Let's take a look at 10 basic presentation skills and how they fit into classroom teaching, yet sometimes become forgotten during a conference presentation.
1. Eye contact/eye rotation
Teachers need to look at their students. We need to build a connection with them and establish trust. This is difficult to do if we aren't looking them in the eye. We also need to maintain control of the class, watching to see who might be dozing off, checking their phones a little too long, or getting ready to cause a disturbance. The longer we teach, the more natural it becomes to rotate our line of sight through the different areas of the class. Front-middle, back-right, back-middle, back-left, front-left, etc. Everyone in the audience needs to feel like you are speaking directly to them and making eye contact is a critical aspect of that.
2. Not turning to talk to the screen
I understand that speaking in a new environment can be daunting and, as a teacher, you might be used to being able to look at your computer's monitor when using a PowerPoint deck with your lesson but there are several reasons why a speaker shouldn't have to turn around so often and stare at the projector screen. First, you shouldn't have so many words on the slide that you need to read from them. Second, you should know more about the topic than the audience. Just talk to them about the content of your lesson/talk. Finally, you are supposed to be speaking TO your audience and you can't do that with your back turned to them.
3. Speaking volume/microphone awareness
While many classroom teachers may not have classes big enough to merit using a microphone, they should be used to speaking at a volume so the students in the back row can hear them comfortably. The same thing applies when speaking at a conference. For larger venues where a microphone is needed, be sure not to let the microphone drop if you are holding it or turn away from a fixed-position microphone to look behind you at the screen.
4. Speaking speed
Teachers who teach native speakers can more or less be excused for this one but teachers who teach English (or any language) to second language speakers should be used to speaking slowly and monitoring their vocabulary levels. We need to be aware of these key delivery elements when speaking at conferences as there will often be a variety of English listening abilities among our audience members.
5. Appropriate use of visuals
Whether we are using pictures in a textbook, from supplemental texts, off the internet, or in a PPT, the purpose of our visuals is to show so we don't have to try to tell something and have our students imagine it. Similarly, in a conference presentation, we want to reserve space on our slides for photos, data, and key words to help the audience understand what we are trying to explain. The speaker can then focus on providing explanations and details to compliment the visuals.
6. Familiarization with tech
The first time many teachers got a TV in their rooms with a computer connected to it, hilarity must have ensued. I'm sure half the time it was a student who showed the teacher how to push the TV/AV button on the remote control to change the input from the TV received to the computer. Hopefully, that was a valuable lesson to check the tech before class starts. In any case, it is not uncommon to see conference speakers bomb because they didn't check in advance to see if the internet was connected, whether their video would play without installing additional programs, if there were speakers in the room, or a number of other potential technical issues that could happen during their talk.
Good teachers explain to their students WHY they are covering certain material or undertaking a given activity. Telling students how learning or experiencing something could benefit them later in their academic career or after they graduate can increase student motivation and reduce the likelihood of bad/distracted behavior. Conference speakers should also start with a hook, explaining how the content is relevant to the audience and could benefit them when they go back to work.
I often tell participants in my teacher training workshops that I'm glad they are now able to remember what it's like to be stuck on the other side of the classroom for hours at a time. The best situations are when there are multiple trainers and I ask them to compare and contrast the sessions. Invariably, the "best" trainers had a high energy level and were "passionate" about their topics. If that is what you prefer as an audience member, wouldn't you strive to appear that way when you are in front of the room?
9. Time management
I still talk with some of my friends about the time the plenary speaker "stole our lunch". He was the speaker just before the lunch break and kept talking until 12:15 which meant people didn't hit the restaurants down the street until 12:20 at the earliest. The long lines meant many people were late getting back to the 1pm sessions, all because this "experienced" conference speaker couldn't (or wouldn't) keep track of his time. In his defense, he did appear to be an ivory tower academic more than a humble classroom instructor but surely he had spent years in the classroom prior to that. As teachers, we are always checking the clock to see how long we can let an activity go on and making sure we save a few minutes at the end of class for reminders and questions. For some reason, at a conference that skill can fly right out the window.
Speaking of questions, are we not used to asking for questions at the end of an activity or class? Surely we have developed delaying tactics and the awareness to discern a general question that everyone would be interested in from a specific question that sounds like something we should discuss with that one student after class. Granted, at some conferences, Q&A sessions can be a minefield and a few attendees will want to make your session all about them but a confident, seasoned teacher should be able to manage the room and put arrogant or socially-inept audience members in their place.