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Preparation for IATEFL Belfast

A stunning blue sky with clouds over the Titanic Quarter of Belfast.
Image of the Titanic Quarter by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

As you may well know, I talk about many things on here, not just professional things, but personal too. It’s my belief that by being open, honest and transparent, it may also help others who feel similar.

I’m writing this at the start of #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek and although I encourage everyone to look after their mental health in any week, this week is especially important to think about it.

Like many people in the ELT / EFL world, I’m very much looking forward to IATEFL in Belfast next week. It will be my first time to the city, and although I will have to do some work, I’d love to see a little of the city. It will also be the first time since the start of the pandemic that I’ll be getting on a plane. So bung all that together with general and social anxiety and there’s a lovely recipe for you.

So, I thought I would give some tips that I’m going to be practising myself.

  1. You don’t have to do everything. This is why there is a wide selection of talks to go to. Pick those that you are really interested in – don’t feel guilty about not going to a colleague’s talk (unless they have expressly asked you to be there for support!)
  2. When planning your time at conference, don’t forget to plan time to break. This can be overlooked and you don’t want to burn out.
  3. If you need to, get away for half an hour or longer. In previous conferences I’ve attended, I’ve needed to just get out for a bit – the crowds can be overwhelming. There’s nothing wrong with taking some time for yourself. Finding a quiet spot somewhere inside may be challenging.
  4. Be aware that some people are different when online or in a zoom meeting (me, for example); some people may be quieter or talk more – this is just a method of coping with the situation.
  5. If you want to, and can, go to the Mindfulness sessions at the beginning of each day – but again, don’t feel guilty if you don’t.
  6. Don’t be insistent on people joining a social event – after a full day at conference, it may be the last thing on some people’s minds.
  7. Do what makes the conference enjoyable for you.

Apologies if the list may seem inappropriate, but really it’s a list for me (or my reactions!) to getting back to a face to face event – I thought it may be helpful for others. If not, that’s OK.

Last week was also a big week for the anxiety. I finished, along with Lottie Galpin, the second session of two of training for a publisher that we gave. I’m very thankful for Lottie and her calming influence – I think it went really well.

I also had my first in-person event as I gave a talk on Virginia Woolf to the Chichester Literary Society. It ended up being a lovely event, although I could feel my legs shaking as I started, which in turn affected my voice – hopefully, it wasn’t too noticeable. They all (about 30 people) seemed to enjoy it anyway.

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