Wednesday, May 8, 2013
May I Have a Copy of Your Presentation?
Ah, conference season! These days, of course, it’s really year-round, as different countries have their regional and national conferences at different times. For about the past decade, it’s become common for conferences to ask presenters if they’d like to have their emails printed in the program book. I always say yes, because one reason I attend conferences is to make connections with other professionals.
This is the first year, though, that I’ve had a slew of emails post-conference, from people I don’t remember meeting, requesting that I send them my entire presentation.
Some, of course, are not legitimate—like the one that began “Dear Sir or Madam” and was apparently sent to every email address in the TESOL 2013 program book, even to people who hadn’t given a presentation. But others are genuine; often from teachers who didn’t attend the presentation.
I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I am sympathetic to teachers who had to miss one presentation because they were attending another (or were giving their own). I am sympathetic too to teachers who couldn’t stay for the whole conference, or who perhaps couldn’t attend at all, because of work or family commitments, or lack of financial support.
Overall, though, I’m not comfortable sending out my presentations. There are a few reasons.
The most important is that I don’t think my presentations would make much sense from just the slides. Most of a typical talk for me is just that—talking. It’s not written down, except sometimes on notecards. I worry that a picture would simply make no sense without me there to explain it. For example, what point am I making with this slide from a recent talk? I think different people would have different guesses.
In another recent talk, promoting a new coursebook series, I have one slide (not from the series!) that’s an example of a bad dialogue. Suppose that presentation goes out into the wide world, tied to my name, and somehow people assume that it’s supposed to be an example of a good dialogue? How will someone who wants to give my presentation (as several emails have said they wish to do) be able to answer questions that follow?
Finally, the presentations that I put together represent a lot of time and work. I spend time considering what to say and writing an outline; I spend time choosing images and designing the presentation to (I hope) be visually engaging. Often the information that I’m presenting is the result of years of work or study. There might even be some original thoughts in there! I’m proud of the presentations I give; they represent an important part of my professional life. Is it fair for someone else to claim all that in the few seconds it takes to download an email attachment, and then give my presentation as their own? My publishers sometimes sponsor my attendance at international conferences, for both commercial and academic presentations. They invest this money and effort because they feel that there is value—to them and to the profession—in me personally presenting this information (either that, or I am just a really charming dinner companion. But I think it’s for the presentations).
I feel I am a pretty accessible person. I have an Facebook page that is open to any teachers who are interested in talking about language teaching and learning (if you just post kitten pictures, though, or never write in English, I will probably hide you from my feed!), and I answer questions about my textbooks and thoughts on the ELT profession. I blog here. I present world-wide. I am thrilled that technology has removed so many barriers—geographical, time, and financial—to worldwide discussions in our profession. Given all that, I hope teachers can understand why I don’t feel comfortable emailing my conference presentations.
I am curious to hear from other presenters. Do you send out your presentations post-conference? Why or why not? I’m also curious to hear from those who request presentations. Do you feel they are easily understood, without having heard the original presentation, or without the presenter there to explain the slides?