The year two students in our Master of Arts in Educational Technology program recently put on an international technology conference in Galway, Ireland. We were responsible for all aspects of planning, coordinating, and executing this event. We were also responsible for putting on a session individually during the conference.
After creating our committees and determining the session topics, we began the planning process, which we only had 12 days to put together. While this was stressful, working in a group of highly motivated professionals, to organize an event that would benefit all of us personally and professionally, was completely worth it.
I was lucky to be part of the Goosechase and Demo SLAM committee, where our focus was on engaging participants and attendees outside of the planned sessions.
Goosechase is a digital scavenger hunt app, which allows participants to work in teams to complete tasks. We created tasks that would require engagement in sessions, interaction with people presenting as well as people attending, and fun throughout the day.
The Demo SLAM session took place at the end of the day, where participants were asked to demonstrate a tech tool that hadn’t been presented during the day, in a short amount of time. I kicked off the SLAM then passed on the mic to students, instructors, and even an Irish educator who volunteered to showcase a tool.
The other committees (logistics, social media, web design, and keynote) contributed to a smooth and successful conference day. Overall, our class was proud of our turnout and the day as a whole. We got feedback from attendees that the day was filled with informative and interactive sessions that benefitted their practice.
My friend Deedee Stasiak and I had the opportunity to explore Sketchnoting, in preparation for our conference session during the 12 days of planning. We researched, discussed, and planned, but mostly we played. We were fortunate to doodle on an iPad Pro, using the Apple Pencil, in preparation for our session. We also got to test out technology like the Intuos Comic and Cosmonaut.
Although the planning time was accelerated and we weren’t able to test it in a classroom setting, Deedee helped me to stay positive during the process. Our collaborative success went above and beyond my expectations, and I am grateful I was able to work with an incredible educator in my first international conference presentation.
After the planning, we were ready for the poking and prodding. We had a dry-run with our instructors, where we got feedback that ultimately enhanced our session. This process was nerve-wracking, but a great lesson in practice making perfect. In an effort to “pay it forward” here are my tips and tricks for anyone planning to teach a session at a conference:
- Do your research, know your research, believe in your research. You shouldn’t be reading off of a slide, or making notecards to read a study to your audience. You should be well versed on your research, because you spent quality time reviewing it and discussing it with others.
- Keep “teacher talk” to a minimum. You will need to introduce the topic and explain the research and methods behind it, but after that, consider how to best present. Engaging your audience in activities and play-time will leave them with not only knowledge, but also some experience in what you’ve presented.
- Consider your medium. If you are going to present off of a slideshow, don’t throw words on the page that you plan to say. People will hear you say them. They don’t need them on the screen. Use the presentation to your advantage and add in animation, transitions and images, that will assist you in your explanation of your topic.
- Do it live! It is one thing to present to a fictional audience in your living room, but you won’t find the big bugs unless you truly present to an audience. Call on family, friends, or coworkers to be your audience for a dry-run.
- Confidence is key. People will believe in you if you believe in yourself. They are looking for an expert, and even if you aren’t an expert, you need to present your topic as if you are.
- Be resourceful. When creating your presentation, simultaneously create your resource for your audience. Ask several people with and without accounts to the sites you’re using test them out. You won’t be able to find all of the bugs on your own, especially when you are the creator of the documents.
On that note…