Stella Stead has attended and keynoted enough conferences in her 24-year career to know what will send an audience straight to sleep.
So when the early childhood consultant decided to turn her educator nights into an all-day conference, she set herself the challenge of finding an inspiring panel of speakers to discuss the most pressing issues facing her industry.
The result is the Above and Beyond Childhood Education Conference, a "day of celebration" geared towards family and long day care providers, preschool teachers and before-and-after-school carers.
"I really wanted to do something like this to bring the educators of the Illawarra together," Stella said.
"I've made sure the topics are not only relevant but also interesting and challenging so that attendees leave with new knowledge and new ideas to be able to implement when they go back to work."
Shellharbour mayor Marianne Saliba will open the conference on March 7 at the Civic Centre Shellharbour, with keynote speeches by Deborah McNelis, a brain expert from the US, and Dr Belinda Davis, an early education expert from Macquarie University.
Attendees will be able to choose from 30-minute breakout sessions including alleviating anxiety in children, understanding autism, embedding Indigenous culture into programs, the importance of gut health in kids, managing challenging behaviours and supporting children in foster care.
It's the perfect day for all kinds of educators. It doesn't matter what qualification they have - it's for Certificate III, diploma, leaders, nominated supervisors, all levels.
After lunch, participants get to roll up their sleeves and have some fun learning how to turn recycled pallets into play equipment.
The workshop creations will then be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to local charity Saving Chloe Saxby.
"It's the perfect day for all kinds of educators," Stella said. "It doesn't matter what qualification they have - it's for Certificate III, diploma, leaders, nominated supervisors, all levels.
"I want them to take away new ideas so that they walk away with a whole new skill set, then disseminate that throughout our centres."
- Tickets for the conference are available at Eventbrite.