Wednesday, May 8, 2013

May I Have a Copy of Your Presentation?

DorothyZemach By Dorothy Zemach
ESL Materials Writer, Editor, Teacher Trainer
Eugene, Oregon
Email: zemach at comcast dot net

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.

typical police hospital

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? 


Comment from burmaa
May 8, 2013 at 10:22 am


Comment from Chris
May 8, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Only if I know the person and then I send a reduced version, text only. I don’t allow cameras, Iphones, etc. to be used to snap pics of the slides during a presentation either.

Comment from Rosemary Schmid
May 8, 2013 at 12:24 pm

You’ve explained the issue quite clearly. How about a brief response that summarizes the “in the moment” style of your presentation that does not lend itself to “sending a copy”? Then, offer a link to this blog, or to some articles you have published that are available on the Internet, or to books you’re a part of related to the topic requested – or in general.
I am one of those people who can’t get to all of the sessions that I’d like to attend. I spend my own money to go to TESOL, but many other adjunct / “part time” folks can’t make it. Your comment doesn’t seem to say “never” but only “not always!” Well-considered.

Comment from Dorothy
May 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Chris, I’ve done that–prepared a text-only version of important points that I offer by email to those who want it. That way people can listen without having to take notes, and we don’t have to worry about making and carrying a ton of handouts that not everybody actually wants. That’s a decision I make in advance as I prepare the talk, though, and not all presentations ‘work’ that way.

Comment from Karen
May 8, 2013 at 1:16 pm

I put what I want to share with the world on a webpage, and then direct people who are interested there.

I did contact presenters from this past TESOL on behalf of my Medical ESL Yahoogroup to ask if the presenters had information on a webpage that I could share with the group, most of whom were unable to attend the conference. If they don’t have anything, that’s fine. If they’ve put something on a webpage, that’s even better!

I would never expect the entire talk, just what the presenter was ready to share.

Comment from Leonie Overbeek
May 8, 2013 at 8:14 pm

I share your caution here – there are materials that I talk about that I’m prepared to share, especially if I talked about some of the vocabulary games I use and developed, but my presentation remains mine. That said, if a presentation I attended contained a slide that I wanted a copy of, I would feel that I could ask the presenter to share that with me, and some have kindly done so. I’d be prepared to reciprocate.

Comment from Ben Shearon
May 8, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Hi Dorothy
Very interesting topic! Recently I have been videotaping my presentations and uploading them to Youtube/my blog… I find that is the best solution for me -people can ‘attend’ after the fact and I keep control of the slides, etc.

Comment from Diane Hdairis
May 8, 2013 at 11:11 pm

Great idea, Ben, for all interested.

Comment from Tamara Jones
May 14, 2013 at 4:41 am

I never mind sharing my presentations, but I convert them to PDF, so my name stays with my work.

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