Wowing Your Audience : Tips for online presentation

This post may be way past the deadline, but certainly needs to be written, especially as my point of reference for any future online presentations.

When I first heard about the RSCON 2013 E-Conference, I was awestruck by the idea of 10 keynote speakers, 3 panels, live musical performances and 100+ presentations (by educators from all around the world) convening on a single platform for a straight 72 hours in the virtual world. The entire idea seemed almost surreal.

So when I received an invitation to present at this conference, I was absolutely thrilled. But what do I present? Where do I start? How can I engage my audience? How do I even find audience? These were the questions that drove me along this technological journey. And I can tell you one thing for sure : it was an unforgettable experience!

With that in mind, I’d like use this post to share my observations on what (I think) are some of the most invaluable lessons that can help infuse the WOW factor into our online presentations. This post has been divided into 3 parts : Pre-Training, During Training and Post-Training (as how I see it), and the contents of each part are not in the order in which they need to be carried out; They’re just actions that need to be completed. I do hope it would be beneficial to you as how it was to me!

PRE-TRAINING
A. THINK OF AN ENGAGING TITLE AND ABSTRACT
The first thing that catches the audience eye is the title of your presentation. Think of a catchy title that would instantly grab your readers’ attention. Titles should be between 5 – 7 words; the shorter, the better. Use adjectives that ‘çapture’. The same goes to writing the abstract. The best abstracts are ones that are compact, concise and interesting to read. There is absolutely no necessity to explain your entire presentation in your abstract. Just remember that : your abstract is the first impression of your presentation. If the audience love your abstract, they’d most certainly attend your presentation. These links provide some useful insights on writing abstracts for presentations at conferences:

http://www.cgu.edu/pages/865.asp

http://academic-conferences.org/abstract-guidelines.htm

http://blog.tesol.org/tips-on-writing-successful-conference-presentation-proposals/

And a link for some sample ELT abstracts:

http://narva2008.wikidot.com/abstracts

B. ATTEND TRAINING TO FAMILIARIZE WITH ONLINE PLATFORMS
If you’re part of an online conference, the organizers might be kind enough to provide training to get your familiarized with the online collaborative platform that they’d be using for the conference. Attend at least 1 training, and read up the user guide on how you can make the most of the provided platform. Yes, we’re all busy with work and are probably pressed for time, but these trainings definitely helps familiarize you to the platform. I find that as an online presenter, I’ve got to work extra hard when engaging and increasing interactivity with my audience. For one, you don’t really get to see them face to face (maybe you do, but that would only be in the initial stages of the presentation) and most of the time (80%) PTT – Presenter Talk Time would definitely be high. So, how can we engage our audience,? We need to use some of the features provided by the platform which help increase interactivity, and these are some of the areas that are usually covered in the training.

C. GET REGISTERED, EXPLORE AND DO TEST RUNS OF THE PRESENTATION
This is one of the best things that you can do for yourself as a presenter. Register for a trial version of the platform (Blackboard Collaborate allowed a 1 month sign up), and try to spend some time exploring the platform and performing trial runs of your presentation. These trial runs are really helpful in several aspects: it helps you improvise on the visual aspects of your slides, the timing of your presentation, the intonation of your voice, familiarity with the platform, and most of all, to build your confidence as a first time presenter. You can also decide on how you want to increase interaction with your audience (which can be done by the features provided by the collaborative platform – features where audience can “type” on the slides, “raise” their hands, “smile” to show agreement, “speak” their question into the mic, etc).  Try to get some friends to help out as audience (there seemed to be a limit with my trial version, I only managed to have 3 people being participants) and to give feedback after the trial run. I found that to be really helpful to me. Also, convert your PowerPoint slides to a version that is supported by the collaborative platform. It makes life a whole lot easier as the slides take lesser time to be uploaded back to the platform! 

D. CONTACT AND PRACTICE WITH YOUR MODERATOR
In large conferences such as RSCON, lots of individuals volunteer as moderators. Moderators are those who will help out with the technical aspects while you focus on the presentation itself. I consider myself very very lucky because a lovely person named Deborah Tebovich got in touch with me and offered to be my moderator.I more than gladly accepted! I was so privileged because Debbie was such a passionate, focused and hardworking moderator; Although we were at opposing time zones, we worked things out and managed to practice the presentation at least once. Debbie gave me some wonderful feedback on things I had to improve on, and I could never thank her enough for this.

E. READ EVERY EMAIL SENT BY THE CONFERENCE ORGANIZERS
Sometimes I found my mailbox swamped with emails from the conference organizers. It was overwhelming, but I did my best to read all of them up (I may have missed some). I’m glad I did that!

F. AVOID WORDY SLIDES – VISUAL IS THE WAY
When I was preparing the slides, my husband asked me a question which set forth the wheels of thoughts in my mind: “Are your slides information packed or information based?” My initial slides were full of words and I didn’t realize that. Once I attended several other sessions of the conference (which I highly recommend!), I panicked and realized that my slides were too wordy. I completely changed the layout of my presentation to be more visual (not too much of it though) so that my audience would be able to understand what I’ve got to say by just watching my presentation. Of course, there’s more room for improvement (My slides can be found here)

G. BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP
This is something that is most often overlooked by us. We take things for granted; we assume that everything will go smoothly and all will be well. Wrong. Positive thinking is great, but pragmatic thinking is even better. Technology can sometimes stab you in the back at the most unexpected time! So, always remember : backup your PowerPoint slides, and save it in different medias (thumb-drive, external hard-disks, Google drive). Better still, send a copy to your moderator. This really really helps to avoid problems of missing or dysfunctional PowerPoint slides. I’ve learned this from some very painful experience in my past. Trust me on this one!

H. PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE YOUR PRESENTATION
The organizers do their best to promote our presentation, but that really isn’t enough. As a presenter, we’ve got to do whatever we can to promote our presentation and reach out to the audience. I’m sure you know how to : facebook, twitter, posting on various ELT SIG groups on facebook, and most of all, doing it consistently; people tend to forget, it’s good to always remind them!

DURING TRAINING
A. BE PUNCTUAL

No matter how many times you’ve practiced, it’s always good to be punctual. In this case, ideally try to enter the room about 30 minutes prior to scheduled presentation time. This would give you time to load your slides, test the sound and microphone, deal with sudden fixes, and welcome and get to know the audience as they “enter” the room. Just imagine having a home, and having guests streaming in. Wouldn’t it be wonderful being a graceful host?

B. PRESENT WITH ENTHUSIASM
Some of us may not be privileged with high-speed broadband in our areas, in which we’re advised to disable the video function for the presentation to be smooth flowing. This means that our audience may only be able to hear our voice. It can be a challenge sometimes. Our voice, then becomes, THE tool of our presentation! Show the audience that we’re enthusiastic about the presentation; try to sound as natural as possible (I had some keywords written, but because I practiced several times prior to the real thing, I was a lot more confident and learned how to modulate my voice to hold my audience attention). Practicing really helps.

C. CONTACT DETAILS
Remember to add your contact details on the last slide, extending support to audience in the case where they’d like to experiment with the ideas from your presentation.

POST TRAINING
RE-WATCH YOUR PRESENTATION – I found various areas that needed improvement when I re-watched my presentation. Next time, perhaps?

And there you go! I hope this post would be helpful when you decide to conduct a webminar. If I’ve left anything out, please feel free to add them in the comments section, and it’ll be my pleasure to re-edit the post.

Thrilled To Bits – Presenting at the International RSCON4 2013 E-Conference

reformsynposium

 

(image courtesy of http://www.futureofeducation.com)

I feel so thrilled to present at the 2013 Reform Symposium e-conference (October 13th, 2013 at 4pm (MYT)) on the topic of “The Magic of Games : D’Amazing Race Project”. Some of you who frequent my blog may have read about this project sometime back. However, I’d love to reach out to more teachers around the world to share this awesome idea cum game, one which is so adaptable it can be used by teachers across the board (all age groups and levels of proficiency). What better place to share than an international e-conference with 10+ keynote speakers,  100+ presenters and 3 panels!?

It’s peculiar how it all started. Nature’s best laid plan I’d say! A couple of days back, I read an excited shoutout from one of my PLN – friends, Ika, which sounded something like “yaaaaaay, I’ve been accepted”. My curiosity took over me and that was when I found out about the reform symposium (via the Future of Education website). Even then, it never occurred to me that I’d actually be presenting; I was more than excited to even participate. Who wouldn’t? It was free, it was international, and most of all, it brought together educators (of different time zones) from all around the world onto a single platform. I signed up as a member (in order to participate) and excitedly posted shoutouts to teacher friends, inviting them to participate in this event. And then, the unconventional happened – I was asked if I wanted to present! (to which, of course, I obliged to without a 2nd thought).

Presenting at this e-conference means so much to me on different levels. For one, I’d be able to contribute my ideas to a group of global educators, knowing that they’d appreciate and even try it out themselves! And then, there’s the part about getting connected with all these wonderful teachers, listening to their ideas, getting myself abreast with the trends in the ELT world and. most of all. developing myself professionally. And this is merely the tip of the iceberg.

With numerous update emails received from the organizers, non-stop twitter and facebook promotion of the conference and presenters getting connected via pre-conference training sessions, one cannot help feeling the soaring excitement that’s building in the seamless global community.

I don’t think I need to say further. You must experience the e-conference to know what it truly is. Lots to take back to your classrooms from the wealth of innovative thoughts as well. Trust me, it’ll be an experience that you’d never forget!

So, here’s to transformative education of the future –> “Cheers!”

See you there! 🙂

Reflecting on the 6th iELT Conference 2013 – The True Story

Funny how one can feel rather disconnected at an international conference. Perhaps it was my fault to have set high expectations on the outcome of the event. Or, the fact that this was my first time at the iELT Conference which was rather small-scaled (having always attended the MELTA and ASIA TEFL conferences previously,  also the awesome KOTESOL Conference in 2012 where I met loads of wonderful, wonderful teachers (Alex GrevettAnne Hendler,  Josette Le BlancMike Griffin,  John Pfordresher, Gemma Lunn and many more, whom I immediately connected to!).

Hmmm……and to think of it, iELT Conference 2013 was something I PHYSICALLY attended. It wasn’t the virtual world. After all, I had the chance to interact with people face to face!

Yet I felt the “vacuum” in a lot of these interactions. It was almost like people reciprocated because they “had to”, or “for the formality of it”. No additional questions to build that professional relationship. Or maybe I had to be a plenary speaker for that, eh?

Absolutely ironic that I feel a great sense of belonging to a wonderful group of teachers whom I’ve never met, but have been providing such amazing support as we walk hand in hand in our own individual teaching worlds (my warm hugs and shoutout shoutout goes to Chuck Sandy, Barb Sakamoto, Icha, Kevin Stein, Rose Bard, Ann Loseva, Vladka, James Taylor, Barry Jameson and a whole lot of other lovely educators).

Oh, no no, don’t get me wrong here. Now, I DID meet a number of remarkably committed, passionate and intelligent individuals but the number was small. Wish I had met more!

So, thinking back (sorry for plagiarizing the word, Mike!) –> I came back with mixed feelings….

For these reasons (which are EXTREMELY judgmental and entirely mine):

  •  The most interesting workshops were the ones with the simplest, most workable ideas (Anthony Newman’s “Discovering your voice as a writer”, Woo Yee Saik’s “The voice of influence : Be a Trim Tab”, Moses Samuel’s “Inter-textuality in the classroom”, Derek Straat’s “Verb Tenses Live”,  to name a few). Simplicity DOES count.
  • The plenary speakers are well-read and very experienced in the ELT field, but whose speeches were B.O.R.I.N.G.  Nothing new, nothing enlightening. Good topic (professionalism and networking), but mostly very very theoretical (eg : what are the types of professional dev? DUH!). To my utter dismay, one of them just “read it out” completely from the notes. TEACHERS WANT OPTIONS FOR DEVELOPING. not theory. grrrrrrrrrrr. MOVE FORWARD, FOLKS. Learn a thing or two from the delightful Scott Thornbury or Ken Wilson.
  • I believe I missed an interesting plenary talk by Anthony Newman on “The 12 features of highly Effective Teachers”  ; my workshop was right after it!
  • Some interesting workshops were held during the same session, forcing me to regrettably chose one over the other.
  • Some teacher trainers (appointed by the Ministry of Education) were not as warm as I thought they’d be, rather arrogant and all puffed up (imposing their ideas in groupwork during workshops, walking in and out as they liked, not wanting to “listen”). Hmmm, makes me wonder how they work with teachers in school? Knowing Malaysian school teachers who can sometimes feel rather intimidated and small when working with “white people” (sorry for the rather racist comment but it’s really true!). Amusingly, their professional profiles weren’t that impressive. I ABSOLUTELY agree with Mike Griffin about avoiding to sit beside white guys above 40!
  • The international plenary speakers were very friendly. The local ones didn’t smile back when you did. They looked through you.
  • No one tweeted about anything.
  • Nothing much on tech-savvy teaching.

MY CONCLUSION : We need to move forward and keep up with the current ELT trends in Malaysia. The overall conference gave me the feeling that I “stepped back in time” in the world of ELT.

P/S : I had some great time during group discussions.

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Oh, and not to mention that the after conference street food exploration was explosively delightful! :)))))

SAMSUNG SAMSUNG SAMSUNG

Of Observing and being Observed …….

Forgive me Lord for I have sinned”....

This is a confession post. I’m a coward. I really  am. For this post is a rant AND  a reflection about someone I observed but didn’t have the guts to give feedback to (because it’s someone of a senior position and not to risk losing my job). My only hope is that the person mentioned reads this and takes it all in the stride of teaching life. I’d like to reassert that my intentions here are NOT to criticize, but to sincerely give feedback and in fact, suggestions on how improvement can take place. On a personal note, though, I quite like this person; jovial, helpful and kind towards me. It’s the TEACHING that took me by surprise.

Let’s name the person as The Observee. And the situation goes like this. I was requested to observe a senior teacher who’s “highly expertised, having vast experience in the industry and published teaching material to gauge whether you’re comfortable teaching this class”. Naturally, my expectations were high. Can I be blamed then?

So I entered the class equipped with a notebook and a paper. I think THAT came as a shock to the observee (perhaps I wasn’t expected to bring it notebooks?). I took my place at the corner fo the classroom. Let me paint a background potrait of the classroom:

Number of learners :

16 (class duration 2 hours)

Learners age             :

19-26 years old

Country of origin     :

South Korea (and I couldn’t help smiling to myself)

Classroom arrangement             :

Traditional style

Desks

And below are a list of what I observed, and a short elaboration of my thoughts:

Objectives were clearly stated

It’s always important to write down the objectives on either side of the whiteboard. It gives the teacher and the learner a sense of focus and direction, and helps keep teachers “on track”. I was glad that she wrote it down on t whiteboard, right at the beginning of the class.

Used color-coding techniques

 She used different colors to highlight differences that learners needed to notice. I am a strong believer of using different coloured marker pens to highlight similiarities or differences in a language point. Colors lend a visual component to learners, suiting different learning styles.

Good rapport between teacher and learners

We’ve got to agree that no matter how skilled a teacher is in teaching, building a good rapport with learners play an important role in the teaching and learning environment. Rapport is based on trust and possible similarities (or even indifferences) between teachers and learners interests. When a learner trusts the teacher, there’s usually less opposition from them when requested to complete a task. There are many ways a teacher can help build rapport with his/her learners : – teachers exuding a positive, passionate and emphatetic nature; body language; sense of humor among others. Good rapport builds a strong bond, and a strong bond greatly aids in classroom management. I believe the observee has built a pretty good rapport with her learners.

———————————————————————————————————————-

Having said the above, now we come to the part that’s difficult to digest, at least for me. I’m going to start treading on dangerous grounds here, but am going to do my best to be as diplomatic as possible.

Booming voice projection and EXTREMELY high Teacher Talking Time (TTT) (nearly 90%)

Having lived in South Korea for a bit, I’ve inferred that Koreans, generally dislike booming voices, people talking loudly, sudden loud guffaws in a quiet environment (I’m stating from my observation). I nearly jumped out of skin when her voice boomed from time to time, something that the observee really needs to look into. When teachers project their voices loudly, it engenders a sense of authority and enforces the teacher-student hierarchy. This can sometimes be a barrier in reaching out to learners. There are two possible results from this; learners’ affective filters might be raised so high up that they cringe into their protective shells OR the learner might storm out of the classroom. And both affects learning negatively and disrupts the class.

Also, the learners were hardly given a chance to speak at all. Most of the time, the entire classtime seemed like a “lecture” more than an “English teaching” class. It was made even worse with the observee authoritatively kept reminding learners – “don’t speak Korean”. Well, to be fair to the learners, they weren’t given a chance to speak in English at all! I strongly suggest that the observee takes a second look at her lesson plan, and make changes to her design to infuse activities that encourage learners to communicate  (pairwork, group work, in threes) and express their ideas to one another.  These kind of little tasks are the ones that help to consistently build learners confidence in using the language.

Unacceptable Grammar Mistakes in Spoken language

Or rather, speaking Manglish (Malaysian English) in the classroom. To be honest, I’m quite proud of Malaysian English. It helps me feel a sense of connectedness with fellow Malaysians; it makes us laugh together and understand each other even better. But I believe as teachers, we have different roles to play in different places. Although I regrettably say this, Manglish is perfectly fine during non-ELT related social gatherings. However, it is of crucial importance for the teacher to speak fluently, clearly and as accurately as much as possible in the context of the ELT world (classroom, conferences, workshops, online disucssions).

The thing is, we all make mistakes. Sometimes even as a teacher, in some situations  I do get nervous and accidentally utter structures that are grammatically incorrect. But I almost immediately notice it and apologize to my learners, and these occasions of uttering grammatically wrong sentences, are very very rare. As a teacher, I have trained myself to unconciously watch every word that I say in the classroom. It doesn’t mean that I speak slowly; it just means that I’m mindful in my utterances.

Well, the mistakes she made were one too many to be considered as unintentional tongue slips. And these are her exact words:

“I’m stand like this…”

“She laughed heartedly..”

“This important for your spelling…”

“Please look what I’m doing…”

“It is not the heart very big sized…”

I was quite apalled at hearing her speak in this manner. I confess that I wanted to save my job and not sound “over the board” by pointing out her mistakes and voicing out my observations of the class.  I looked helplessly as she taught them “laugh heartedly” is correct; I couldn’t help wondering if she had noticed the disinterested and blank looks on the learners’ faces.

Never mind that.

This post is a way of me repenting for not speaking up to the observee. But I hope she reads this and thinks about what I’ve said. I’m learning. You’re learning. We’re all learning. To err is human but to err, realize, repent and grow is divine…

So here I stand, in front of you, sincerely apologizing for not doing what I should’ve done as the observer…

Forgive me Lord for I have sinned”....

Sorry

(courtesy of http://www.themashupradio.com