NAFSA Conference 2019: Everything You Need To Know Before Attending

May 01 , 2019

Attending one of the world’s largest international education conferences can be overwhelming. How should you determine what speakers, events and other offerings you should and should not attend?

With almost 10,000 attendees each year traveling from over 100 countries to the ever-changing location of the conference (Washington, D.C. this year), there are limitless combinations of speakers, workshops and networking events for attendees to craft their ideal week-long itinerary to have the maximum impact toward their goals.

Every international education professional can conquer the conference with ease as long as they prepare themselves as much as possible in advance and formulate their plan for success. If you’re attending this year’s 2019 NAFSA Annual Conference, discover everything you need to know in our comprehensive guide below that puts all the most important information into one place.

Conference Dates

May 26 – 31, 2019

Conference Theme

Global Leadership, Learning, and Change

Can’t Miss Speakers

Opening Plenary – May 28, 4:00 p.m.– 5:30 p.m.

If it’s the first thing you do, add the opening plenary to your schedule. Held on Tuesday evening, the opening plenary will be a conversation between Dr. Madeleine K. Albright, the first female secretary of state, and General Colin L. Powell, who has held diplomatic positions across four presidential administrations. The plenary is hosted by Esther D. Brimmer, DPhil, NAFSA Executive Director and CEO.

Wednesday Plenary – May 29, 4:00 p.m.– 5:30 p.m.

An interesting change from Tuesday’s politically-focused speakers, Wednesday’s plenary speaker is José Andrés, a globally renowned chef with a two-star Michelin restaurant. He formed the World Central Kitchen in 2012, a nonprofit organization that provides solutions to hunger and poverty through food to empower communities and strengthen economies. Most recently the World Central Kitchen and #ChefsForPuertoRico served more than 3.5 million meals to Puerto Ricans in need following Hurricane Maria.

Thursday Plenary – May 30, 4:00 p.m.– 5:30 p.m.

Thursday’s speaker is Doris Kearns Goodwin, a presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize winning author. She is the author of seven New York Times best selling books, which have highlighted the triumphs and tribulations of the men and women who have shaped the nation.

Friday Closing Plenary – May 31, 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

The conference’s final plenary speaker is Shankar Vedantam the host of Hidden Brain on National Public Radio and has a background in journalism, spending 10 years at the Washington Post.

Planning Ahead

The conference offers so many options, it’s unfortunately impossible to be able to attend them all.

The conference includes:

  • Over 200 concurrent sessions
  • Pre-conference workshops
  • Signature programs
  • Career center
  • Poster fair
  • Spotlight presenters
  • Special events

In order to make the best use of your time, do your research in advance to the areas that interest you and will help accomplish the goals you have set for yourself and your organization. NAFSA provides an online planner and an app so you can add your sessions, programs and events to your schedule.

We recommend allotting slots of time to visit the Expo Hall and Poster fair, which are open for extended periods of time and allow you to come and go as you please. Add any sessions you want to attend to your personal schedule so you don’t plan over those time slots.

Expo Hall Hours

  • Tuesday, May 28, 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, May 29, 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, May 30, 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
  • Dedicated Expo hours on Thursday, May 30, 10:15 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
    No sessions are scheduled during this time.
  • Friday, May 31, 8:30 a.m.-11:15 a.m.

Poster Fair

  • Tuesday, May 28, 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, May 29, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, May 30, 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
  • Friday, May 31, 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.


NAFSA is a great way to meet industry peers, as well as form potential collaborations and partnerships for your organization. The conference sets the perfect stage to make new connections and strength existing ones.

The conference provides many events specifically designed to foster networking opportunities:

  • Networking luncheons (additional fee)
  • First-Timers breakfast (additional fee)
  • Knowledge Community receptions – Monday, May 27 from 5:30 – 7:30 PM
  • NAFSA 2019 Celebrations


Overall, our best advice that we can provide is to plan ahead. Reach out to contacts who you would like to meet with in advance to ensure they have time to meet with you. RSVP to events during the conference and during the evenings throughout the week as these provide a more casual setting to connect with industry colleagues.

If you’d like to attend 4.0 Tour’s Afternoon in Tuscany event at this year’s conference. RSVP here. We will be sipping Tuscany’s best wine and raffling off wine and other Italian goods! We are also exhibiting at Booth #2236 and hope to see you at this year’s conference.

Interested in speaking with us? Schedule a meeting here.

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