Presenting Skills, or Learning with Speakers

Earlier this year I wrote a post called Reflecting on Our Presenting Skills where I described a session for experienced teachers as conference presenters I had facilitated in Kyiv. No, I can’t say that I am a guru of public speaking and/or presenting skills, but I think I have some experience of leading sessions at various events locally and internationally, and a lot of experience to start conversations with and for teachers.

This post is about an interesting follow up to that session, and is based on a phone conversation with a speaker after a conference we both attended (and presented on!)

First things first. The conference took place on 27 October and was hosted by International House Kyiv to celebrate their 25th birthday in Ukraine, and International House World Organisation (IHWO) 65th birthday as a school network. As you might know, I spent about 10 years of my teaching and training career working for and with International House school in my native Dnipro, so being invited to speak at such event was a pleasure and honor for me.

One great advantage of being a speaker at such fantastic events is… the chance to attend other sessions! The day was full of amazing workshop presentations and inspiring plenary talks, the topics varied and could satisfy different tastes, needs and preferences. It was a great day.

[Note: I hope to learn to write comprehensive summary posts immediately after the events I happen to attend, but at the moment my time/life management skills are far from this. Genuinely envy colleagues who can do it!]

One of the sessions I attended was called ‘Bullying in the Classroom? No way!‘ and I loved it at a number of levels: as a teacher, language learner, teacher educator, human, etc.

As a teacher, I picked up specific (ELT) classroom activities (e.g. Silent Discussion, or asking learners to write answers to the questions on a poster with a later follow-up discussion); was reminded about the importance to work on group dynamics day by day (e.g. this sweet ‘peer compliment’ idea to say warm words to someone next to you).

As a language learner, I was motivated to use my dictionary to check the meaning of some words we needed for an Empathy Bingo Game (specifically, ‘consoling’ and ‘one-upping’)

No, I am not checking social media updates here! 🙂

As a human (in other words, as a ‘non-teacher’ person), I keep thinking about bullying and ways to prevent it, or respond to it. I am glad there are conversations about it in our society, and that awareness is being raised among parents, teachers, and children. There is a lot of hope in this movement (to me).

As a trainer/teacher educator, I re-discovered how the Metaphorical Cards and/or Dixit storytelling cards can be used to ‘check temperature’ in the classroom and wrap up a session, or a training day.

Finally, I learned a lot as a presenter, and this is the main reason to write this post! At the end of the day, the speaker came up to me and asked for feedback to her session. I was surprised and expressed how much I enjoyed the session, but she insisted that we had a more in-depth conversation a little later. About a week after the conference we talked on the phone, and I’d like to share some highlights of this conversation. At the very beginning I repeated how much I loved the session and said that my perspective will be totally as ‘participant/attendee’ and not as a ‘trainer’ (or anyone in the ‘official’ role able to evaluate the session and coach to improvement, etc.)

A ‘listicle’ of some things I liked and learned (and shared with the presenter) follows:

  1. the logic of the presentation: it started from a brief warmer (kindness interactions with a peer) and moved to discussing some myths and facts about bullying. The True/False format of that discussion was engaging and motivated to listen to the speaker.
  2. the practical activities offered could be used in any EFL lesson and not specifically for talking about bullying (if you are like me, you also have a habit of ‘activity collecting’ no matter where you are). Besides the ones mentioned above I loved a grouping activity (with color cards on our foreheads)
  3. even through the session was well after lunch, the energy of the speaker invited me to participate and stay alert, and curious. I think you can see/feel it in the picture above. Well, to compare, let me share a picture taken in my session that same day. Do you feel (a bit of) lack of energy? Can you guess my action point after attending the session I am writing about? 🙂

  1. Experiential format and variety: within the time in this session, we talked in pairs, responded to the statements on a slide, moved around the room writing silently, played bingo game and volunteered (or observed volunteers) in the mingling activity. Related to the point above, it helped me stay focused and interested.

When it came to discussing areas to work on/do differently in the future, I said that I’d prefer to discuss the questions the presenter had, and offer my as ‘participant/attendee perspective’ rather than judgement or suggestions. These were the things we talked about:

  • time to think/talk about the activities presented (with a colleague I was next to, we had a lot of ideas to share while the session was in progress; we were inspired by the presenter, reminded about some tasks that worked with our learners, etc.). Suggestion: have 2-3 minutes between activities for such ‘chit-chat’, if time allows. Or a block of time at the end of the session.
  • further reading and references: since the topic is very ‘hot’ in our country now, and the presenter had obviously done good research on the available materials and resources, sharing a couple of links could be helpful. Suggestion: add them to the slides that will be shared by the organizers.
  • a question we talked about (asked by the presenter): what are some pros and cons of having pictures of students performing the activities in class? My thought that it could potentially convince that something is working (in the case of this session, I don’t think anyone had doubts, but I don’t know for sure). Having extra slides might also mean spending more time on listening than talking in pairs/reflecting (which again depends on the goals and priorities set);
  • another question we talked about (asked by me): what are some pros and cons of running activities in the ‘I need 10 volunteers’ mode as opposed to involving everyone in them? I am still not sure I have the answer. One thing is that some sessions have a lot of people (100 and more) and in that case having everyone to mingle could be chaotic. On the other hand, the session I am talking about had variety: some activities were for everyone, and only one asked us to decide if we are acting or observing;
  • one more thing that came up was how to acknowledge others in the session (for example, if the idea was not created by the presenter but was found in a book or seen at a colleague’s class). We both thought that a nice solution could be adding something simple to the slides, e.g. ‘adapted from XX’ or ‘inspired by YY’.
  • finally, we talked about pros and cons of learning your speech/text by heart, and how it impacts the session flow.

Well, I confess that I learned a lot from attending this session, and from the conversation with the speaker.

Questions to readers:

  • Have you ever asked for a peer feedback on your presentation?
  • Have you ever given feedback to a conference/workshop presenter?

Thank you for reading! 🙂

P.S.1 I sent her a draft of this post, got the permission to publish it, and introduce her: Olga Puga, a Teacher of English, Coordinator of International Projects, Sviatoshyn Gymnasium in Kyiv, Ukraine.

P.S.2 I almost called this post ‘Learning from Speakers. Part 4’, but changed my mind. Just in case, check the series here, then click to Parts 2 and 3. 

Image Credit and Gratitude Note: as you can guess, all the great pictures in this post were taken during the International House Kyiv conference and kindly shared by the organizing team. I am grateful for the pictures and for the chance to be in touch with the school where I literally took my first teaching steps a long time ago. Maybe, a topic for another post 🙂

About Zhenya

ELT: teacher educator, trainer coach, reflective practice addict
This entry was posted in Reflective Practice and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Presenting Skills, or Learning with Speakers

  1. Pingback: Interview with Lana Sushko: Helping Language Teachers | Wednesday Seminars

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