So you wanna plan a conference?

So you wanna plan a conference? My journey to create the CI: Comprehensible Iowa Conference | Shared by Elizabeth Dentlinger at

So you wanna plan a conference? My journey to create the CI: Comprehensible Iowa Conference | Shared by Elizabeth Dentlinger at

After I shared information about the CI: Comprehensible Iowa 2016 (and inaugural!) conference on the iFLT/NTPRS/CI Teaching Facebook page and Twitter, I received various requests for permission and to learn more about creating the conference.  Seems like the perfect opportunity for a blog post if you ask me!

So you wanna plan a conference?   If so, you will need to do the following:

  1. Identify your audience.
  2. Find others who will help you with the process.
  3. Decide on a solid or witty name.
  4. Pick a theme.
  5. Pick a location.
  6. Finalize a date.
  7. Find a keynote.
  8. Identify any and all costs.
  9. Decide registration costs.
  10. Figure out how you will collect registration fees.
  11. Create or buy a logo.
  12. Create a website.
  13. Create a detailed call for presentations.
  14. Create your registration.
  15. Promote your conference.
  16. Email, email, email!
  17. Update the schedule and record books.
  18. Order and Pick-Up Materials.
  19. Enjoy the big day!

Identify your audience:

Begin by identifying your audience.  Obviously, my audience is those teachers who are interested in learning more about and/or using Comprehensible Input in the classroom.  How do you decide on your audience?  Think about what you’re most passionate about!

Finding others to help you with the process:

I reached out to other local CI teachers by posting in our local Teaching CI in the Heartland Facebook group and received plenty of support!  Kim Huegerich over at  The Active Learner volunteered her school, Nevada HS, to host the conference and others offered to present.  I connected with others I’ve meet at IWLA conferences who I know are also passionate about teaching with CI – Craig Klein of SpanishCuentos, Allison Wienhold of Mis Clases Locas, Megan Fandel at Meg Fandel’s World, Darcie McGee of Cuentos de Mis Clases, Samantha Finneseth, and Stacey Wigant.  I am so lucky that these amazing people are live and teach in my state and are so willing to help others find the magic of TPRS/CI.

Decide on a solid or witty name:

The first thing that came to my mind was CI: Comprehensible Iowa.  I love the play on letters!  When Allison Wienhold (tweeted: @SraWienhold;blogger: MisClasesLocas), another Iowa-based educator, came up with the same title I knew it was the one!  Educators in other states asked if they could use it but change the state name.  I do not own proprietary rights to the name and in fact I think it would be kind of cool if it caught on.  However, another idea is to reach out to other educators.  I received some funny and Iowa-specific suggestions for a name on Twitter from multiple people.

Pick a theme:

Truth be told, I never knew people actually paid attention to conference themes.  I could never see the connection myself, but potential keynote speakers will ask for it so they know what to speak about.  We decided on “Growing a comprehensible classroom” because: 1) CI is a growing trend here in Iowa; 2) we want to help other teachers grow their CI classrooms; and 3) Iowa is well known for growing corn and livestock.  Everything tied together so nicely!

Pick a location:

This was easy as Kim worked this out with her school! Which, on a side note, is my new home effective next year! 🙂  Your location will determine how many sessions can be offered at once and if you will need a registration limit due to size restrictions.

Finalize a due date:

This is a tricky detail to agree upon because you can not accommodate everyone’s schedule, but you still want to try to pick a date that isn’t already claimed by other major local events.  We chose a summer Saturday because it would allow us teachers and presenters some time to breathe after the school year ended.

Find a keynote:

When Kim and I first began talking, we thought, “We should go straight to the top of CI!”  Many names came to my mind when I thought about major players in the CI world, but I had met Carol Gaab of TPRS Publishing a handful of times at conferences and loved her presentations.  I knew it would be difficult to get her to #CIIA16 with her busy schedule, but then I thought “Maybe she could appear digitally?”  Ask and ye shall receive!  However, another CI teacher suggested we try the 2015 Minnesota Teacher of the Year Grant Boulanger (Tweeter: @grantboulanger; Blogger: because he’s close in nearby Minnesota and it might be possible for him to physically attend the conference.  I am so grateful for Grant’s flexibility, patience, and guidance in helping with the conference!  Make sure to finalize details with your keynote.  You will want to cover things like the theme, if they should present and how many presentations they should do, and any fees associated with their appearance.

Identify any and all costs:

Costs to consider: costs associated with the keynote (do they need lodging or are they OK in someone’s guestroom/couch?, travel stipends?, etc.), any snacks and/or meals you plan to offer, print materials (we’ve elected to stay digital to save on printing and paper costs), promotion fees (I’ve spent money to have a log made and I spent money on a personalized domain name to make it easier to share our website), and prizes or awards.

Decide registration costs:

After identifying all costs associated with your conference, you will need to determine how much you will charge your attendees.  While you want to keep costs as low as possible, you also don’t want to charge so little that people who register and pay blow off your event.

Figure out how you will collect registration fees:

Our IWLA treasurer, Stacy Amling, was very helpful in helping Kim and I figure this part out.  Truth be told I’m not fully sure I understand all of the alternatives.  We were able to collect the payments through a Paypal account that Nevada already had set up.  Stacy suggested this option because it would allow schools to pay via POs and it would be traceable due to the school records.  There are additional steps we would have to take to become our own organization for tax purposes, and we may explore this in the future if the conference goes well.

Create or buy a logo:

A logo makes the conference looks official.  You can make your own logo using a website like Picmonkey or you could also use Ripl (although, you cannot remove their logo from the bottom unless you pay the $10/month fee).  However, as I wasn’t feeling exceptionally creative I decided to pay someone on Fiverr to create the logo.  If you decide to use Fiverr, I recommend you choose an artist’s work that you like, choose an artist who will re-do the work if you don’t like it, have examples of other logos you like for the artist to refer to, and know the color scheme you want to have.

Create a website:

A conference website should include the following: a description, presentation proposal information, registration information, a tentative schedule (you can see our final schedule here), travel information and a FAQ section.  I believe the description should include the basics (who, when, where, why), and it should also include a shout out to your keynote and any sponsors you may have.  I created the Presentation Proposal form, the Registration form, and the Tentative Schedule using Google Forms and Google Docs because I could easily embed them in a Google Site.  I didn’t want to worry about making changes in one place and having to update it somewhere else.  Once I made a change on the Google Form or Doc, the version on the website automatically updated.  The website was rather long because it was a Google Site, but I used Google Domains and paid $12 for the domain for a year.

Create a detailed call for presentations:

I believe every presentation proposal form should include the following information: basic details (who, what, when, where), categories for sessions you’re interested in, what equipment your presenters would have access to, a due date, a date by which you will notify them of an acceptance or not, and contact information.  I asked our possible presenter for their vital details (address, phone number), their social media to help others connect (Email, Twitter, Website/Blog), a biography to include in our handout, and a title and description for their presentation.

I created the registration form using Google Forms.  I like how all the data ends up in one place, how easily it plays with our Google Site, and that I could have an automatic confirmation email sent out using an add-on.

Here is our presentation proposal for reference.


Our registration form included much of the same information as our presentation proposal form – with some minor tweaks.  I also created this through Google Forms so that I could put it on our Google Site and have a registration confirmation email sent out automatically.

Here is our registration form for reference.

Promote your conference:

Social media is the best place to start promoting your conference.  Share it on your own accounts if you have them.  Ask your state’s world language organization to help promote your event.

Make sure to spice up how you promote your conference.  I began with a basic tweet and appropriate hashtags and I then searched many school websites and emailed nearby teachers.  However, I also did some creative things like making promo-images of who would be presenting for us, using a creative app to make an animated promo, and Jason Noble (Twitter: @senornoble; Blogger: asked Grant Boulanger for a promo video while at Central States a while ago.  Jason was kind enough to put it on the Iowa World Language Association’s Facebook page and send the video to me so I could put it on our website, too.

Email, Email, Email:

You will have SO many emails.  Respond to them all as quickly as possible.  Make sure to up your email game with a fancy looking stationery and signature, too.  Mail track is a nice addition for those important emails.

You will also want to send emails to presenters to confirm their presentation, to registrants to remind them to pay their fees and share updates, to your keynote to finalize details, and so much more!

Update the schedule and record books:

As much as I enjoy creating forms and documents and making sure they’re aesthetically appealing, I do not enjoy all the minor corrections to the content.  In order to combat having to update various web pages and documents, I embedded the schedule (it was created using a Google Doc) and everything into our website.  Kim has been such a blessing taking care of the record keeping related to payments in the excel created from our Google Form.  I know it hasn’t been easy for her, but she has done such an amazing job!  I am so excited to work more intimately with her next year at Nevada!

Order and Pick-Up Materials:

Make sure all of your orders are in for food.  Pick-Up your other materials like awards, prizes, and signage.  We’re still finalizing some of these details so I will have to update this part once I’ve completed it!

Enjoy the big day:

It will be a very busy day, but try your best to enjoy the fruits of your labor the day of your conference!  You’ve earned it.


*** This post will be updated after our conference on June 18th to share what I wish we had known and/or done differently!

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