Monday, March 10, 2014

Tips for Education Conference Presenters

Photo from Flikr User MattHurst Used Under a Creative Commons License
My favorite part of attending conferences like SXSWedu, TCEA, Tech Forum, or iPadpalooza is getting to learn from education colleagues and share my own learning with them in formal and informal spaces. Having just attended two conferences within the space of a month and done a solo presentation at one of them, I have a few tips fresh on my mind that might help anyone who plans to present at a conference or professional development event. These tips are based on a mixture of my experiences as a presenter and as an audience member. I think these tips will benefit first-time and experienced presenters.

Presentation Tips

  1. Create digital resources and post them online so your audience can refer to them during your presentation and refer back to them after the event.  If you are creating a slide deck or other digital resource to use during your presentation, make it available to your audience at the start of your time with them. This will help them know how many notes they need to take and where they can go back to to reference your information after the event is over. Some of my favorite tools for this are Google Presentations, SlideShare, LiveBinders, and Prezi.
  2. Make it easy for your audience to access your digital resources. Go to a website like where you can make a shortened link and a QR code for your resources. The shortened link helps tremendously, especially with anything hosted online that has an ugly long URL. A QR code is easily scanned by the numerous folks using their smartphones or tablet devices. Be sure to use both a QR code and short link if possible to accommodate all of your participants. If you can use only one, the shortened link will suffice for everyone.
  3. Create a hashtag for your session so attendees can create buzz by Tweeting about it! This will help you in numerous ways. You can go back and search for the hashtag later to see what stood out to your audience based on what they shared. You can also invite participants to ask questions of you using the hashtag and get back to them later via Twitter if you run out of time during the session. You can also use Storify to curate the Tweets from your session after it is over; having a unique hashtag to search by will make your curation much easier.
  4. Make any QR codes you use REALLY BIG on the screen. Don't be afraid to make it as big as possible. You likely won't know the size of the room you are presenting in until just before your presentation. Nothing can slow down the momentum of a presentation like everyone having to walk up to the screen to scan a QR code because they are sitting too far away. Although I like for creating shortened URLs, the QR codes it makes are very small and they get blurry when I resize them to make them larger. I recently discovered QRCode Monkey, which lets you choose the size of the QR code you are creating. I choose "Bumber sticker" size (their misspelling, not mine!) and that usually allows me to fill the screen.
  5. Display the shortened URL for your digital resources and/or the Twitter hashtag on every screen in your presentation if possible. This will allow participants who come in late to easily access your resources and catch up. It also acts as a support for anyone who might get lost during the presentation by accidentally closing out of a tab in their web browser or because their device malfunctions. I have not used this technique myself in the past, but saw it in use at SXSWedu and thought it was a great idea! I will definitely incorporate it in the future.

What Are Your Ideas or Questions?

Those are the ideas that rise to the top for me right now. How about you? If you've presented at education conferences or attended presentations, what tips would you share or suggest? Or what questions have been stirred after reading the suggestions above? I hope you'll share ideas and questions in the comments section below, so we can continue to learn together!

 All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.