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How to Rock Your First TEFL Conference Presentation
My first TEFL conference presentation was an accident.
Well, I did know about it ahead of time. But when I signed up to go to the internal International House conference (organized by one of our sister schools here in Ukraine), I meant to just attend. My boss had asked me if I wanted to present, but I deferred, happy to only sit and take notes from my esteemed colleagues.
That was, until another presenter had to abdicate her spot and the organizers were left with a hole in their schedule. The offer to present turned into an urgent request, and suddenly I found myself on the program. With only a few days before the date of the presentation, a coworker offered to lend me her slides on using TED talks in listening lessons, and I set to work adapting the material.
Since it was my first time presenting at a TEFL conference, I spent half of the sessions taking notes on the methodology that my colleagues were presenting and the other half focusing on the presentation strategies themselves. At the end of two days, I had picked up the following presentation tips:
1. Show teachers how your talk fills a need they have.
Teachers already have a whole encyclopedia of methodology, classroom management strategies and activities in their heads. Make your presentation pop by identifying a problem or challenge they have and then showing how you can help them solve it!
One of the talks I found most intriguing at our TEFL conference was about combining IELTS and TOEFL exam prep classes into one. That talk solved a specific problem – low exam class enrollment – with a creative solution. So whether it’s something as specific as activities to target specific pronunciation problems of the local learner, or as general as proposing alternatives to textbook listening activities, make sure to articulate a classroom challenge and show off how you can help teachers manage it!
2. Give teachers time to talk to each other.
Not only does this infuse your talk with energy, but you also get to tap into the vast knowledge and experiences of your colleagues. This is hugely beneficial if you’re teaching outside your home country. Local teachers and other international teachers have a different cultural filter, and their perspectives will be invaluable. You can also wander around the room while they’re talking to each other, picking up extra tips for yourself and listening for advice that might be worth sharing with the whole group – audiences will love that you’re listening to them as well!
3. Make sure you’re prepared.
This one seems obvious, considering that we are teachers, but it bears highlighting. I presented slides from an internal workshop (that one of my coworkers had run) on a topic that I am closely familiar with, tailored to the strategies that I employ in my classes weekly. Still, my heart was racing when I stood up in the front of the conference audience.
Study your slides, print out your notes, decide what you’re going to do with your hands when you’re on stage – whatever you need, make sure you have the time and tools to prepare yourself. Ask your manager if you can present your talk as an internal PD and get feedback from your coworkers before you present to an unfamiliar audience.
4. Keep your teacher talk low — even when you’re giving a TEFL presentation.
Hours and hours of presentations can totally numb an audience, no matter how attentive they are. Energize your listeners by getting them engaged. Whether this is by involving them in games and activities, breaking them into small groups for discussions, or asking for ideas and feedback from the front, engage your audience early and often.
5. Make it fun!
If you can make your session fun, I’m totally in, even if it’s not completely relevant to me. One of the most memorable sessions from the IH Ukraine conference was about organizing and running summer camps. I’m not working at a camp this year – in fact, I’m not even teaching YL classes over the summer – but when I think back on the conference, that’s the session that sticks out. The presenters had songs, videos, and games (and yes, my team did win every one!).
So, while the idea of doing my first TEFL conference presentation first set my heart racing, I was so glad I went for it. I’m even wondering what I can present on at the next one!
What was your first TEFL conference presentation about? Add your conference presenting tips in the comments below! If you haven’t presented, what’s holding you back?
Amy snagged a CELTA from Teaching House New York in 2013 and since then has taught on three continents (and counting). Having a CELTA has made her dream of moving abroad possible, and currently she is slow-traveling through Europe. She loves getting to know students, wandering around cities, and trying to find the world’s best donut. You can check out her travel adventures and mishaps at The Wayfarer’s Book.