How can you organise a mind-blowing professional development event for teachers?
Let’s start by stating: TeachMeets are organised freely, in teachers’ spare time. They are not-for-profit and are designed to bring teachers together, to have a voice and to share classroom ideas.
These types of events are the real festivals of education, most being held in state-schools up and down the country to bring teachers together. No grandeur, no politicians, no media. Real people sharing what works …
The 5-Minute TeachMeet Plan:
Using my 5-Minute TeachMeet Plan as an outline – published here – is what I would recommend using as a sequential guide for planning all aspects from start-to-finish. You don’t need to use it, but it may help schools who are ‘first-timers.’
1. Date / Timing:
The date is very important and dependent on many factors. For example, the venue, the school calendar and who is available to help organise, pull things together and present.
My advice: choose a day/date that suits you and your workload if you are organising the event at your own school.
2. Venue / Facilities:
Again, this is and on whether you are organising the event at your own school or someone else’s. Let’s assume for the rest of the post, that you are organising a TeachMeet at your own place of work. If that’s the case, you know your facilities like the back-of-your-hand and will know your limitations; what you can/cannot organise. For example, letting facilities and informing your site-staff.
My advice: organise the event at your own school; involve your own staff and gather support via social media.
3. Social-Media / Hashtag:
We know social-media is a powerful tool. In terms of promoting the event and making it easier for people to engage, choose a hashtag that is short, pertinent and memorable; as well as a hashtag that represents the event. There’s nothing worse than an over-complicated phrase that is a) difficult to remember and understand and b) awkward for people to type on their devices, which means they could easily get it wrong and be having conversations (online) elsewhere.
My advice: it is vital you search online to see what exists already. In the worst cases, I have seen some school TeachMeets choose hashtags that have already been ‘spammed’ with inappropriate content. It’s always worth checking before making a final decision.
My advice: host it yourself as the wiki-page is clunky to use. However, if you do not have a large audience to share your event with on social media, it may be worth listing your event on the wiki-page.
5. Prizes / Donations:
Ask around on social media and contact people who have organised events in the past. Contact some teacher authors – or likewise – and ask if they would like to donate a signed copy of the book; I tend to offer a book more times than not and most often authors give without hesitation.
One most important points to note, is plan to distribute these prizes in-advance. You may wish to offer a competition online before the event, or for the best blog ‘write-up’ after the day.
My advice: get creative with the competitions to win each of the prizes.
Try a few CPD providers and/or book publishers who may donate a bag of books or some gift vouchers. Some companies are keen to pay for drinks and refreshments to ensure guests are well-looked after.
My advice: Contact some companies your school may work with and ask if they would wish to donate some prizes in return for social media exposure. Remember everything should be donated freely and it is your choice if you want to have one main sponsorship or several. It’s best to build up relationships in advance!
Over the past 4 or 5 years, I’ve built up countless relationships with colleagues online and in person, far beyond my school gates. As a result, the last event I organised had a team of 8 volunteer here (and here) traveling over 500 miles just to be at the event and help host it!
My advice: use expertise around you and distribute tasks and timelines – see below – you cannot do it all yourself, even if the event is for 50 or 400 people.
Don’t underestimate the amount of work involved in the single event. You can make it simple or as complicated as you want, but you will need to write a list of the things that you need to do and your need to delegate. If you’d like a copy of mine, then please get in touch by leaving a comment below with your email address.
My advice: delegate to the strengths of your team. To make your event successful, I would recommend at least four people.
9. Presenters / Keynotes:
Traditionally, TeachMeets have chosen presenters at random on the day itself. This adds to the fun of the event and makes TeachMeets feel very much like they should do; to have a classroom feel. One issue in advance, is time to gather volunteers to present and have the time to preview presentations to ensure a broad and balance range of topics; including people of who are presenting.
It is now becoming more and more popular to offer a keynote at TeachMeets to draw in more people to attend. They are supposed to speak freely, but I’m not confident many schools organising bigger events, are still keeping with tradition ..
My advice: I have been spending much more time on this to ensure content is meaningful for the audience and not just a ‘sales-pitch’ for avid teachers on social media. I’ve always ensured some presenters are not on Twitter and a spectrum of classroom presenters, educators and senior leaders are represented. Ultimately, it all depends on the theme of your event…and it is important to have this set from the start.
10. Resources / Reminders for the day:
It is helpful to have your own programme of events and a to-do list. Believe me, it will be a huge list, so it’s important to distribute tasks. One of the nicer parts the job, is to offer handouts and resources to the people who attend. Below you can see images of our brochure that we have provided; you can download the resource in the footnotes.
My advice: find something with an eye for detail and if it’s a school event, ask your headteacher if you can have some ‘administrative’ support.
11. Arrival / Directions:
Keep this simple. Offer clear directions and parking information on your website, publications and Eventbrite ticketing. Make sure the outside of the school is signposted.
My advice: reserve parking spaces for hosts that are helping you organise the event, and don’t forget to check with site-staff what time school closes …
Do not underestimate how important the ‘front of house’ is for the event. This is the first impression of your school and in some of the best ones I’ve attended, students are there to welcome you; to usher people to car park spaces and to walk people to the front entrance. It’s a lovely touch! At the events I organised, not just in my school, we have used the students to welcome guests, direct and answer questions, as well as serve refreshments and kick-off proceedings.
It is also important to offer some sort of identification or registration on arrival. Although many of teaching events are after school hours, you still need to keep safeguarding on your radar. Some of the events I have organised, our lettings facilities at school commences after 6pm – at the same time as the TeachMeets we have organsied. If you have members of the public using school facilities whilst your students on-site helping you, you can never be too careful!
My advice: Ensure everyone wears a lanyard / ID badge.
Much can be covered in this section, for example: refreshments, student guides, welcome introductions, toilet facilities, what time people can arrive/leave. This is where you can get very organised and if you have a number of people helping you, start to get very creative. Lots of TeachMeets are now offering Instagram photo-boards and sketchers to doodle the event.
For the first time in 2016, we even offered an Equalities Monitoring Questionnaire to survey who attends. The next stage for us all, is to consider what voices are chosen to present …
My advice: use Eventbrite because it automates ticket reminders and send mass email-alerts for updating guests. It takes quite a lot of work away from managing the wiki-page.
14. Wifi / Backchannel:
This ties in with your hashtag for social media purposes. Essentially the # (hashtag) is a back-channel, allowing people in and outside the room to continue with conversations. What is brilliant for this at an event such as TeachMeet, is that if you are sitting listening to the two-minute presentation, you can switch off if you’re bored and tune into the hashtag.
The live stream is an important piece of work and offers your event to be recorded. It doesn’t have to be live, but if you wish to engage with people outside the room live on the internet, you’ll need to find someone who can offer this facility to stream live via a webcam. If you are doing this, it is important that you have all your presenters with a microphone so that the camera can pick up conversation for those watching on the television/devices elsewhere. It becomes more than ‘just for people in the (actual) room. You can view an example here.
My advice: Make sure your wifi facilities are working, and test it beforehand. Make sure you publish the wifi login details in your publications and on posters/ displays around the event facilities. Make the posters very clear so people don’t need to keep looking or asking for help.
15. Thank yous:
You may want to offer a certificate for people to take away; useful for CPD records and a nice way of thanking people for coming.
My advice: don’t forget to thank sponsors, keynotes, presenters and people for coming. Most of all, thank the people behind the scenes who helped you make it happen. It often is weeks and hours of additional work well-before the day. A small token of appreciation often goes a long way …
You can download your own copy of:
- the 5-Minute TeachMeet Plan here.
- Meet Your Hosts template.
- Holding Slides before the event kicks-off.
- An overview of the presentations.
- The brochure to be handed out to attendees.
- Directions and toilet signage.
- An example of keynote biographies.
- Scriberian who offered us the image below.
Have a great event!