Powerful Points about Conference Presentations

As the days to the annual TESOL Convention grow fewer, my hopes for interesting sessions and kind audiences grow stonger. One thing I find amusing about the whole conference experience is the change of roles we teachers experience. We move into the learner’s seat when we attend an academic session or workshop. Some of our behavior brings back memories of long-ago school experiences.

Where should I sit? You have those who eagerly walk to the front rows so they can get a good view of any visuals, hear the presentation well, and make direct eye contact with the presenter. You also have those who tentatively take a seat somewhere near the back. Perhaps the reason for that choice is the desire not to be called on to contribute to a discussion. More likely it’s the fear that the presentation will not meet one’s expectations, so a quick exit route is planned. Unlike high school, you can “cut class” at a conference.

Will texting or surfing get me in trouble? Most of us went through junior high without cell phones of any kind. We did have the option of covertly passing notes and doing off-task work, like doodling or reading a magazine. Today’s temptations during a lecture include discreet use of smartphones or other portable devices. When I’m in the role of presenter in New Orleans, I will do my best to assume that anyone on a computer or smartphone while I’m talking is engaged in an on-task activity, such as taking notes. To assume otherwise will shake my confidence!

What have you observed at teacher conferences? Have you ever witnessed behavior that was less than exemplary? I admit that I’ve left a few sessions early in past years – shortly after the starting time. It was usually because the title misled me into having certain expectations, and I came to understand that the focus of the talk wasn’t relevant to my work. In contrast, I also recall one session when the presenter was losing focus and the attendees were clearly less than enthusiastic, but I felt compelled to sit it out and offer direct eye contact and nods of encouragement to counterbalance the negative body language I was seeing from others in the audience.

I suppose one could attribute my choice of topic for this post to a small case of the jitters. I’d like to think there’s more to it than that. We have few opportunities for professional development compared to the hours we spend on instruction. I think both presenters and attendees should focus and commit 100% so that we collectively create a positive learning experience.

See you in New Orleans soon!

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2 Comments on “Powerful Points about Conference Presentations”

  1. Joe McVeigh Says:

    When I first attended conferences, I thought it was terribly rude when people would just get up and leave in the middle of a session. I don’t think so now. There are so many things going on at once and people’s time is very limited. I think if a session doesn’t meet your needs you should feel free to go find something that does. Also there are sometimes sessions that begin or end at the middle point of a different presentation and you don’t really have an option.

    I also no longer take it personally as a presenter when people leave. Obviously, I hope that people will be interested, be fully engaged, and want to stay. But it may be that the blurb in the program made a participant think I would be talking about one thing, when in fact my presentation is a little different. So, as a presenter, I try to make it very clear at the beginning of the session who the intended audience is and what we are going to cover. After all, I’d rather have people there who really want to be there because they want to hear about my topic.

    It does bother me, though, when people sit in the back, don’t pay attention, and leaf through their program books. I know there’s a lot to decide and not much time to decide it in, but that seems like rude behavior to me. But then again (blush) I’ve been known to do it myself on certain occasions so I shouldn’t judge too harshly!

    It also seems to me to be impolite when people video a session with their cell phone without asking permission. I would probably say “yes” anyway, but it seems rude to me not to ask.

    Hope all your sessions will go well in New Orleans. See you there!


    • Hello, Joe.
      You make a good point about scheduling conflicts. There can be quite a few of them. Participants sometimes leave early to make it to another session on time.

      May all your presentations go well, too!
      Jennifer


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