In I felt naked…, Paul Bogush says,
“I have always been a bit undecided about the whole backchannel and people surfing the web thing at conferences.”
This had me thinking about how I feel towards backchanneling and realized that it doesn’t bother me.
As a presenter, I am offering information to others and how they receive it is up to them. I feel that these people chose to be there and as a professional, I need to treat them as adults and not children forced to be in my class. If people are so bored with my presentation and they are surfing the web, then the problem lies with me and not them. I need to engage them enough to where they want to surf in order to get more information about my topic or lead them to asking other questions. I want them to want to know more about what I’m sharing and hopefully the next time I present, they will want to hear more about what I have to say.
I went to one presentation where the presenter encouraged people to get out their laptops and use their cell phones. Throughout his presentation, he surveyed people and asked them to respond either by using their laptops or cell phones. That is a great way to make the presentation interactive and it helped me pay attention better because I was waiting for this opportunity.
I have taught graduate classes and encouraged my students to bring their laptops to class. I see my lessons as a presentation just like I would do at a conference. When I share new tools or concepts, I encourage them to go to the website that I’m talking about so they can see if they have any questions. Sometimes they might refer to a website that is opposite of what I’m saying and so they need clarification. I would rather have this discussion then have an audience who is bored to tears thinking about the grocery list they need to write out.
I have been to conferences where I have been asked to close my laptop and I find that very insulting. As a professional and an adult, I think that is a decision that I should make. If the presenter is that worried about holding my attention, then they need to look at what type of presentation they have. This also makes me think that this presenter has some kind of inferiority complex which makes me not trust the information that will be shared. I know I may be wrong in this thinking but that is how it makes me feel.
If I know how this makes me feel, I do not want to be that kind of presenter. I want to be an open and transparent presenter who is willing to let people use whatever tools they need in order to be engaged. If they are checking their emails or playing on facebook, then I am not engaging them enough to interest them. I would offer websites or tools for them to check out and even encourage them to look at the site at that moment. I would poll the audience on certain topics in order to engage them in the conversation. In fact, I find the thought of others bringing in their laptops as a sign that they want to be engaged in the conversation and will look through any fluff that I might try to offer. This keeps me on my toes and forces me to make sure that I have my information correct or at least can refer to where I got my information.
People choose to come to my presentations and their time is valuable. I want them to feel that the information I share will in some way improve their lives. If they spend the time resenting me or wishing they had their laptops then I am defeating my purpose and more than likely, they will not return to any presentation I do.
Of course, this is just the way that I feel and you may feel differently. Please share your thoughts!
Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).
Original image: 'An Event Apart Design Conference - December 2009 - San Francisco, CA'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/49503002894@N01/4167212375 by: kris krüg