Manifesto for Conference Presenters


Dear presenters,

We are your audience.

We came from every corner of the globe to watch YOU. Not anyone else. From a comprehensive range of options, YOU were the elected.
Show confidence, even when you are shaking inside.
Say that you care by carefully preparing for your presentation. Be respectful to your audience.
Slides are powerful. Overloaded slides are distractors.
Think design. Instructional design and the pure beauty of good design.
One piece of information on a slide is great. With an image, even better.
Forget clipart! Most of it look unprofessional.
Bullets points? Dump them! A visual cue with just some words are powerful. Remember, we came to hear you talk with passion and encouragement. Reading slides? No way!
Background matters. In doubt, chose plain colors. White will do. Dark colors are fine. If you are on the audacious side, play with colorful ones, but watch out. What needs to stand out is your message, not the wrong colors.
We all have friends that are design-conscious. Asking for advice is OK for a long-lasting good impression.
Your content should faithfully reflect your professionalism. Rush not when time seems to speed.
“Running out of time?” Never mention it! Act naturally. Prepare for emergency exit, without letting your audience notice it. The secret? Have exit points that won’t harm your carefully prepared presentation. 10 slides in a minute won’t get you there. Playing videos, showing examples are fine. Trying to load 10-minute movie segments on spot is not. Time is a precious commodity for presenters. Don’t waste it.
Content is king. A smooth transition between concepts and real-life application is essential. Surprise, engage, have a conversation with your audience. Connect.
Bring up something that WE, your audience, will take with us and carry it around the world in ripple effects within our educational circles. Inspire. Let us dream of a new classroom, a fresh approach to our pedagogical practices.
Simple is more. Why animations and transitions if you are the one to cheer up your audience and move from one concept to the next? Your plain well-designed slides will impress more than the slide show fireworks of sounds and movement.
We chose you to spend time with. Show us that you care. Make your presentation a unique experience to be remembered, to be retold, blogged and twitted.
Make your presentation last by being part of our memories.
Let it travel the world by being retold over and over again.
We chose to watch you for a reason. And the reason is you and all that you have to teach us.
Next time you present, bear this in mind and how your audience value your every word and move.

p.s.: This post was inspired by a great in-depth discussion during the IATEFL Conference 2013, in Liverpool, with great educators Mabel Castro, Vini Nobre and Paulo Machado.


22 responses to “Manifesto for Conference Presenters”

  1. Carla, all I can say is thank you for this post. I’ll keep it stored and share it again and again before conferences. Beautifully said.

    1. Glad you liked, Ceci. I think it is always good for us all to be reminded of some simple things to make our presentations a hit, like so many I’ve seen in IATEFL!

  2. Wow wow wow. I have been thinking so much about this during and since IATEFL. What a wonderful post! Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Sinead, for the thumbs up.

  3. As usual – just perfect – a lesson to be learned and shared! Thanks!

    1. Just a reminder, right, Gilmar?

  4. Amazing truths! I always try to bear in mind the time and effort people put in listening to a talk or lecture I give, as much as I expect presenters and teachers to respect me and share their knowledge. The post said it beautifully! Thanks for the insights!

    1. I guess that’s exactly the point, Selma, considering the ones who chose to be there with us, our audience.

  5. Thanks for sharing what I think a lot of us think about, Carla. My colleague wrote a similarly inspired post after Braz-TESOL last year:

    1. Very interesting, indeed. I was there, as well, and had the same feeling.

    2. Don’t get me wrong though, this wasn’t my general feeling about the whole conference, and in fact I’ve always felt the majority of talks at Braz-TESOL events over the years have had more ‘hits’ than ‘misses’ than at IATEFL events. But I agree with Stephen about this one talk. Proper example of a big name lazily putting together a talk and standing there, mumbling monotonously, people walking out, etc.

    3. I totally understand what you mentioned. And I agree with you that in last year’s BrazTESOL conference there was more hits than misses. But, yes, sometimes the big names are not being respectful to the audience that is just so eager to listen to them. Not all, though. some.

  6. Thanks for this. You have articulated something I have been thnking about for a while now. I can kind of understand when a novice presenter fails to do some of these things, but when a professional fails there can be no excuse.

    1. I think that the key to any presenter is prep time. Of course we should be more tolerant with first-time presenters, but we see when he/she really took the time to inspire the audience.

  7. So glad I found your blog!! Such great tips, thanks for sharing! Oh and I’m your newest follower 😉animated video production

    1. Thanks, David! I hope I can live up to your expectations as a new follower.

  8. Mariana Telles Avatar
    Mariana Telles

    Dear Carla, I’ve been preparing a music professor for her presentations at International Conferences since last year and I can say that all your concerns are crucial for the success of a presentation. In my search for supporting material, I came up with an excelente book which I’d like to share with you, for it has all to do with your point of view and it might help the future presenters: “English for Presentations at International Conferences”, by Adrian Wallwork. I strongly recommend it!

    1. Dear Mariana, thanks for the precious tip about the book, and it is great it is written for non-native speakers and it is available in Kindle!

  9. Hello Carla,

    yes, we do think along the same lines. People can go backwards and forwards from your blog to mine and vice versa.

    Mainly, your blog makes me think that I have yo try harder as a presenter!!


    1. Jeremy, you are an excellent presenter because you care about your audience. However, I always feel that all of us can improve, no matter how experience we are. What are those elements that make us great presenters? How can I bring something fresh and relevant for the educators who are listening to us? What lesson can I present that can have ripple effects around the globe? These are some questions that we should bear in mind. I remember that wonderful presentation of yours about endings and how it has affected the way I consider my own classroom. So, this is the kind of presentation that we should aim at. Again, it is not about the bells and whistles of a PPT but about you and your audience, plus the content you are delivering.

  10. Dear Vanita, I’m glad you liked it!

  11. Thanks, Tara. I’m glad you liked it.

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