to meet people, plan some lunches, dinners, or sightseeing together. Note that almost every division or group will have a social hour, which translates into free food and beverages!
Poster sessions – Don’t miss out on the poster sessions. Have a few conversation starters tucked away in your back pocket. So many great ideas related to teaching or almost any other psychology topic (again, take a look at a few other Divisions). Posters sessions tend to be informal so a good place to start a conversation and begin some networking.
Listen – Some of the best mentoring advice I’ve gotten through the years has been in informal conversations with colleagues I just met at a conference. One of the things I value most about STP is everyone’s willingness to share what they know, how they teach, what questions they have . . . So be open to listening as well as sharing what you know!
Pick a few sessions on topics about which you know nothing! What a gift to be able to bring your new learning back to the classroom and, if you are anything like me, you never get bored when learning something new!
Thanks to Dr. Melissa Maffeo for coordinating all of the STP Convention events and programming! She has put together an amazing program!! Check out the full program!
Note that it is not too late to register! Airfares are still remarkably cheap. Go to the APA Convention website for more information. There is a virtual option available for Continuing Education and also main event programming. However, most divisional programming is not being recorded for virtual access. If you are attending in-person, you will receive information about vaccine verification and masking during the Convention. Important to have fun and learn in a safe environment! I hope to see you there!