Stepping up to submit, plan and execute a session at a conference can be a stressful and time-consuming thing for busy educators. I've made many of these mistakes myself and everyone has their own style. I recognize that the purpose of any given session (and what the attendees hope to get from them) can vary. I hope this tongue-in-cheek look at some common disruptions to the flow and impact of a session will lead to more Eventful Learning at the conference.
Keep the tables in rows. Use a linear slide deck with lots of bullet points. Keep people seated the whole time. Introducing variety can lead to chaos and confusion that these educators just can’t handle.
Keep It SERIOUS
No teacher comes to a conference to have fun, so why would you waste your time breaking the ice with a goofy activity or video? You need to prove yourself as a serious educator who gets results, not make the audience feel comfortable.
Start With WHAT
Teachers don’t need anything to orient the purpose of a session, they should be able to figure that out themselves. Leave out the story about that student who was impacted with your lesson. Dive into your tool and process right from the beginning because you don’t have enough time for the touchy-feely stuff.
Focus on YOU
With 30 or more educators in the room, there’s no way you have time to break into collaborative groups or open up the conversation for anecdotes and questions. You were the one selected to present and you have the expertise, so don’t even think about giving up the microphone. Oh, and NEVER sit down at the same level as the participants.
One Size Fits ALL
Your session description was clear about who this was for, so if someone is lost or bored, that’s on them. You have learned so much about this tool or project or strategy and that information needs to be imparted to the attendees in 60 minutes. Providing alternate paths and resources to explore will just distract them from listening to you expound your knowledge.
Eyes on front. Devices off. Tinkering while you are talking will just lead to them missing something. Having participants make something during your session is the kiss-of-death for a presenter being able to control the room.
Be Sure to RUSH
Squeeze information into every second of the session. Just like in your classroom, it's the content that you cover that counts.Thinking about the next steps and reflecting on the implications of what was presented is something for the attendees to do next week back at school.
Tone It DOWN
Enthusiasm and passion should be left for the expert Keynoters. Being fired about about innovation can be intimidating for your average teacher and it’s too risky to worry about being interesting. The content and tools you demo should be the only thing energizing your participants.
Stick to the TECH
This is a technology conference, after all. This is not the place for asking questions about school reform or offering pedagogical theories. Teachers just want to get your websites you use and going beyond that would imply that they should have a voice in bigger decisions about their profession. Clearly that should be left up to the folks who were at Cobo a few weeks ago.
And, in case you missed it, last week I posted The Positive Deviant's Guide to #MACUL15