I had a wonderful opportunity last week – presenting at the Casual Relief Teacher’s Conference organized by Teacher Learning Network in conjunction with AEU (Australian Education Union) and VIEU (Victorian Independent Education Union). With the theme set as Technology in the Classroom, the presentations throughout the day were many and varied.
More than just presenting though, my topic of choice – It’s never too late ….. Learning is a lifelong journey! – provided me with the opportunity to engage and inspire my audience. WOW – how powerful it is to be able to inspire others! Speaking at a rate of knots – especially in my second (repeat) presentation as technical difficulties cut virtually 25% off my time allocation – I found myself totally hyped and at a peak level of enthusiasm as I stepped attendees through some of the trials and tribulations, highs and lows, alongside the sheer joy and exhilaration I had (and am still) experiencing on my learning journey. It was awesome to be able to observe the looks of interest on the faces of my audience – a factor which of course fed my enthusiasm.
When you have people come up to you at the end of the session telling you that they feel inspired and ready to give it a shot, you know you’ve given it all you’ve got! Several people did this – for which I am very grateful. Yet another attendee took it a step further taking the time to send me feedback via email. With permission to publish, her email – in part – reads as follows:
Thanks for your presentation at the CRT conference. You had some great clips that I am interested in ….. I have joined Twitter, thanks to you and have started following you. Baby steps but hoping to link up with lots of educators to improve my own practice and innovation in the classroom.
Just like the kids we teach, presenters too need praise, encouragement and reward. There’s no more tangible reward than this kind of communication. Thank you Rachel for taking the time to let me know that I’d made a difference to your life – your learning journey. Without a doubt, I know that we will be linking hands in the future, learning from each other in this, our global world.
It was very, very early in my teaching career that I put into practice the words of that luminary figure in my early teacher training days, Dr Leo Murphy:
To be a teacher, you need to be an actor.”
So true it is in the classroom and, I’ve discovered, so true it is as a presenter. To engage and excite an audience of peers it is essential to be as animated and enthusiastic as it is with students in the classroom. If the hope that what you have to say is to be of any influence on the audience, it is, I have found, essential to feel committed to your own words.
Just last weekend I caught up on a massive pile of journals that had been hanging around for some time waiting to be read. As so often happens, one of the articles I flipped over jumped out of the pile. “Speak up for yourself” (BRW, Vol 34 No. 4, February 9-15, 2012 p. 32) highlighted the difficulty faced by many an executive who mid-career finds themselves having to make presentations. Fortunately for those of us in the teaching profession, public speaking probably comes to us a bit more easily. Nevertheless, the summary points at the end of this article are bound to be of interest to readers here:
Five easy ways to improve your presentation skills:
- OUTCOMES Consider what you want to do to your audience, not what you want to say to them. This helps keep your presentation active.
- IDENTIFY YOUR AUDIENCE Tailor your communication specifically to your audience’s needs.
- GIVE YOUR AUDIENCE A CHANCE TO RESPOND Structure your presentation so that your audience can respond. This may be literal eg. asking pertinent questions or making sure your audience is engaged imaginatively.
- BE PHYSICALLY AND VOCALLY PRESENT Make sure you’re releaxed and warmed up before you present.
- TAKE YOUR TIME Your audience is receiving only once the information that you have preumably taken hours to put together. Slow down and give them a chance to absorb it.
If you are interested in what I spoke about in this presentation, check the resources page of this blog. A pdf of ‘Notes for participants’ is there. Scroll down a little on the Resources page to see a SlideShare: Be inspired Learn Online which was prepared a while ago listing some of the online courses suggested to participants as a great starting point.