Judges of all types and levels belong to an international community devoted to improving themselves and the quality of the events they steward. One of the central tools judges utilize to improve themselves is attending and/or organizing judge conferences.
Back during the beginning of the judge program, judges would come together to present talks on aspects of judging as an educational tool. Typically held at game stores, large events, or conventions, early conference presentations were lectures and workshops where experienced judges presented on topics they were particularly passionate about. These events drew anywhere from a handful to hundreds of attendees and became a central feature of the judge world. Over time, judge conferences have evolved to fit the educational, research, and social needs of judges.
A judge conference is a time for judges to come together to learn from each other and build valuable social connections. At a conference, you will meet old friends, make new ones, expose yourself to innovative new judging techniques, engage in fun activities, and find yourself more excited than ever about being part of this incredible global community.
Judge Conference Information
Use these tabs to learn more about Judge Academy’s conference sponsorship program:
Judge conferences consist of planned, guided, learning opportunities. Traditionally, these are presentations or interactive workshops, but they can also be guided roleplays, mock tournaments, or some other learning environment.
One of the best parts of a conference is the chance to interact with other judges and get hands-on experience. Depending on the type of conference, you might get a chance to ask questions of the presenters, practice your deck check skills, role play a judge call, etc.
Judge Academy Sponsored Conferences
Types of Conferences
Physical conferences, where judges gather in person in a specific location, are Judge Academy’s primary focus. These conferences allow for direct interaction during both presentations and downtimes that facilitates learning and helps build relationships in ways that are harder to achieve in online settings.
Digital conferences, in which attendees gather through an online video and text discussion platform such as Discord, allow judges to engage with each other across long distances. We recognize the continued utility of digital gatherings in situations where distance or safety concerns would make an in person gathering impossible, or where the goal of the conference requires bringing together people from a wide range of locations.
Spectator – Rules Advisors and other individuals without Judge Academy judge certification status may attend at the discretion of the organizer, but will not be included in conference support.
Attendee – A certified Judge Academy judge or L3 Emeritus attending a conference who does not hold any additional role at the conference.
Primary Organizer – The single point of contact for this conference with Judge Academy. This is the person responsible for distributing promos to participants after the event. There should only be 1 Primary Organizer for each conference.
Additional Event Staff – This includes any additional organizers, moderators for multi-track events, event assistants, etc. The event size chosen by the primary organizer determines the number of additional staff who can receive promos. Review Judge Academy’s sponsorship package sizes for details.
Presenter – Presenters are expected to be prepared to deliver a quality presentation or workshop to attendees. Each organizer might have different deadlines for how early a presenter needs to have their materials prepared. In order to best manage a conference, it is recommended that organizers and staff members do not also take on the role of a presenter. If they choose to do so, they will only receive the promos support for one of these roles.
Backup Presenter – In addition to staff and presenters, an event can have one backup presenter. This is an experienced person who is ready to jump in to help present if technical issues arise or a presenter loses connection. They should either have a relevant presentation of their own prepared or have access to the other presenters’ presentations prior to the conference. Regardless of whether or not this person ends up presenting, they will be counted as a Presenter when determining support. The event size chosen by the primary organizer determines the number of additional staff who can receive promos. Review Judge Academy’s sponsorship package sizes for details.
Promos will be distributed primarily in packs.
- Four-card packs will contain the two most recently released promos along with two promos from previous waves.
- The bonus promo for presenters, organizers, and others will be the promo for that half of the year.
Attendee Presenter Organizer Staff L3 Bonus Bonus Promo Venue Examples Attendee/Level 3 = 2 Four Card Packs Be sure to request the right support package size!
Updated Promo Policies for 2023
In 2023 every certified Judge Academy judge or L3 Emeritus will receive a four-card pack of promos when they attend a judge conference, digital or physical.
Every presenter will receive a pack for presenting. This will be in addition to the pack most presenters will receive for attending. This pack is given as a thank you for the completed act of presenting at the conference. A person who creates a presentation but is unable to present it will not receive a presenter pack, but is welcome to give that same presentation at a later conference.
The conference organizer will receive one pack in addition to the pack they receive for attendance.
Additional event staff will receive a pack for their staff work in addition to the pack they receive for attendance.
Conferences give judges the chance to learn, not only from the presenters, but from their fellow attendees as well. To recognize the added benefit they bring to a conference through their active participation, L3s who qualify as having attended will receive an additional attendee pack.
As further recognition, presenters and staff will also receive a bonus Judge Academy Promo, the primary organizer will receive two. Those bonus promos will ONLY be available to conference staff and presenters until the End of Year Celebration conferences.
An organizer may gift a promo pack to the venue that hosts the conference as a thank you.
(If someone is an _____ then they get _____)
Attendee/Presenter = 2 Four Card Packs + 1 Bonus Promo
Attendee/Organizer = 2 Four Card Packs + 2 Bonus Promos
Attendee/Presenter/Level 3 = 3 Four Card Packs + 1 Bonus Promo
Attendee/Presenter/Organizer = 3 Four Card Packs + 3 Bonus Promos
Attendee/Presenter/Level 3/Organizer = 4 Four Card Packs + 3 Bonus Promos
Here are the sponsorship packages we offer:
Attendee/Level 3 = 2 Four Card Packs
Be sure to request the right support package size!
Just as each community of judges is different, we expect each judge conference to be a little different from the others. As a conference organizer, you know best how to serve the needs of your particular community of judges. These guidelines outline our general expectations of the conferences we sponsor, but as long as you stay within those guidelines, you are encouraged to make your particular conference your own. For more information, feel free to read our Conference FAQ or reach out to other judges in the community. (Discord is a great resource!)
Before You Apply
Why do I want to hold a conference?
Every conference should start with a clear idea of who or what your focus will be. Your conference can be about a particular part of the rules or focus on community building in a particular area or taking advantage of a group of judges coming together for a specific event. Our application criteria can help guide your decision. With so many conference applications coming in, we are hoping to see conference proposals that go beyond just having a conference because your area hasn’t had one this quarter.
When and where do I want to hold my event?
Make sure you have a venue that can host it. We recommend having a few possible dates, in case your initial choice overlaps with other events previously scheduled. We also recommend applying at least two months in advance, especially for physical conferences where you want to distribute promos at your event. Also decide if your event will be held in a physical or digital format.
How large will my event be? / How much support do I want to ask for?
Consider things like space limits at the venue and how many judges similar events have gotten in attendance numbers. Remember that bigger is NOT better. We want conferences to be interactive, not just a series of lectures to passive listeners. With this information, decide what size conference you want to apply for using the chart below:
Our Application Criteria
We would love to accept every application we receive, but that is sadly not possible. Below are the criteria we use when evaluating applications, which can hopefully guide you in crafting your own conference proposals.
In an effort to widely distribute our resources to the global judge community, one of the first metrics is the frequency and location of conferences in that region or geographical area. If your area has regular conferences, it is recommended that organizers reach out to one another to strategize scheduling or combine their efforts.
We also look at the theme and learning goal of the conference. We take a number of factors into consideration, but we focus on three things in particular:
- Topic Selection
What is your target audience? What steps are you taking to craft your conference for your attendees? Is your target audience and/or topic selection overlapping with other events in your region?
We are always looking for new, unique, and interesting ways for organizers to set their conferences apart from the pack. Have you considered trying something new or adding different perspectives?
What are you asking of your presenters to help keep folks engaged with their seminar? What steps are you taking to discourage folks from checking out and encouraging them to participate? There are a wide range of options here beyond lecture-style learning. Hands-on workshops, mock tournaments, roundtable discussions are just a few.
Lastly, we look at the conference organizers themselves, especially their past history running conferences. If an organizer had challenges with a past conference, or we have received negative feedback we will likely want to see improvement from that organizer before sponsoring their conferences again.
Remember: Judge Academy wants the conferences you put on to be great. If you have an idea you want to discuss or questions on how to make something happen, there is a big community of passionate folks who have been organizing conferences a long time. Reach out to your fellow judges! A great place to start is the Judge Academy Discord.
Conferences at Events
Large events like Regional Championships and CommandFests bring a lot of judges together, many times from around the world, and provide a great opportunity for community building at a conference.
Our first choice is to partner with the tournament/event organizer (TO) themselves, or a judge they have chosen to work with for this purpose. Coordinating with the TO on things like use of event space or ensuring the conference schedule integrates with the event schedule can make the event planning a lot easier. Anyone who wishes to run a conference in conjunction with a large event should check with that event TO first.
Bear in mind an event-attached conference is going to come with it’s own set of challenges, it is recommended to work with your TO and/or venue to secure a quiet space for your event. While not a disqualifier, keep in mind the schedule of the event itself as a conference on a day when the staff is working can be less accessible.
While judge conferences may be organized in conjunction with events, any presentation that is designed to train event staff in preparation for the event itself will not count toward the 4+ hours of Magic: The Gathering educational content required for Judge Academy sponsorship. Any event staff training should be done before or after the judge conference.
Judge Academy sponsorship items MAY NOT be used or advertised by organizers as a form of compensation for event staff.
For physical conferences, organizers are responsible for complying with any and all local or venue-specific rules, regulations, and guidelines. Organizers may also impose their own restrictions on any conference they are hosting (for example – requiring masks or proof of vaccination to attend).
Acceptance is not guaranteed until your specific application has been approved.
Informal discussions with JA staff or submitted plans for a series of events do not constitute official approval for any individual event. You will be notified if your conference application has been approved or declined. Conferences without an application will not be approved.
We strongly recommend that you wait until your application for sponsorship has been approved before announcing your event or soliciting applications. If you do announce your event before being approved you must make clear that your event has not yet been approved and promos may not be available.
We strongly encourage organizers to submit their applications as far in advance as possible. The conference application process can take up to two weeks from submission till decision about approval, with promos sent out after your application is approved.
We will endeavor to get promos to organizers before their physical events when possible. The complexity of shipping, particularly across borders, means that we cannot predict when packages will arrive, but we recommend expecting about 4 weeks from application approval to receipt of your promos, and 6-8 weeks or more if an international border will be crossed.
Conferences that do not offer support for all attendees should make sure that information is clear on the Event page when applications open. This includes any publicity for an event that has not yet been officially approved for sponsorship.
So that all attendance numbers, roles, and levels can be verified, all judges will need to apply to the event or be added by the organizer via the Judge Academy Events Portal in order to receive promo support.
For physical conferences, the expectation is that Judge Academy sponsorship promos will be distributed in person at the event itself. If that is not possible, the organizer is responsible for finding another means of distribution.
For digital conferences, the conference organizer is responsible for distributing sponsorship promos after the event.
In person distribution (in person conferences) or mailing distribution (digital conferences) are the expected methods of distribution, but conference organizers are welcome to make other arrangements when all parties involved are in agreement. Example: An organizer may arrange with some attendees to give them their promos by hand if they are both going to be at an upcoming event together.
In order to distribute promos remotely, you may need to collect address or other personal information from attendees. That information should not be shared with anyone else without the attendee’s permission. Be sure to set exact deadlines with attendees so they have enough time to get you the information you need to ship out promos.
It is strongly preferred that conference organizers mail promo support to eligible participants no later than two weeks after your event. In the case of a shipping delay, organizers should send out promos as quickly as possible upon receipt from Judge Academy after their event. Please note that while basic shipping of promos should always be free, some organizers may choose to offer Tracking or other Methods of shipping to attendees, and some of these options may come at an additional charge.
Judge Academy acknowledges that shipping times and constraints vary around the globe, if you as an organizer believe you will be unable to fulfill these expectations, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss possible options prior to applying.
If promos are lost or damaged when distributed from the conference organizer to the attendees, the conference organizer is responsible for replacing them.
The package conference organizers receive will contain extras for this specific purpose.
Organizers: If Your Application Has Been
Below are the steps you’ll want to follow to make sure you put together a great conference:
Step 1: Announce the Conference
To learn how to create an event on Judge Academy checkout our walkthrough. The initial announcement about your conference should contain as much information as possible:
- Date and location of conference.
- Estimated start and end times. (Participants need to know this in order to plan their day!)
- Event link for registration, and registration deadline.
- Make it clear whether participants will receive promos. (i.e. is this a Judge Academy sponsored conference?)
- Information on seminars/presenters that you have already confirmed.
- Describe your event’s target audience. Are there any restrictions on who can apply, such as L2+ only, a specific region, etc.?
- Call for additional presenters. Let people who are interested in presenting at your conference know who to contact to express their interest, and what expectations you have for them.
- Language. Some Conferences are run in a language other than English. Some conferences may even have seminars in several different languages.
Step 2: Presenters and Reviewing Content
You can start recruiting presenters or conference leaders even before announcing the conference to the general public. Posting a general call for presenters is common practice, but you might also contact individual judges who are specialists in a particular topic or known for being skilled presenters.
Content for conferences should be finalized at least 2 weeks prior to the event. Presentations that lack preparation negatively affect conference attendees and can undermine the hard work that other presenters may invest in your event. As a conference organizer, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are providing attendees with a positive experience. Judge Academy recommends that organizers take time with their presenters to properly review seminars before their conference.
Step 3: Planning the Conference Schedule
Once you have your final list of topics and presenters, you should start planning the schedule. Each session is usually about 40-50 minutes long. A common setup is to allow 60 minutes per session: 40-45 minutes for the presentation, 10 for questions, and 5-10 for a break. That said, many organizers have found success using different set-ups, so there is always room for innovation! All Judge Academy requires is that your conference contains at least 4 hours of educational content.
You should consider a break for lunch in the middle of the day if the conference is going to be particularly lengthy. Don’t forget to allow some time at the beginning to give people a chance to work out any technology issues before the official conference start time. Lastly, since one of the goals is to have judges build connections with each other, consider having some time for introductions, an icebreaker, or other ways to encourage judges to get to know each other.
Step 4: Promos & Feedback Forms
At the end of your event, or soon after, you will need to distribute promos. You will likely have extras after distribution. Hold on to those for a while as replacements just in case any promos are lost in the mail or damaged on the way to your attendees.
It is important to gather feedback to help you plan a better conference next time, and to help presenters improve their presentation skills. Judge Academy does not mandate the use of feedback forms for sponsored events, though we strongly encourage organizers to collect feedback via whatever method best suits their needs. Many organizers have created before/after topic quizzes, virtual hand raises, or other ways to ensure their attendees stay engaged in the presentations.
You are welcome to use this Feedback Form Template, although you can feel free to use your own or find other ways to encourage and facilitate feedback. Our experience has shown that mandatory or anonymous feedback is not as constructive, and highly suggest ensuring that either the presenter (or you) have a way to reach out to the attendee if clarifications or more information is needed. You can also share our Judge Academy Conference Feedback form, instead of (or in addition to) your own.
Step 5: Last Steps
Once you have confirmed that all promos have been delivered, you will need to fill out the Sponsorship Return Form and mail the extra promos back to us at the Judge Academy office. (This form is still in the works and will be available very soon.)
If you tried something new, or learned something, or have anything else you want to share with organizers, post about it on the judge-conferences channel on the Judge Academy Discord.
These are questions we are frequently asked. Judge Academy staff members will continually update this list.
If you still have questions after reading these, consider reaching out to other judges who have organized conferences, or posting in the judge-conference channel on the Judge Academy Discord, or in any other online judge community you are a part of.
What exactly is Judge Academy’s (JA) role in terms of conferences?
We at Judge Academy don’t run or organize judge conferences. That is up to you as a potential organizer, and you don’t need our approval to hold an unsponsored conference. What JA can offer is sponsorship. If your conference is sponsored by us, we will send out promo cards for you to distribute to your attendees. We have guidelines for what kind of conferences we will or won’t sponsor, and what we expect from the conferences we do sponsor, and organizers who fail to meet those guidelines may not be approved for future events.
How do you evaluate a conference and if you want to sponsor that organizer’s conferences again in the future?
The best judges of how well a conference goes are the attendees, and so our primary means of evaluation is the feedback we get. Every time someone fills out a conference feedback form after attending a conference, it helps us get a better idea of what went well and what could be improved. We also take into account how the organizer carried out what they intended, how well the promos were distributed, and other factors. The feedback we collect is for our own use in evaluating conferences and organizers. If you have feedback you want to share with the organizer or other presenters, please feel contact them directly.
How long does a conference have to be to get sponsorship?
The standard is at least four hours of educational time. That doesn’t have to only be presentations; having a lunch break where people break up into small groups to discuss relevant topics or listen to a panel discussion while they eat, holding games or contests that help people learn, anything like that can qualify. One of our goals is to make conferences as accessible as possible, so we are open to making adjustments or exceptions as needed, like circumstances where four hours in a row wouldn’t be possible. Our expectation is for four educational hours unless specifically approved by Judge Academy staff.
Can I charge money for my conference to help cover food/location/the cool thing I want to hand out, etc.?
As a general rule we discourage charging money, but you are welcome to do so if you believe it is absolutely necessary. You can also keep the event free, but offer a low stress way for people to make donations if they wish. What you cannot do is tie the distribution of promos to a cost. Every person who attends your event and fulfills the attendance requirements you set gets promos.
How should I communicate information about the event to my attendees?
All announcements or other relevant information should be posted on the Judge Academy page for your specific event. Using a Discord to facilitate further communication is great, but please remember that not all your attendees will use Discord.
If my conference is digital, do I need to limit who can attend by region?
Our focus is on regional and local events, and there are a couple of reasons for that. First, one of the best parts of a conference is the ability for judges to meet and build connections with each other. Judging is an international community, but since most judges will work primarily with other judges in their area, we want to focus on fostering those connections. Secondly, we’ve now reached a point where we have organizers stepping forward in every region to cover a wide range of topics, with the perspective and context that is most relevant to that area. Many times, when we get a proposal to do a global conference on a particular topic, we are already working with organizers to create events in their area on the same topic. Long story short, while we are potentially open to sponsoring conferences that are open to all or most regions, unless there is a very strong case for why this particular topic needs to have such a broad audience, our preference will be to sponsor conferences that are focused to a particular region, or at most, a few neighboring ones.
Can I hold a hybrid (physical and digital) conference?
In the event that certain presenters or attendees will not be able to be physically present for your conference it is possible to have them participate digitally. It is the conference organizer’s responsibility to ensure and verify participation and engagement from their digital attendees, as well as the distribution of their promos.
Can presenters cover games other than Magic that judges may be involved in running?
There are a number of topics and issues that MTG judges deal with that also come up in other games, and we welcome the chance for judges to improve their own skill and understanding by hearing different perspectives. A presentation that covers a general topic such as how to deal with children at your event using examples from both Magic and other games would be welcome. But all content should be relevant to Magic judges, so a presentation on the rules of a different game would not qualify as the kind of educational content we expect from a Magic judge conference we sponsor. You are welcome to have a presentation that focuses on a different game before or after the main part of the conference, or to have one that runs concurrently with MTG content, but your attendees should have the option to spend the entire conference in Magic-focused presentations.
Similarly, judges from other game communities are welcome to attend your conference, but are still subject to the same guidelines about eligibility for promos as for any other conference.
Can I include a panel discussion as part of my conference? If so, do the panelists count as presenters?
Panel discussions can be a wonderful part of a conference, and a great way to take advantage of having people together in the same place, whether in person or online. If you believe this will result in having more presenters, you will need to indicate that during the initial application form submission.
Can I run a mock tournament? If I do, who can I list as a presenter?
Mock tournaments are an option but provide their own unique challenges. If you have some judges who are there primarily to mentor and help others learn from the experience, those are good folks to consider as presenters, though it should not exceed the number of presenters you can support with the promo allocation for your event. It should be made clear before your event who is considered a presenter.
Can I offer a promo pack to a local game store (LGS) as thanks for hosting our conference?
Absolutely! Holding conferences at game stores is a great way to strengthen ties between judges and stores, and we are happy to support that with our sponsorship.
A person claims to have attended my digital conference but I do not believe they were present or participated. (Example: A person was signed into the conference zoom, but was unresponsive and did not interact with the conference in any way.) Do I have to give them promos?
As the event organizer, you have final say on what constitutes attendance for your particular event, and who has or hasn’t met those requirements. It is also your responsibility to make clear to your attendees what those requirements are.