A year ago I set a professional goal to present at the annual TCEA,Texas Computer Education Agency, conference. I had attended the convention numerous years and always thought that there would come a time for me to share my knowledge. I sent in three proposals to the agency and then waited months to see if they would “choose” me.
To my surprise they wanted me to present two different sessions, One based on a makers project and then another about changing attitudes about tech integration. I have a passion for the makers movement and quickly created my presentation, complete with pictures and even a physical sample.
The other presentation was a little more complicated and I drag my feet for a month trying to figure out the right angle to come from. Obviously I had a struggle and I overcame it, but I wanted a way for the audience to relate in a positive manner.
I bounced some ideas off my coworker and created a pretty lame slide presentation with some cheesy pictures. Yes, I know, death by Power Point. I justified it because adults should be able to pay attention better than kids.
Jump ahead to one hour before the presentation. It’s 4:00 PM and I see people half asleep roaming around the convention center. I’m trying my hardest to get pumped up about the presentation, but find myself trying to calculate when I will get home and how soon I can be in my pajamas. It then dawns on me that I am turning into one of those teachers. The ones you look at during workshops and they are either zoned out, on their phones, or staring at the ceiling. This was my chance to make a difference and make some teachers happy to be at the convention at 5 PM!
Here was my plan (Take in mind its 4:45):
1) Play some super cheesy music! Thank you Vanilla Ice and Spice Girls!
2) Make the audience feel important! Thank you to my camera on my phone!
3) Make the presentation interactive! Thank you Poll Everywhere!
4) Make a connection with the audience! Thank you to my theory of “keeping it real” and being “Honest Cari”!
It’s go time and I let Vanilla Ice finish his famous Ice Ice Baby and then jump into the middle of the room and tell the teachers I need a favor. I need to prove to my coworkers that the room is full and that people really stay at TCEA until 5:00 PM! Everyone eagerly jumps up and takes a silly picture with me. I’m feeling like I woke up the audience and that they may pay attention.
Next, I pull up the back channel and let them know that this session will not be beneficial unless they participate. I told them I don’t want to stand up here and talk all night, they needed to have a voice. The back channel was a hit and people were sharing their struggles and commenting that they shared the same issues that I had. The back channel also allowed me to put a face with a name. Being able to see the person and looking at them in the eyes was huge! They knew I cared and wanted to personally address their issue. Lastly, I kept it real, I didn’t sugar coat any of the difficult answers. I owned the fact that not all teachers were on board with tech integration, but that we were getting there slowly but surely.
Did I do anything difficult and mind blowing in my presentation? No, but I did the things that help people feel important and engaged. If you are a teacher, principal, parent, or trainer you can easily do the four things mentioned above. Next time you attend a conference or prepare a presentation think about how to make your content engaging. Even the most mundane content can be fun, you just have to give it a fair chance!