I’ve sat through a fair few presentations at conferences myself, and have even given a few. I seem to have been subjected to particularly many lately that seem to lack any real direction or purpose, and have no idea what impact they were meant to have. I have, though, noticed an increasing commonality between some of the poorer presentations I’ve seen and while they’ve left me frustrated at having wasted my time, these tricks seem to go down a storm with audiences of primary educators. The same may be true of secondary colleagues, but I’ve less experience with them.
I should say that there are exceptions to this rule: at recent conferences and events I have been impressed with some speakers and their purpose (@realdcameron was a good example); I find it useful to hear from experts in their field (even when it’s the DfE or Ofsted) and am almost always happy with offerings made by actual classroom practitioners (so found Pedagoo London and Northern Rocks last year really positive, and find Optimus conferences increasingly offering this well)
But if you’re not really bothered about achieving anything, and merely want to set up a career as a sort of after-dinner speaker for between meals, then I suggest the following patter is guaranteed to bring a healthy income:
- Find some common sense statements and turn them into ‘bon mots’.
- Take random useful qualities, or ideas, or just words and turn them into an acronym.
(Why Plan, Do and Review, when you can Plan, Research, Implement, Complete & Keep?)
- If an acronym won’t work, create a diagram for the initials. Stars are good. Or hexagons.
- Intersperse your words with asides about imaginary children you once met.
- Use the Chart-Art facilities in PowerPoint to link seemingly unrelated things into a single diagram.
- Present broad concepts with a background of a grid as if to imply a scientific graph.
- Throw in a critical comment about Michael Gove (no need to worry about his successor yet).
- Point out that you love being in the classroom.
- Remind people that it’s all about the kids.
- Blame Ofsted for something (it doesn’t matter what, it always goes down well).
- Use the phrase “research shows”. No need to back this up with any references.
- Throw in some references to books you’ve read. Implore people to read them.
- Make another comment about Ofsted inspectors.
- Say something that shows you understand how busy teachers are.
- Refer to well-known Scientists: a mis-quote from Einstein is as good as any real research.
- Emphasise the importance of things other than Literacy and Numeracy.
- Point out that SATs are not a real measure of children’s achievement.
- Say again that it’s all about the kids; “that’s why we came into this profession”.
- Make a reference to the teacher who gets snarky about her mug / chair / parking space.
- Criticise the DfE. No specifics are necessary: just criticise the department somehow.
- Show people some Buzzfeed style activity that shows their learning style.
Or their dominant brain hemisphere.
Or their balance of red, blue, green or yellow leadership style.
- Acknowledge that evidence doesn’t support these ideas, but claim that they remain valid.
- Blame secondary schools for something.
- Raise the issue of the “mood hoover” or hard-to-engage staff member. No solutions needed.
- Remind people that we’re preparing kids for an unknown future, so anything goes.
That should comfortably fill an hour or more. If you pad out the slot with anecdotes about children (your own, your class… a niece. Any will do) and comments that show how you were once an excellent teacher, then all you need now is a couple of common sense statements to underpin your work, or some popular messages that make your listener feel that they agreed with your every word: “we need more focus on the whole child” or “learning isn’t linear” or “teachers do the most important job in the world” are good examples.
Now, I wonder if there are any opportunities for running courses on how to run a course…?