Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Why You Should Present at Conferences

It is conference season, and the call for session proposals is currently going out for many conferences. As stated in an earlier blog post, I have returned to presenting again. Having had time away from presenting, I now find my mind racing with many different ideas as potential topics. So as the call for session proposals goes out, I challenge you to consider submitting one yourself. 

Right away, I am certain that I raised the affective filter and brought on social anxiety for some of you with that statement. When I have challenged teachers to consider presenting at conferences before, the first response is usually, "But I do not know what I would present. I have nothing to say - I am not (insert name of a presenter whom you admire)." 

My response is this. Simply put: You have a voice and do have something to say. 

At the same time, I do understand the hesitancy among people to present, because deciding on presentation topic can be difficult, let alone filling 60-90 minutes on that topic. Here are some suggestions about topics:
  • What do you see yourself doing well in your classroom? 
  • Is there a particular "epiphany" which you have had on a pedagogical topic which you wish to share? Those presentations which are most personal to the presenter are difficult to dispute, since they are based on personal experience.
  • Look for gaps in conference presentation topics. Is there a topic which you feel has not been addressed but should be? However, do not pigeon-hole yourself into such a specific topic that it isolates the majority of your audience, unless you are targeting a specific audience.
  • The best presentations are those which are constructivist in nature where participants themselves can experience the subject matter hands-on in order to create their own meaning. Think of your own students - how effective is a pure 60-minute lecture in their acquisition of material? Just because you are using a PowerPoint does not make a presentation constructivist in nature. 
  • Consider presenting topics which are applicable to all languages and levels of instruction. Although I am a Latin teacher, I learn so much from presentations done by other world language teachers. 
  • Avoid presentation topic gluts. If you are tired of the same old presentation topics of conferences, then do not submit one of the same topic, because most likely, so is everyone else. Rather, put your own spin on the topic or address it from a different angle. 
And now let me address those of you who are more experienced conference presenters: consider partnering with someone who has never presented before. There are many benefits of doing this:
  1. It introduces "new faces" to the world of conference presentations. Although I enjoy attending presentations of seasoned presenters, I also want to see a diversity of presenters represented. Also, as much as I enjoy presenting, people need to see other faces and to hear other voices besides mine.
  2. There are so many potential presenters out there with so much to say and to share who just need that little push or invitation to present. You can be that catalyst for them.
  3. It provides a safe space for novice presenters, who can rely on you to help guide them through the process of writing up a session proposal and how to design a presentation.
  4. It helps lower the affective filter of first-time presenters, because they are not responsible for 100% of the presentation. They are only responsible for their portion.
  5. Tag-teaming a presentation is just plain fun!
I hope to see many new faces presenting at conferences!

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