There are many reasons why we go to conferences. It may be because we want to meet with and learn from well-known ELT experts or maybe we want to share some teaching or research ideas with other fellow ELT professionals. For others, going to a conference is a great way to connect with people and do some networking. We all know that networking is important as it can help us find a new job, exchange teaching and research interests, and explore joint research opportunities.
However there are literally hundreds of conferences nowadays and it is not always easy to find a good one. Some are good, while others are bad. Bad conferences are known as predatory conferences. These are conferences organized by irresponsible people whose main objective is to make huge profits from the event.
Predatory conferences are academic gatherings that look legitimate, but they are not. They promote the event using flashy advertising gimmicks and promising unsuspecting academics false recognition. I have heard horor stories from colleagues who went to such conferences.
Since the number of predatory conferences outnumbers legitimate ones, we need to exercise caution before making our decision. Also since the number of predatory conferences keeps increasing, it’s becoming nearly impossible to keep track of them.
While it is not easy to spot a bad conference, it is easier to identify a good, legitimate conference. Here are my rules of thumb.
Attend a conference organized by:
1. Professional Associations in our field e.g., ASIATEFL, IATEF (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language), JALT (Japan Association for Language Teaching), KATE (Korea Association of Teachers of English) MELTA (Malaysia English Teachers’ Association), TEFLIN (Teaching English as a Foreign Language in Indonesia) and ThaiTESOL . These associations usually organize an annual conference and post the event in their official websites.
2. Educational institutions e.g., schools, universities and language centers. Examples include annual conferences organized by SEAMEO RELC Singapore, Chulalongkorn University Language Institute, Thailand, Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia (CONAPLIN) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (MICOLLAC).
3. Government bodies. The English Language Institute of Singapore (ELIS), the EL training arm of the Ministry of Education Singapore, for example, holds an annual seminar for school teachers. The language education and training arm of the Ministry of Education Indonesia (PPPPTK-Bahasa) organizes seminars and workshops for English teachers.
4. Publishing companies in our field. Pearson and Cambridge University Press for example often organize conferences and workshops for English teachers . These are sponsored events which are open to the public. In addition to sharing ELT ideas, these publishers use these forums to promote their books.
Finally, always do your diligence before you decide to attend a conference. Consult your senior colleagues for information about the reputation of the conference. Or you can check with your other professional colleagues from other other countries. Or if you are a member of an online forum such as Teacher Voices, you can seek the opinions of its members about the said conference.
A mistake can be costly both to you and your organization. Participating in a predatory conference can seriously harm your reputation as an academic.