As teachers will be going back to school soon (and some already have), they face the likelihood of the dreaded training day (often a misnomer if ever there was one). And with that comes the near-certainty of being “treated” to a talk by some expert or other. Just the thought of the kind of presentations I have had to sit through brings me out in a cold sweat, so rather than keep all this rage to myself I thought I’d share it!
Faffing with the technology
I have little patience with presenters who waste time at the start of their talk by trying to find their presentation, or wondering how to get it show up on the screen. All that stuff should be sorted out beforehand. Maybe it’s not their fault. Maybe it’s sloppy organisation. Whenever I run a conference or training day, I ask for the presentations at least a week in advance if possible.
Waiting a few minutes
Why is it that when it’s time to begin their talk, some speakers start by saying “I think we’ll give people just a few more minutes.” Why? We all managed to arrive on time, cutting short cups of tea or conversations, or getting puffed out running for the bus. Surely the most important audience members are the people who are actually there? I always endeavour to start on time, and the only time I’ve relaxed that rule is when there’s a problem on public transport or the roads, and people are coming in at 20 second intervals. That’s so disruptive that it’s probably better to wait a few minutes rather than plough on against all the interruptions. But that’s very much the exception to the rule.
Starting with “Hey -- name of place” and then asking how we are
This is not some sort of pyramid scheme recruitment gathering for goodness’ sake. We don’t need to be gee’d up as if we’re a bunch of children.
Addressing the audience as “You guys”
I always think the subtext of this is “You lot need to listen to this and do what I suggest; it doesn’t apply to me because I’m the guru here.”
Starting with their life story
I have enough confidence in whoever arranged this speaker to believe that they chose someone with the requisite expertise. Besides, it comes across to me as “But enough about me; let’s talk about my theories.” They could refer people to their website or Linkedin profile instead of wasting our time.
Telling the audience what they said to the Government or the President of China
We get it, you’re a big shot. Now please tell us what we came here to learn.
Audience participation in the form of throwing things into the gathering
I’m always afraid it’s going to knock my glasses off, knock my tea over everything or knock my eye out. Please just speak!
Audience participation in the form of a “quick discussion with your neighbour”
I always think this is a deliberate ploy to disguise the fact that the speaker doesn’t have enough material or knowledge to last the allotted time. I hardly ever find these discussions useful, because 2 minutes each is not enough time to explore issues. (The most ridiculous example I saw was a speaker telling the audience to “talk to the person behind you”.)
Presenters who start every sentence with “So”
Another delaying tactic, while the speaker struggles to think of what they are going to say next.
Presenters who read out every word of their slides
The senior manager who was about two levels above me and who had organised a large-scale training day asked me how I thought they could improve on the event next year. “Get speakers who assume we can all read”, I said. For some reason that didn’t go down too well.
Presenters who use slides that bear no obvious relation to what they’re saying
Maybe it’s just me, but I find that by the time I’ve worked out what the illustration has to do with anything, I’ve missed what the speaker has been saying. I think clear exposition should be the order of the day, not some sort of enigma.
Presenters who end their presentation by saying “Let’s start a conversation about this issue”, and then fail to provide any means of doing so
I think that shows they did not make the suggestion seriously. Mostly, the talks of such people may be summed up, usually, as “There’s a problem, and someone needs to do something about it.”
Text that is too small to read from the back of the room.
The correct size for a poster would be around 2 inches for every 30 feet. But this would translate into a font size of 144 points! I’ve always found that between 28 and 36 points work well for a large room.
Dark text on a dark background
It may look “edgy” but it’s unreadable.
Presenters who mumble
What’s the point of speaking if you don’t make yourself be heard?
Presenters whose voice becomes inaudible at the end of sentences
I find this infuriating. Some radio presenters do this constantly. You hear a great piece of music, and you wait to find out what it was and who was playing, and then you hear “That was Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in D major, and the soloist was John <inaudible>, Aaaaargh!
Well, that’s it. Thanks for listening, I feel much better now.
Tomorrow: Ideas for ed tech training.
On the subject of training, I’ve just completed a series of articles on my best IT training days, and have almost completed a series about my worst ones. I’ll be collating those articles for subscribers to my newsletter, Digital Education.