How to get booked for primary teaching conferences – an idiot’s guide.

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:

  1. Find some common sense statements and turn them into ‘bon mots’.
  2. 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?)
  3. If an acronym won’t work, create a diagram for the initials. Stars are good. Or hexagons.
  4. Intersperse your words with asides about imaginary children you once met.
  5. Use the Chart-Art facilities in PowerPoint to link seemingly unrelated things into a single diagram.
  6. Present broad concepts with a background of a grid as if to imply a scientific graph.
  7. Throw in a critical comment about Michael Gove (no need to worry about his successor yet).
  8. Point out that you love being in the classroom.
  9. Remind people that it’s all about the kids.
  10. Blame Ofsted for something (it doesn’t matter what, it always goes down well).
  11. Use the phrase “research shows”. No need to back this up with any references.
  12. Throw in some references to books you’ve read. Implore people to read them.
  13. Make another comment about Ofsted inspectors.
  14. Say something that shows you understand how busy teachers are.
  15. Refer to well-known Scientists: a mis-quote from Einstein is as good as any real research.
  16. Emphasise the importance of things other than Literacy and Numeracy.
  17. Point out that SATs are not a real measure of children’s achievement.
  18. Say again that it’s all about the kids; “that’s why we came into this profession”.
  19. Make a reference to the teacher who gets snarky about her mug / chair / parking space.
  20. Criticise the DfE. No specifics are necessary: just criticise the department somehow.
  21. 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.
  22. Acknowledge that evidence doesn’t support these ideas, but claim that they remain valid.
  23. Blame secondary schools for something.
  24. Raise the issue of the “mood hoover” or hard-to-engage staff member. No solutions needed.
  25. 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…?

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13 thoughts on “How to get booked for primary teaching conferences – an idiot’s guide.

  1. David Weston (@informed_edu) 7 November 2014 at 5:55 pm Reply

    I do 11 of these. Why am I not being booked for more primary conferences?🙂

    • Michael Tidd 7 November 2014 at 6:44 pm Reply

      Haha, I’m sure I do a fair few myself, but the skill is to fit as many in as possible.🙂

  2. cazzypot2013 7 November 2014 at 6:16 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  3. teachingbattleground 7 November 2014 at 7:07 pm Reply

    Can’t help thinking that a lot of these also feature as the content in a large proportion of blogposts too.

  4. whatonomy 7 November 2014 at 7:50 pm Reply

    I would add to this that a good presentation should clearly stem from the exploitation of a single persuasive device (preferably one of the weaker ones, like rhyme), be patronisingly obvious and of no use to anyone with an ounce of common sense. Recently, I endured a wonderful presentation by an established education writer (who shall remain Googleable), who makes a living out of the fact that “will” rhymes with “skill”. It was great to sit through her presentation on how to work with “high-will” or “low-skill” colleagues, the whole time thinking, “Well, ‘will’ does rhyme with ‘skill’, so I guess what she’s saying is true.”

  5. whatonomy 7 November 2014 at 7:54 pm Reply

    I’ve just scanned my blog in the light of your checklist. Hmm…

  6. Teachling 8 November 2014 at 12:09 pm Reply

    Ha! This is so true. I’m often astounded by how much money educational ‘consultants’ get paid to speak at conferences, staff PDs, etc. Yes, there’s the occasional great one, but 75% are basically as you described.

  7. Susan 8 November 2014 at 12:13 pm Reply

    You missed out ‘Say something negative about the phonics screening check’

  8. James Bowen 8 November 2014 at 1:32 pm Reply

    Spot on. Absolutely brilliant. The ‘unknown futures’ is one of my personal favourites. Usually coupled with a reference to the percentage of jobs that will exist in x years time that don’t exist now. Mind you, I have certainly been guilty of at least half of these I’m sure!

  9. tonyshep 8 November 2014 at 2:24 pm Reply

    You missed …
    Take a look at the audience and judge on their tech aptitude based on the number using iPads or the amount of tweets going on at the time … then saying one of the following as appropriate.
    “We cannot rely on technology to replace what teachers do better”
    or
    “We cannot allow technophobes to stop us using the best technology out there and iPad 1:1 schemes will solve everything!”

  10. Vellem Discordant 10 November 2014 at 11:03 am Reply

    You forgot the “we should teach students how to learn” bit. Also where they play a 2 minute excerpt from Sir Ken’s talk, preferably a bit bagging teachers. Also the hierarchy of needs pyramid with “wifi” scribbled at the bottom to show how with-it they are.

    • Beth Budden 13 November 2014 at 9:37 pm Reply

      Great blog. You forgot the 10 things to do with a paper clip at the start to make people feel at ease with each other. Blaargh.

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