Saturday, 12 July 2014

Teachmeet Stratford, build it and they'll come

I went to my first ever teachmeet last year at #TMSolihull, then #LeadmeetCov, followed by #TMCov. I thought they were brilliant, but I was aware that I was one of only 2 people at my school that had even heard of teachmeets, let alone been to one. We were missing out on this fantastic free CPD... So with willing offers of help and general encouragement from my fellow teachmeet attendee Rob Williams (@robewilliams79) we decided to organise one...

#TMStratford was born!
Having quickly cleared it with our head (he basically greeted my suggestion with a bemused expression and "sounds intriguing, are they really mainly organised via twitter? hmm..., ok Kev we'll give it a try") I booked the venue and dubbed it #TMStratford for the first time on twitter....

Then came the self doubt...
Hang on... it dawned on me:

  • We'll need to invite a load of people, many of whom I have never actually met in person... 
  • We're hosting it at a school in which only a few people have even heard of a teachmeet, and only one person has ever presented at one.
  • We've never arranged this kind of event before - where/how do we get sponsors, etc?
  • All the people I've seen arranging this kind of thing are SLT, but I'm a HoD - can I get this off the ground and do I have time to do it?
Fundamentally: Will anyone come? Will anyone from our school come? If people come will anyone other than the two of us be willing to present? Will we end up costing the school a load of money for a real flop?

In the face of growing self doubt and uncertainty we decided to press on regardless... "how could it possibly fail!"

We built it and they came!
Just a few months later I found myself stood with a microphone in front of about 75 people, kicking off the first ever Teachemeet to be held at our school. We had prizes, flash looking IT provision, nice food laid on, even a cuddly toy to lob at those that overran their presentation length... A couple of hours after that it was all over and Rob and I were being congratulated by the head, other SLT, and attendees both from inside our school and others that had traveled further to be there. I could also flip through the #TMStratford Twitter feed and see loads of positive comments....

People had turned up!
What's more 25 staff from our school had turned up!
We had 16 presentations, including several from staff at our school taking the leap to present at their very first teachmeet!

All of the presentations given are available here:
(About 35 mins of the event was recorded on video too, until the battery ran out! This will be published once I finish tidying it up...)

For a first ever event I was over the moon with it, and still am!

Key things...
I think a few things helped the event to be successful.... 
Firstly incessant publicity. I think I tweeted links to the signup page at least 100 times in the months before the event. I targeted people that I knew had been to other local teachmeets, I sought retweets from big hitter tweachers to increase visibility beyond my reach. We also sent information to other local schools and raised it over and over again in staff briefings.

For speakers whenever someone signed up I asked and encouraged them to present - remarkably lots agreed! I am massively grateful to all of those who took the time firstly to prepare something to say, but then to actually deliver it on the night - the quality of their input really made the event the success it was.

For sponsors I did contact one or two, but I was surprised how many others just got in contact once we got the publicity out there. Perhaps I was just lucky but it became really quite easy to put together prizes and freebies once this kind of thing was offered. Again I am grateful to all of the sponsors that contributed - you can see who they were on the pbworks page here:

Finally it was the others in the school who came together behind the scenes to make it what it was. The marketing team who developed graphics and flyers, sineage on the night, etc; the IT team who dealt admirably with all the tech aspects, including a last minute projector replacement literally finished just 15 minutes before the event started; the catering team who put together some nice food to keep us going while networking in the interval. A heartfelt thanks to these teams who really helped make the event run smoothly.

Definitely doing it again
It was only afterwards that I realised how much had been pulled together to make the event work, and to some extent how stressful it had been. Regardless of the stress it was absolutely worth it, and I'm already thinking about when in the calendar to place the next one, as part of a "progamme of teachmeets" that the school is now looking to run both internally and externally.

If you've never been to a teachmeet - find one near you and get along, it's some of the best CPD you'll get, and it's free!

If your school has never hosted one then why not be the person that arranges the first one? If not you, who? If not this year, when?

(Sorry if this post was a bit self-congratulatory, it's more intended to be an illustration that you don't have to wait for someone else to organise something - just go and do it yourself, you'll be amazed at what's possible!)

Feedback welcome as always...


  1. Well done, Kev! Not only did you do it, you've produced a post which will help OTHERS do it themselves in the future. Great stuff.

  2. Thanks Jill - hope you can make it to the next one :-)