Wednesday, July 9, 2014

3 Ways to Win an Audience as a Presenter

I didn't think it would work.  I found out on Twitter that applications were going to close soon for the largest education technology conference in the world.  We had a week to get it turned in.  No time to actually put in a winning application.  Little did we know the power of our mad writing skills.  After three to four hours of research I sat down with my very good teacher buddy (VGTB)  and we hammered out a work of art and hit submit.  My VGTB had to submit a presenter proposal for her doctorate class.  I did it because...well I am a dork and like to keep pushing myself.  I love teaching and sharing ideas.  But I know I need to grow as a teacher trainer.   I saw this a huge opportunity to throw myself in the deep end.

We found out we made it and well, we were completely shocked.  Elated.  Giddy.  Terrified.  Yup, but it was so far away we could relish in the idea of it without being overwhelmed by the stress of what it meant.  I don't know how it happens but it seems that the Spring semester just vanishes.  Poof. There I am in June. Kids long gone from the classroom and I am sitting in a sweaty hot building with three day old hair in a pony, wondering when the last time I showered and trying to figure out a way to stay true to our description while showing our elite audience something new and innovative. 

The presentation that we had given in our own district was not the one we ended up taking with us.  For that matter, the presentation that we brought up with us was not the one we gave two days later.  We shed blood, sweat and tears dumped and organized in that presentation. Through the process we learned three keys to win over an audience.

People do not want you to waste their time. They spent a ton of money coming to conferences and they want to leave with something that will give them ideas to move forward or will actually be something they can immediately apply in the classroom or the office. 

We were obsessed with giving them as much as we could.  We created hyperlinked e-handouts for them to look at and refer to later if they wanted.  We were constantly, obsessively,  adding to it and fixing it for them to use. 

Our session was about authentic learning and how to assess it. We worried it sounded a bit general so we made sure to include tons of examples of how authentic learning looked in our classroom and how we assessed it.  We included student made videos, and pictures of projects. 

Teachers love to talk.  Love. To. Talk.  It is the second biggest reason that people go to conferences. They go to see friends from other states, Twitter PLN and to spend time with those friends in their district they don't get to see very much.  This is their chance to learn from each other and they want that time to do so in their session to process the connections they are making as you go through the session. 

Our session was an hour.  Not very long at all but we still had to give time for processing chats. We struggled with how we wanted to facilitate conversations in a crowd where everyone could have a voice. We settled on strategic tweet outs that answered questions.  The tweets were a fine starting place but looking back we needed more.  More of them really talking to each other in some way or another. The tweets were great but the conversations after the session would have been so much more powerful if they had occurred during instead and everyone could have been there to hear and take part.

This is the most difficult.  I have been to plenty of sessions in professional development where we are given something to do that is a giant waste of time.  It is a time filler...I teach I can recognize those very quickly.  Teachers want to be involved, working with the information and learning in an authentic way.  If the session is about gaming then we should be testing games, assessing games and practice making games. 

Our session was about authentic learning. They should have been looking at a problem they were having and deciding on a authentic conclusion.  We ran out of time. Looking back this was a huge misstep for us.  We were super fortunate, the group was patient understanding.  They forgave us for this.  If we had it to do again I would have cut the amount of student examples and research and given them a chunk of least twenty minutes to sit and create, practicing what we were talking about.  They had the e-handout to refer back to they needed to get their hands dirty.

I think the main reason we didn't lose most of them was our passion and excitement for what we were talking about- that goes a long way.  Plus, let's be honest we are pretty adorable especially when we are hyperventilating and waving our arms around like crazy people. 

Over all it was a great experience.  That is the best part about throwing yourself in the deep end you sink or swim.  We was ugly and way too much splashing around but we made it and are even planning on doing it again next year...if they let us.

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