This is the question my colleagues and I were asking each other after we got back from Birmingham last week. My answer: I had a great time! I was lucky enough this year to attend a number of really great talks. I’m not always so lucky, but this year I managed to hear lots of fantastic speakers talking about really interesting things. And I was speaking as well!
So after 2 days of great talks and workshops, finding out about new developments in EdTech, a well-deserved standing ovation for Silvana Richardson, and very stimulating conversations with well-versed people in my field, it was my turn.
When I first started ‘Speaking’ some years ago lots of people said ‘oh, it’s so easy for you because you teach’. But it’s not the same. Teaching is about orchestrating a learning experience for the other people in the room, and you certainly shouldn’t be the one doing all the talking. But in a presentation, if you’re not doing the talking it’ll be a pretty quiet room!
I initially did lots of research on good presentations and even started a MOOC or two on the subject but none of them particularly helped. I collected one or two good tips like having strong opening and closing statements and ‘less is more’ in terms of both ideas and words on the screen but nothing I didn’t know already.
One piece of advice was to memorise your opening statement and to practice lots of times beforehand. I really struggled with that as I’m quite a spontaneous person and my memory is rubbish, so the thought of trying to memorise things was extremely stressful, and the practising for me would take all the energy out of it and make it feel like something I have done a thousand times before. I would be bored and my audience would be bored with me. So after trying to do this for a while I have reverted to my real self and I don’t memorise or practise. This might be why I sometimes overrun but it means I can relax much more and just focus on the important stuff i.e. the message and what people are getting out of it.
On the day in Birmingham, I had a fairly normal sized audience in an absolutely ENORMOUS room so I felt like everyone was a bit dispersed and far away but it didn’t really matter as I was half blinded by the lights in my eyes anyway and I was probably frowning all the way through! Another feature of the enormous room was that my slides were huge behind me and beside them my face was projected to Giant Size. Nobody needs to see their own Giant Face! Other than that it went well. I was talking about a project I am close to and still involved in and was trying to share some of the lessons learned along the way. It’s amazing how quickly half an hour can fly when you’re having fun.
Back in Cambridge, I found this TED talk about the secrets of great public speaking with lots of very inspiring ideas – next time I’ll listen before I go!
If you’re interested, this page is a great way to explore other IATEFl talks from 2016.