Thoughts of a Conference Presenter


Presenting at state conferences is always so rewarding. When I accept an opportunity to present, I feel a sense of excitement and a bit of a thrill. “I can’t believe they want me!” Then as the weeks go by and work/home/family rolls along, I begin to think that maybe I shouldn’t have accepted. Maybe it just costs too much since there really isn’t any money in our budget for this trip. Maybe no one will come to my sessions. Maybe I’ll wander around aimlessly feeling lost because I only know one or two people that are in attendance.

Fast forward to the week before the conference. Oh no! I’ve hardly worked on those presentations that I started when I was first accepted. What was the description again? What have I learned about this topic since I first submitted my proposals? What has Google changed that I need to alter from where I was back then?

Even though I may have presented this very topic multiple times, I still have to customize the presentation for the audience and the venue. Some people might think the presentation part of it isn’t that important. Some of the sessions I’ve attended in my career certainly focus on content and not esthetics! But I feel that the visual part of the presentation is just as important as the content.

I recently spent several days learning about The Art and Science of Presenting from Phil Echols @PhilEchols and Chrys Brown from the Office of Professional Learning in Wake County Public Schools in Raleigh, NC. These two excellent presenters provided multiple strategies that I have since continuously employed in my presentations.

Having a consistent template for slides makes the presentation look so much more professional. Providing links to the materials either at the session or before is really important for those that use the app or website for the conference. I’m guilty of forgetting to post the links prior to the sessions!

So why am I ruminating about all of this? Because sometimes attendees think that presenters breeze in and don’t have to do much. Because sometimes presenters try their best and the WIFI doesn’t work or the slides are out of order or they have too much content for the time allotted.

Presentation is a craft and an artform. Am I great at it? No. Am I good at it? I think so, but those of you who have seen me present should tell me what I need to improve on. Your feedback – both good and bad – help me to grow my style and improve my craft. If you have ever attended a conference, please be sure to provide feedback. If you’re a conference organizer, please provide that feedback to your presenters. Assessment is a key component of the process.

So now that I’m headed home from this conference, I am so appreciative of the opportunities I had. I filled my schedule with Music Technology sessions. I heard some great music by High School and Collegiate groups. I connected with people that are actively using technology in their band rooms, classrooms and choirs. And I have met some true pioneers in the field. Thank you, TN Music Educators Association for one of the best conferences I’ve been to in an amazing city full of music. #TnMEAConference

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