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Preparing for the Upcoming AASA National Conference on Education

How to get the most out of your professional development experience

By Randy Ziegenfuss

The National Conference on Education is only days away! Big conferences like NCE can be overwhelming, but with a little preparation ahead of time, you can make this one of your best professional learning experiences of the year! Here are a few tips you may find helpful as you prepare for NCE:


1. Reflect ahead of time on your district and personal goals/initiatives. What are your currently working on? What are your problems of practice? It might be helpful to tag each goal/initiative with one of the conference focus areas: curriculum & instruction, digitizing education, equity in children’s initiatives, job central, leadership for equity, personalized education, principal supervision initiatives and superintendent/school board relationships.

2. Download the Conference Guide or access it through the official AASA app.

3. Review the Conference Guide, highlighting sessions that connect to the district and personal goals you outlined earlier. There is a lot going on at NCE! So much that it can be overwhelming. Be sure to check out the professional learning opportunities offered by

  • Keynote Speakers
  • Conference Patrons and Exhibitors
  • Regular Conference Sessions – Thursday through Saturday
  • Roundtables
  • Social Media Lounge
  • Knowledge Exchange Theatre
  • School of the Future

4. You will likely have highlighted more than you can possibly do in the three days of the conference! Review your highlighted opportunities and prioritize.

5. Finish your pre-conference plans by making sure you have enough business cards for all the networking you’re going to be doing.


Follow the schedule you planned before heading to New Orleans, but also be open to serendipity. Sometimes the events you didn’t plan for are the most valuable. As you visit the keynotes, presentations, and exhibitors, commit to meeting at least one new person during each time period. Exchange business cards as a reminder to follow up after the conference.

Establish a system to document your learning. Taking notes is the most traditional way of documenting learning, but consider also using photographs. Taking a photo of an important slide or exhibitor product is a great way to capture an artifact for easy referral and sharing later.

Make time in your schedule to relax, re-energize and reflect. Spending hours learning can by physically and mentally taxing. Brain breaks are a must!

Share your story on social media throughout the day. Be sure to tag your posts with the NCE hashtag, #NCE17. Looking to share your conference or district story? Dr. Berger, President, and CEO of MindRocket Media Group will be onsite capturing your stories. If you’d like to connect with Rod, contact him and your captured stories may appear on Scholastic Administrator, Forbes and Huffington Post.


1. Follow up with your connections!

2. Find time to reflect: How will your learning experiences inform your actions as a leader? How will you share, inspire and influence back in your district context?

*Originally published in Conference Daily Online AASA’s award winning newsletter

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