The 22nd international conference for English language teaching professionals by IATEFL Hungary

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Behind the scenes – reflections by the conference organizers, part 3

Gálik Norbert

How did you contribute to the success of the 22nd IATEFL-Hungary conference?

My story begins at the 46th IATEFL conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Besides enjoying the sessions and networking, my ‘mission’ was to find out how the online coverage of the event is done. As part of my job, I talked to some of the key  people managing Glasgow Online, for example Julian Wing, Gavin Dudeney, Andi White and Carl Dowse. At some stage, I was also invited to a live online interview, where I had the chance to promote IATEFL-Hungary. Talking to all these charming and extremely talented professionals behind the online coverage, I started envisioning something similar at our 22nd conference in Eger.

Gergely Zita, Tartsay Nóra, Lindner Zsuzsa and I started working on the Eger Online (a.k.a. EGON) project some time in August and had very high hopes. We launched this project to:

  1. Promote online professional development and the culture of sharing and community support
  2. Increase the number of teachers getting involved in the conference
  3. Actively involve non-participants in the conference experience by giving them the chance to read about workshops; comment on blog posts; share ideas; look at photos; watch studio interviews and read roving reports
  4. Promote IATEFL-Hungary and British Council’s services and attract new members and contacts
  5. Demonstrate that IATEFL-Hungary and British Council are forward-looking and innovative organisations in and outside Hungary


Based on the feedback we have received from conference participants, online visitors and our professional partners, we can say that Eger Online has fulfilled all its aims. 🙂

What did you enjoy most about your conference-related work?

I just loved every minute of working on Eger Online. Making the preparations for the online coverage with Nóra, Zsuzsa and Zita was lots of fun. Having a shared vision of what we wanted to achieve somehow united us. Our ideas, enthusiasm and collaboration formed one focused ‘beam of energy’. All of us worked hard and added our own personal touch to the final product. We were a team whose members complemented each other and made up a complete whole. I simply felt at ease with this team. Strangely enough, I didn’t even mind working late at night, as I knew, the others would also be willing to make the same sacrifice in pursuit of our shared goal and success. As we had known each other for a few years and had worked on various projects before, mutual trust, friendship, honesty and  attention to detail were a given. These attributes, I believe, are the basic components of a successful team, without which everything else is in vain.

In September other valued and enthusiastic helpers and professionals joined our Eger Online team (i.e. Darányi Ildikó, Bujtás Barbara, Paál László, Osváth Erika, Patkó Györgyi and Frank Prescott). With their additional help and ideas everything ran smoothly during the conference. I’m grateful to them for all their excellent ideas and work.

In what ways have you benefited from your work?

By coordinating the Eger Online project, I’ve gained considerable confidence in overseeing complex projects, delegating tasks to a group of ten, applying systems thinking and improving my time management.

By setting up and doing a series of live online interviews, I’ve had the chance to develop my skills as an interviewer and to cope with time pressure. I’ve also learnt how to conquer my fear of making mistakes during live interviews and, what’s more, how to create a pleasant atmosphere in the studio and put the interviewees at ease. In doing so, Darányi Ildikó was a real asset as an assistant.

Which aspect(s) of your work or achievement(s) as an organizer are you most proud of? Why?

I consider myself more of an introvert and deep thinker. I tend to stay in the background at social gatherings or meetings while actively listening to the others, mulling over the topic under discussion and limiting my talking time to a minimum. These traits might stem from the fact that I’m a Capricorn, or an only child, I’m note sure. What’s certain is that I managed to break down these innate psychological barriers, when I volunteered to do live online interviews with the plenary speakers, some of the conference organisers and  partners of IATEFL-Hungary. I’m thrilled that I plucked up the courage and left my comfort zone, prepared thoroughly, managed to stay calm and did my best throughout the eight interviews.

Working with this wonderful team of volunteers was a milestone in my career and I’m deeply indebted to them for all their arduous work, original ideas and unstinting support.

Kozma Edit

What did you enjoy most about your conference-related work?

I enjoyed every bit. The pre-conference weekend-long meeting in January, where all the creative ideas were put together, the very feeling we shared there, that we are working on something important that other colleagues will benefit from, the feeling that we are learning something important at the same time and the elevating feeling of co-operation.

I also enjoyed working at the registration desk, where I could greet the participants and the speakers. It is so interesting to see those familiar and new faces that reflect excitement and expectations.

I love most that aspect of the conference that we did something last year, we realised (or we were made to realise :)) that we could have done it better and we are trying to improve it next time: and eventually it IS  better.

What did you enjoy least about your conference-related work?

Packing and cleaning after the conference is really hard. It means it has finished.

In what ways have you benefited from your work?

I’ve learnt lots of things. Patience, acceptance, recognition – these are not what I had to give, but what I got.

I hope I managed to develop my co-operative, communication and time-management skills.

Which aspect(s) of your work or achievement(s) as an organizer are you most proud of? Why?

I am proud because most of the people gave a positive feedback, and they benefitted professionally  from the conference. I am also proud that they were also having a good time, the atmosphere was relaxed, the social programmes were fantastic – I hope many people went home saying ‘It is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.’

Price Beatrix

How did you contribute to the success of the 22nd IATEFL-Hungary conference?

I still have vivid memories of our first meeting at Norbi’s house, back in the Christmas holiday, where we had to agree on the most crucial points of the conference (title, motto, inspirational thoughts, etc.) and how to attract both speakers and participants just after a very disconcerting parliamentary bill. We never thought we would have so many people in Eger… Not even a few hours before Margit’s plenary.

As I wasn’t among the main organizers in the committee, I didn’t do much in the preparations; when Nóri, Zsuzsi, Anna had done the lion’s share of the job there were still a few more touches to be finalised. This was a few weeks before the conference and I hosted the committee meeting at my house. Whenever we got stuck with an important topic, we just opened the ‘Book of Answers’ to find an intriguing piece of advice.

At the conference venue I helped to create the physical space in the main building, prepare the ‘Presenters’ Room’, where the presenters, the student helpers and roving reporters could always find a quiet corner, some snacks and fresh tea/coffee to recharge their batteries. I walked around to make sure that everything went well, and tried to radiate happiness. 🙂

What did you enjoy most about your conference-related work?

Once the physical factors were established (creating the space is like a vessel that can be filled with positive energy) I could do what I really enjoy most, meeting people, talking to them, making sure that everything goes well or if there is a problem (thank God there weren’t many!), try to find quick and efficient solutions. I simply tried to be present and serve others. I was delighted to meet people I’d already known and those I thought I’d “known” from blogs and educational sites; it seemed as if we had known each other for decades; and it was elating to meet new people and share some professional and personal experiences.

What did you enjoy least about your conference-related work?

I got very impatient at registration in the beginning. This first surprised me and then irritated me more and more, because I thought registration is the welcoming moment of the conference: it should go smoothly, with a click or a tick. When I realised that this was not the case, I just simply backed out of the job. 😦 I hope to do it better next year.

My second frustration also happened on the first day. I was meant to introduce Steve Oakes before his plenary, but as time drew nearer, I got more and more nervous and finally asked Frank to do it. In the evening, when I stepped into the breathtakingly beautiful baroque room (it felt like entering the Sistine Chapel), I immediately knew I had made a mistake. I went up to Steve and told him the story, saying: ‘Steve, I think I’ve missed my train!’

I was most astound when he started his talk with an anecdote how he missed his train 22 years ago in Hungary by not speaking Hungarian.

However, I was pleased to read in Frank’s reflection that introducing Steve was his ‘personal highlight’ of that day.

In what ways have you benefited from your work?

This was my first IATEFL-Hungary conference as a committee member. I experienced it with a freshman’s eye, whilst still trying to have my part in the 3-day event as much as I could. During the days I observed everything, almost like taking snapshots at every single phase so that I know how to prepare steps next year.

Which aspect(s) of your work or achievement(s) as an organizer are you most proud of? Why?

Having attended a few conferences recently, I realised how important the social aspect of such a professional event is. Every year participants complain on the feedback sheets (that the breaks are too short, that there is not enough time to talk to like-minded teachers, would be good to have some social time, etc.). So after a very successful British Council karaoke party in September I suggested having the British Council karaoke party again, at the IATEFL-H conference in Eger. Thank you to the British Council colleagues for running it!

And finally, still back to the beginning, I’m very proud of our “retro-theme” conference title and the motto we came up with at Norbi’s house; it seemed to have inspired so many presenters and participants to boost this excellent event.

Zeffer Szandra

How did you contribute to the success of the 22nd IATEFL-Hungary conference?

As I’ve been the coordinator of the Young Learner SIG for a while, I was in charge of putting the SIG event together. I really enjoyed the meeting with the committee in Gödöllő, where we talked about the whole event that we planned earlier with the other SIG coordinators. What I did was a workshop about Halloween games and stories on Sunday morning. Since the conference I have received some e-mails saying thanks for the ideas.

What did you enjoy most about your conference-related work?

I really enjoyed all the brain-storming we did with the other SIG coordinators and the committee. They are all fantastic and helpful people with great ideas and positive attitude.

I also loved moderating the Young Learner SIG workshop on Sunday morning. I had the opportunity to show some well-tried activities and ask the participants not only to take part in the games, songs and rhymes but also to share their own ideas. Most of the participants teach kids, so we all enjoyed getting together, inspiring each other and having fun during the session.

In what ways have you benefited from your work?

I could share the activities and games I tried out with the class I teach and, as I’m quite young, I could also learn how to create a friendly atmosphere amongst unknown teachers, who came to the event not only to learn but they were also open to share some new ideas with the others.

I benefited from conference on the whole. I’m really happy that I could be a part of it. I joined some workshops and talks which were all really useful for me for my further teaching.

Which aspect(s) of your work or achievement(s) as an organizer are you most proud of? Why?

First of all I’m proud of being one of the coordinators of IATEFL Hungary because I can be a part of a special team. I’m proud of the committee and the coordinators who did a great work before and during the conference.

I’m also proud of the positive feedback and the nice e-mails I got. I’m proud of making a successful workshop with lovely, open and active participants. And last but not least “I’m proud to be a teacher!” 🙂

This is the final part of the “Behind the scenes” series. Please check back regularly for a video clip about the 22nd IATEFL-Hungary conference.

Edited by Gálik Norbert


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Behind the scenes – reflecions by the conference organizers, part 2

Bujtás Barbara

How did you contribute to the success of the 22nd IATEFL-Hungary conference?

What I added to it was my relatively large international personal learning network. I’ve been connected to a large number of devoted teachers all around the world. Through social media I had the chance to let everyone know about the conference blog, which has had pretty high traffic, thus opening the conference to teachers who were not able to participate. I have received heart-warming messages from thousands of kilometers away, saying thank you for organizing such a great event.

What did you enjoy most about your conference-related work?

I loved both being a roving reporter and  moderating the ICT SIG TeachMeet on Sunday  morning. I had the opportunity to ask fantastic people. Without knowing much about journalism, we managed to make interviews of great value. The TeachMeet was my dream come true.

Now I know I love watching people getting together, inspiring each other and having a great time.

In what ways have you benefited from your work?

I recharged my batteries and  met online friends in person, which is something that keeps me going.

Among all the other amazing speakers I was delighted to meet Scott Thornbury, whose famous article on DOGME back in the last century changed my whole view on teaching. 🙂

Which aspect(s) of your work or achievement(s) as an organizer are you most proud of? Why?

The blog views (8568)  and the TeachMeet. I’m convinced that a huge part of ongoing professional development is learning from each other as professionals and artisans, interactivity, the personal touch.

Csíky Anna

How did you contribute to the success of the 22nd IATEFL-Hungary conference?

As SIG liaison, I helped plan the Young Learner and ICT SIG events – not sure whether chatting to amazing people like Barbi and Szandra counts as work though…  I smiled at a number of student helpers while giving them random tasks, mostly to do with setting up the conference on Friday and then clearing up on Sunday.  I moderated the reflection part of the Meet the Plenaries event and made lots of participants happy by drawing their raffle tickets.  And there was an awful lot of carrying desks and chairs, but that’s always the case if you spend enough time in Nóra’s company.

What did you enjoy most about your conference-related work?

Taking part in the ICT TeachMeet and actually witnessing what a huge success it was.  Remembering the first time Barbi brought the idea up, as well as all the discussions and changes around it, and then seeing how it finally worked out – very rewarding.

In what ways have you benefited from your work?

I think this was my first conference where I was not one of the main organizers, so the wonderful thing for me was that there was time to actually make it to the sessions.  I only missed out on one of the plenary talks and I really liked how the other five were very different from each other.  Discovering that there were sessions related to educational management was a very pleasant surprise and I ended up taking away ideas that I have already tried in the IH Budapest staffroom.

Which aspect(s) of your work or achievement(s) as an organizer are you most proud of? Why?

Signing out the “key to heaven” at the Líceum reception – because I can’t remember doing that before.

Tartsay Nóra

How did you contribute to the success of the 22nd IATEFL-Hungary conference?

Being one of the main organizers of the 22nd IATEFL-Hungary conference meant that I was involved in nearly all of the aspects of the event. I remember our December meeting with the committee where we agreed that we would like to have a conference that would focus on teaching as an enjoyable and fun activity. I also remember being in Eger a year ago at a conference and feeling absolutely convinced that this was an excellent city for our event. I was involved in planning the programme, inviting the exhibitors and speakers, finding the place to eat, thinking of the social activities (Lyceum tour, wine cellar visit, the karaoke party and the Eger sightseeing tour), ordering the conference bags, editing the brochure, coordinating the technical team, and many other issues.

There were, however, three activities I particularly enjoyed. First, I was in charge of coordinating the exhibitors – something I did for the first time, and something I learnt a lot from really. I was also responsible for the student helpers and volunteers, an extraordinary bunch of people who contributed a lot to the success of the conference. And most importantly, I was involved in the planning and preparation of Eger Online, the live coverage of the events.

What did you enjoy most about your conference-related work?

I am a team-player. Brainstorming and planning together as a team means a lot to me. I worked on different tasks with different people (Eger Online with Norbi and Zita, the programme and the brochure with Zsuzsi and Frank, the student helpers with Györgyi, etc.), and I very often felt how a team can be more creative and more productive than individual members. I enjoyed the pre-conference excitement, shaping the exhibitors’ hall, seeing the first partners and participants arriving, and greeting old friends and people I only met online before. Meeting the students I teach at the university I work for was also a special treat for me.

What did you enjoy least about your conference-related work?

It is probably easy to guess from the above lists of responsibilities and tasks that not everything went smoothly. We often worked late at night, especially with Norbi and Zsuzsi, and we had to solve numerous emerging problems in no time. During the conference, I was also approached by people who asked me where things were and how to solve this or that, and no matter how hard we tried, there were still some issues to deal with. Reading the feedback sheets from the participants and the exhibitors, it was really sad to see that we could not cope with everything. Also, I could attend far less sessions than I would have liked to. On Sunday, when we finally left Building B at 4 o’clock, all tidied up and empty, I was hesitant whether I did well enough or not. It was difficult.

In what ways have you benefited from your work?

The conference in Eger was the third one I helped organizing, and the first one when I was responsible for many different tasks. Knowing that I can rely on some really good friends makes this experience a very special one. I learnt a lot about planning (both content and finances), about cooperation and networking, about different cultures and how similar we all are. I have met some ELT celebrities, whose coursebooks I use in my teaching every week. However, the most important benefit for me is becoming a member of an international community.

Which aspect(s) of your work or achievement(s) as an organizer are you most proud of? Why?

I am immensely proud of Eger Online, and how well we could work together with Gálik Norbi and Gergely Zita. We have had this dream for two years now, and took the first steps last year already. But this year it was really special, and I feel good about the comments from colleagues who could not come to Eger on how useful the blog still is.

I am very proud of the IATEFL-Hungary committee, especially Lindner Zsuzsa, for making this conference special for a lot of people.

I am proud of all the positive feedback we received from participants and exhibitors. It was good to see teachers and students from places we had our conferences before, and who are now regular conference goers. I really hope to see some Eger colleagues next year in Budapest.

Tamás Katalin

How did you contribute to the success of the 22nd IATEFL-Hungary conference?

This was my first IATEFL conference when I was a helper-organizer. I think I could contribute with being where it was needed. First filling in around 200 conference bags by putting the conference booklet and all the materials in each of them together with wonderful Eger students. Later being at hand at the registration desk for the participants during registration and trying to answer their questions concerning the programs.

What did you enjoy most about your conference-related work?

Being and working at a conference is a very exciting time. I could get into the stream of what is going on in the profession of teaching English and I met a lot of old friends made new friends too and it was a nice feeling to be at hand when needed.

What did you enjoy least about your conference-related work?

An organizer just like an interpreter must know that they cannot be everywhere where they want to and cannot hear all the sessions they wanted to. But that does not make the experience worse.

In what ways have you benefited from your work?

This was the first time I was really involved in preparing IATEFL conference. I could meet some coursebook writers I had known from teaching from their books, met old friends and made new ones thus deepening the feeling of belonging to a very valuable international community.

Last but not least I am very proud that I was elected a committee member of IATEFL Hungary.

Which aspect(s) of your work or achievement(s) as an organizer are you most proud of? Why?

As far as I know there were no major complaints about the operations of the conference. It is not only the speakers that make a conference memorable and successful but the venue and the smooth organization. A well organized team where everybody knows what their task is plus they keep their eyes open to any problems to be solved is one of the ‘hidden’ keys of a successful event.

Check back regularly for Part 3 of ‘Behind the scenes’.

Edited by Gálik Norbert

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Review of conference by Mark Hancock and Annie McDonald


Delightfully retro-themed conference with a cutting-edge online support programme.


The 22nd annual IATEFL – Hungary conference took place in the elegant and tranquil spa town of Eger, a 2½ hour train ride north east of Budapest. It was housed mainly in Building B of the Eszterházy Károly Föiskola, but the first day’s final plenary and welcome cocktail was held in Building A. This later was an astonishing venue, a massive and historical building, and a plenary room about 3 stories high, with walls and ceilings fully painted with frescos.

Building B was perhaps less inspiring, but spacious and convenient enough, and everything seemed to work smoothly thanks to the discreet and cheerful team of student helpers. Many of these students are future teachers of English, encouraged by their teacher to get involved with the conference as helpers so they could initiate themselves into the wider ELT community.


Very clear and simple, with helpful maps of the site. The presentation of abstracts in a table form made it very easy to locate what was going on in each slot – this was probably the clearest layout we’ve seen in a conference programme. Two things lacking were biodata for the speakers and email addresses for conference participants.


The theme was “Inspired – the pleasure of learning and teaching”. This was a very refreshing title – so much so that it was one of the reasons we specially wanted to attend this conference.


There were six plenaries (Margit Szesztay, Steve Oakes, Bonnie Tsai, Michael Carrier, Ken Wilson and Scott Thornbury). Margit, Bonnie and Scott’s plenaries were all on a very similar topic – the stages in the career of an English teacher, the pressures that lead to their disillusionment, and the strategies they can employ to revive their morale. Steve’s plenary was on the topic of ambiguity tolerance – a crucial quality in any language learner, and one which we should try to help them develop. Michael spoke about new technologies and their potential benefits not only in the classroom but also beyond, in places where access to classrooms and teachers is limited. Ken presented reflections and insights on the art of teaching by means of ten inspiring and amusing quotes. There was no closing plenary at the end of the conference. Instead, there was a ‘meet the plenary’ session in which teachers had the opportunity to interact with them in focus groups distributed around the plenary hall. This was a great idea, and not one we’ve seen elsewhere.

The programme was generally much lighter on new technologies than is customary in conferences these days. Perhaps this reflects the rather low-tech, “retro” conference theme. Indeed, there was a flavour in a couple of the plenaries that ran counter to Michael Carrier’s strong endorsement of technology. Ken Wilson, for example, pointed out that the teacher is more important than the tool, and Margit Szesztay said that the “inner workbench” – a teacher’s inner resources – is the more important thing to focus on.

There were talks and workshops for all sectors of the ELT community, with a large number of sessions focussing on intercultural competence and culture and literature. Other popular topics areas on the programme were ICT, motivation, skills, ESP, ELF and life-long learning.

One 90 minute slot was given over exclusively to the Special Interest Groups: Culture and Literature, Information and Communication Technologies, Young Learners and Special Needs Education.


This conference was (and still is as of writing) supported by an online page, including reviews, interviews, photos and videos. This was a great way to boost the legacy of the event, ensuring that those who were not able to go had a clear impression of everything that happened, and helping those that did go to remember, digest and reflect upon the experience. We haven’t attended another conference with an online component other than IATEFL in the UK, so IATEFL Hungary was very progressive in this regard. The theme may have been “retro”, but the event wasn’t!

Thank you to all the organizing committee and helpers for a hugely motivating and well-organised event.

Visit Mark and Annie’s blog for further reviews, articles and more in ELT.

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British Council Teachers’ conference in Spain

Four live sessions on Saturday 29 October as a warm up for the Eger conference from Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao and Valencia! Enjoy.

  • 10.00 to 11.00
    Gamification: Practical Ideas for ELT, Graham Stanley
  • 11.10 to 12.00
    Having Fun Teaching the Skills in Primary Classes, Yvonne Moore
  • 12.40 to 13.30
    Aptis: A New and Exciting Language Test, Bernie Maguire
  • 13.40pm to 14.30
    Getting to Grips with Graphic Novels,  Samantha Lewis


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