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Behind the Curtain

A First Timer's Guide to the NDEO Conference
By Shannon Dooling-Cain
Posted on 10/7/2019 2:55 PM

If you will be attending the NDEO National Conference for the first time this year, it is likely that you have a few questions about how to prepare for your trip and get the most out of your Conference experience. We’ve put together this post with a few helpful tips, and we encourage your input as well! 

First time attendees, leave your questions in the comments and we will respond over the next few days. If you are a seasoned Conference attendee, please share your best advice and tips for navigating the Conference.

Remember, any professional event can be an overwhelming experience, and the NDEO National Conference is no different. Sessions run concurrently, with over 200 scheduled during the 3-day event. Warm-up sessions begin bright and early, and networking and social activities can last into the wee hours. Be sure to take care of yourself: get rest when you can, stay hydrated and nourished, wear comfortable shoes, and don’t feel that you have to attend every single session. Make time to take notes, reflect, and savor the experience. Introduce yourself to NDEO staff and other attendees throughout the Conference, especially if you are traveling alone. We are a warm and welcoming group and we love to connect with new members! 

What should I bring?

With over 200 sessions to choose from, attendees can plan their own conference experience. Take a look at the master schedule to determine which sessions you might like to attend, and pack dancewear and shoes accordingly. We recommend dressing in layers and bringing a sweatshirt or sweater, as hotel temperatures tend to be a bit unpredictable! Session rooms have a mix of carpeting and parquet flooring (think wedding dance floor), so you will likely want socks and/or dance shoes for movement sessions. Comfortable shoes are recommended for walking around the hotel area. 

Note-taking instruments are helpful, whether you choose a pen and notebook or a digital option. A reusable bottle can be refilled at water stations, and light snacks will keep you going if you plan to attend back-to-back sessions. Business cards are an important networking tool - just please be advised to keep these on your person and don’t leave them on the registration table, in session rooms, or around the hotel property as they will be discarded. If you are presenting and requested AV equipment, please double check the AV requirements here and remember to bring any necessary components. Some presenters will allow you to take photos or videos during their session, so you might want a phone or tablet, but be sure to ask before you record. You will want to consider carrying some cash to if you’d like to enjoy a cocktail at the cash bar during the Opening and Closing Reception. If you plan to take some downtime, don’t forget your swimsuit to enjoy the pool!

What should I wear?

There is no dress code for the conference, and you will see attendees wearing everything from yoga pants and tank tops to business casual attire during the session times. We recommend wearing comfortable clothing that you can dance in if you plan to attend movement sessions. For the evening social events, attire ranges from business casual to cocktail, so wear what makes you comfortable! You will need to have your name badge (provided during registration) to be granted access to sessions and social events. 

What will I receive at registration?

Attendees will receive a welcome bag with a printed copy of the Conference schedule, a name badge and lanyard, and a few goodies from our vendors. Program books are provided only for those who purchased a printed copy when they signed up for the Conference. We will have a limited number of books available for purchase at registration. All of the session and presenter information in the program book is available on the Conference App. Instructions for using the app will be emailed to all registrants in early October. If you don’t receive an email, contact and a staff member will be happy to send you the link! Wifi will be available in the Conference area. 

How many other attendees should I expect?

We are anticipating about 850 dance education professionals at this year’s Conference. While such a large group can feel overwhelming, there are many ways to connect with fellow attendees. Set up your profile on the NDEO Conference App to network and arrange meet-ups, attend social functions hosted by your state affiliate (if applicable), go to the “Conference 101” session to meet other first-time attendees, and be sure to introduce yourself to folks before and after sessions. The Conference is known for it’s warm, friendly vibe, and long-time members and newbies alike are always eager to meet new faces! 

Do I need to pre-register for sessions?

Most sessions do not require pre-registration - simply show up and be inspired! However, pre-conference intensives on Wednesday October 23rd require pre-registration and a separate fee. The best way to reserve your spot in an intensive session is to register in advance by calling the NDEO office at 301-585-2880 or emailing However, if you find yourself with unexpected free time on Wednesday, you can sign-up and pay for intensives at the NDEO Registration Desk in the Conference area. The Friday evening session, “Dance Archeology: Billion Dollar Baby - the 1945 Musical” also requires separate registration, and the off-site “Daniel Lewis Dance Sampler” performance requires a ticket that can be purchased at the registration desk. Most sessions are open to all registered attendees; however, those marked “Student Sessions” are only for current students, and State Affiliate receptions are only for attendees who live in those states. 

How can I stay in the loop during the Conference? 

The NDEO Conference App is the best way to stay connected to NDEO and other attendees on-site. We try our best to keep schedule and room changes to a minimum, but any necessary changes will be noted on the app. You will also receive push notifications reminding you of various special events throughout the Conference. 

The official hashtag is #NDEO2019. You are encouraged to share your Conference photos and videos on social media with the hashtag, and to tag “NDEO-National Dance Education Organization” on Facebook and “ndeodance” on Instagram and Twitter. 

How can I download the NDEO Conference App? 

In early October, you will receive a link to access the Conference App via email. Directions will be included in this email, and a short video demonstration is available to help you get started. Once you have the app downloaded and your account is verified, you will have the Conference schedule, session abstracts, presenter bios, vendor descriptions, and other vital information available at your fingertips. You can set up a personalized schedule of the sessions that you wish to attend, and get notifications about schedule changes and special events. The app’s social functions allow you to make connections with other attendees and provide NDEO with feedback about your experience. You can even participate in polls and surveys and review sessions to provide feedback to NDEO and the presenters!  

We strongly encourage all attendees to download and familiarize yourself with the app prior to the Conference. If you have any questions, please email

What kind of entertainment is available outside of the Conference sessions and social events? 

From 12-1pm each day, special Pop-Up performances featuring local schools and companies will be offered. On Thursday, the performances will be held in the Regency Ballroom, and on Friday and Saturday you can catch them on the Riverwalk and Upper Promenade. These are free events and do not require a ticket. 

On Friday evening at 8:00pm, Conference attendees are invited to the “Daniel Lewis Dance Sampler” hosted by the Florida Dance Education Organization (FDEO) at New World School of the Arts (offsite). This event requires a separate ticket, which can be purchased for $10.00 cash or credit at the Conference registration desk. The venue is a 15 minute walk from the Conference hotel. If you plan to attend, we recommend joining the walking group, which will be guided by a local volunteer. More information about the meeting place and time will be posted on the app. You can also use Uber, Lyft, or a taxi. 

There is no shortage of cultural venues and nightlife to explore in Miami! To learn more about the city and make plans for your Conference downtime, we check out the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau website. 

What are my dining options during my stay?

Two food and social events are included with your Conference registration. The Grand Opening Reception will be on Thursday 10/24 from 6:30-8:30, and consists of a seated dinner, cash bar, keynote speaker, and presentation of National NDEO Awards. This event is open seating, so feel free to find a table and make new friends! The Grand Closing Reception will be on Saturday 10/26 from 6:30-8:30 and consists of buffet-style tapas, cash bar, presentation of Local Awards, and a dance party. 

For all other meals and coffee breaks, there are several on-site dining options at the hotel, including the Market with “grab-and-go” selections. It is important to allow ample time for both dine-in and to-go meals from the hotel, as on-site restaurants tend to be very busy, especially during Conference hours. Additional dining options, including Whole Foods Market and quick service restaurants are available within walking distance of the hotel. (More information is available here.) If you prefer to explore the city, the Metro Mover provides free transportation around downtown, and the Metro Rail offers trips for as low as $2.95. If you have time constraints, we advise you to plan ahead and purchase food in advance to enjoy during your breaks.  

There are no sessions during the “lunch hour” of 12pm-1pm. We invite you to grab a bite, visit the Exhibitors, and enjoy the pop-up performances during this time. 

Will there be Exhibitors on-site? 

Yes, we are pleased to be hosting a number of great vendors and exhibitors at this year’s Conference. Exhibit hours are from 9am-5pm on Thursday 10/24 and Friday 10/25 only. There will be no exhibit hours on Saturday, so please plan accordingly. Exhibit tables will be located in the Upper and Lower Promenades and outside of the Orchard session rooms. This year’s list of vendors can be found here. 

I will be driving to the hotel each day. Where can I park, and what are the parking fees?

Self-parking and valet are available at the hotel. Self-parking rates for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are $7 per hour or $22 per day. Saturday and Sunday a flat rate of $10 is available. Learn more here

Now, it’s your turn! Remember to post your questions or your words of wisdom in the comments. We look forward to hearing from you, and can’t wait to meet you in Miami!

All Photos from the 2018 National Conference in La Jolla, CA. Photos by Ryan Orion Beck.
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