Learning through Sharing
Reflecting on My First Presentation
Though I am a recent graduate, I’ve had the opportunity to attend many professional development conferences as an undergraduate music education student – some dealing specifically with music education and some that were not. The presentations and clinics from these that stick out the most vividly in my mind are obviously, the sessions that were well done, engaging and useful and the ones that were really bad. Like, “reading from a piece of paper” bad. In April I had the chance to try my hand at presenting at the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) State Conference, and it gave me a really good perspective on what it takes to present a session.
When beginning to prepare my clinic at the PMEA conference, I relied on the content, technology and presentations that I remembered from the myriad of sessions that I’ve attended in the past. From traditional PowerPoint presentations to hands-on approaches, I thought through many different options to present the subjects of social media and online portfolios. I ultimately chose to do a PowerPoint presentation and demonstration. In addition, I found myself reviewing a pile of different handouts. This not only reminded me of some pretty great sessions, but helped me to begin to think about how I wanted to present my material, and what I wanted the session attendees to take home with them. This step of research proved to be very useful to me as a first-time presenter. By modeling my presentation after some of the great presentations I had attended, it assured that I was presenting my material appropriately.
When thinking about the content of my session, I was determined not to have a session where I merely read to the audience and bored them for an hour. At the same time, it was hard to make this session completely hands-on as I knew not all attendees would have a computer and Internet was not easily available. I decided to present the session as a mixture of lecture and demonstration. I talked about specific aspects of social media, and then embedded visual representations of what I was talking about. For the online portfolio section, I was able to find a PowerPoint plugin to embed websites into PowerPoint slides, which allowed me to demonstrate right from the presentation.
This presentation style helped me to engage the attendees while still explaining and demonstrating the specifics effectively. With presentations, especially technology presentations, it’s really easy to lose the audience when speaking about things they may not understand fully. This becomes an even bigger problem when something difficult to understand comes at the beginning of the presentation, and the rest of the presentation is dependent upon it. By explaining aspects, and then demonstrating them, even the attendees who were not remotely well-versed in technology could understand the material and follow along.
When considering content, I also had to decide on the form I wanted my handout (click link to download) to take. When I reviewed the handouts that I had accumulated from various sessions, it was evident that most of them were a traditional outline of the topics and concepts from the session. I certainly wanted my handout to explain these concepts for the session, but I also wanted to make a sort of “How-To Guide” to online portfolio creation for the attendees.
One of the biggest questions when it comes to technology is “Where do I start?” A traditional outline would help for attendees to review the information and content of my session, but it wouldn’t help them to actually DO what was presented. To accomplish this handbook, I started by creating a traditional outline. After this was complete, I added step-by-step instructions to accomplish each task. I was pleased with the result of the handout because it not only jogged the memory of the attendee, but it gave them a guide to accomplish what was presented.
Technology has transformed the professional development scene. It is now uncommon to see a presentation without attendees taking notes on iPads and laptops and presenters using new technology to share their content. One of the tools that proved to be the most useful to me was the PowerPoint plugin LiveWeb. This plugin allowed me to show web pages in my presentation without having to switch back and forth between PowerPoint and Google Chrome. In addition, it allowed me to use web-based applications like VisibleTweets in my presentation without leaving PowerPoint. And presenting is like anything else… there’s an app for that! I paid 9.99 for the iClickr app. This app, connected to my computer through an internet connection, allowed me to click through the slides of my presentation from my iPhone. In addition to that, the app displays either the current slide and your notes for that slide, or the next slide with your notes for that slide, so you can have your notes and clicker all on your phone. Plus, you can set it to vibrate when you’re halfway through your presentation, or have 5 minutes left. I also made my session handout available through QR code for the people in the session using iPads or smartphones.
Technology has also changed the way that attendees interact with the presentation. As an attendee, I’ve used technologies like Twitter and live-blogging to share the information I was learning in the multitude of sessions I attended. As a presenter, I was able to see how my session’s attendees engaged with the material through technology, too. It was so cool to log on to Twitter during and after the presentation and check out the conversations that were going on while I was presenting. Some great thoughts and questions came up that I hadn’t thought of.
If you ever have the opportunity to present a clinic, I definitely recommend doing so. You can learn a lot from simply attending a conference, but there are many opportunities to learn and network through presenting as well. After the session I had opportunities to connect with students from other colleges and universities, professors and teachers – all of whom asked questions and made observations that I hadn’t thought of and who challenged me to think about my session material even more deeply. The process of presenting is easy – develop your idea and apply! You can usually find a call for session proposals on the organization website or through their social media accounts. While attending conferences allows you to benefit from learning, sharing and participating in clinics, presenting a session allows you to utilize and see the benefits of technology, good content, and appropriate presentation. So if you want a whole new (but still beneficial) conference experience, give presenting a shot!
Want more great music education content?
Keep in touch with Leading Notes by following us on social media or subscribing to our newsletter!