Here comes conference season! I know not all music ed conferences are in the early part of the year, but the two I attend each year are in the first part of the year. How do you make the most out of your conferences? Here are 4 tips to make the most out of music ed conferences.

Check the Schedule

Plan ahead. My favorite conferences always have more sessions I want to attend than I can actually get to. I like to spend a little time when I check in with the schedule (or online ahead of time!) and prioritize what I really need to get to. Make a note, write out a schedule, or highlight on the schedule which sessions you NEED to see. Prioritize as 1 – MUST go to, 2 – Would like to do, and 3 – If it fits, looks interesting. Some conferences will repeat sessions as well so always check if yours does.

Set a Budget and a Plan

Exhibit halls are dangerous. I’ve walked out with more puppets than I knew what to do with, and have definitely come away with more music and teacher books than I anticipated. In my old days, I’d just say “oh well”, and carry on, but in my I’m not a newbie anymore years, I found that it’s better to set a budget for what I want to spend, make a list of things I really want/need to look at, and prioritize those things first. Then you can go check out the puppets you don’t need. Yes, I’ll probably always end up buying something I didn’t plan on because I didn’t know it existed (Nuvo Saxophone I’m looking at you), but I won’t break the bank.
Side note: Make sure you check out The Music Crew booth at the Michigan Music Conference this year! You can pick up my Folk Dance posters, the Kodaly Aspiring Recorder, stickers, and more!


If there are sessions that are for your specific situation, GO. If you are a new teacher, check out new teacher sessions. Talk to the local colleges about opportunities, hang out with your college pals if you are still in the same state, and make nice with people who sit next to you in sessions. Exchange info with people who are in similar teaching situations to you. Find a sounding board, a mentor, and ask for help.


The two favorite conferences I attend every year are The Michigan Music Conference, and OAKE. The best part about the conferences for me is how much more pep in my step I have in my after coming back. It’s that I spend time with music teachers. I make music. I play games. I get teaching ideas. I spend evening time having fun, not worrying about work, and not trying to get ahead. Make sure you take conference time to do things that fill your bucket, help you relax, and come back feeling more excited.

Quick Tips:

  • Leave if it’s not for you. If you sit down in a session and realize it’s not for you, it’s ok to leave. From experience, I can say the first time someone got up in one of my sessions and left, I was beating myself up for not being engaging enough. After having done a few dozen, I realize that it’s ok. I’d much rather a teacher get something out of that hour than spend it with me so I can stoke my ego by having an extra person in the room. Think of it like your students. If they want to be there, they are more engaged. Same thing!
  • Hit up the exhibits during a session hour. They are never as busy, it’s easier to get through a little more quickly, and browse without tons of people on top of you.
  • Organize immediately. When you leave, take stock of all your hand outs, what you bought, etc, and plan how to use it. Look for next week’s post that will go into this a lot more in depth!
  • Plan food. Lines are long. I’m 100% for Door Dashing your mid-day meals and even breakfast so you don’t have to waste an extra half hour in line.
  • If you are paying the big bucks for a fancy hotel where the conference is, enjoy it.. Does it have a pool? Do you have a thing for room service and it’s available? Budget for a splurge, bring the swimsuit, and plan a little me time too. Conferences are about rejuvenation and self care absolutely falls into that category!
  • Leave room in your suitcase or book bag if you know you are going to spend money at the exhibits. Or even pack an extra bag if you know you’ll need the space.

What are your conference tips and tricks? I’d love to hear about them!

Melissa Stouffer-1

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