Something to “wow” the audience

You know the kind of day? 07:15am? Deadlines on the horizon? Juggling skills under pressure? It’s Armistice Day (and your oldest granddaughter’s 20th birthday). And a good colleague (and friend) sends a message to say that she’s presenting at a conference in 10 days’ time and needs something to “wow” the audience.

Maryam’s not just a good friend who has rescued me on occasion; she’s the most talented educator I have ever witnessed in action, I think. (And I’ve watched many impressive people.) By “wow”, she has something technological in mind. She clearly needs a hand.

Fireworks, Pyrotechnics, New Year, Festival

I establish that it is a face-to-face conference (phew) – much easier than online! The only thing that I can think of is voting software that I used about 10 years ago (and can’t remember the name of …) And that needs dedicated hardware. In an East African institution, going through a trial-by-procurement-jury sounds beyond the reach of the context.

Given the state of my day, I turn to that treasure trove – the SEDA listserv – and outline the challenge. Within FIVE minutes, the first idea pings into my inbox. And they keep coming.  Within 3½ hours, I (reluctantly) close the conversation.

I kept a running list of ideas as they come in, so when I close the conversation, the list is ready to go. Or so I think. But I forgot to save anything beyond the first idea, and Maryam receives a (somewhat underwhelming) single idea. The more so because it is something that she knows about. Her puzzled response to my message (“plenty of ideas”) makes me go back to the document I sent … and blush. Fortunately, it is still open on my desktop in all its glory, so I save it (redeeming my reputation!) and send the revised document. She is overjoyed.

What, you ask, came from the SEDA community? Well, in my head the suggestions fall into three categories: techy stuff, low-tech ideas and approaches to presenting. Each idea a gem.

The digital ideas are: Kahoot; using an embedded Microsoft form in PowerPoint for ‘instant reporting’; Google Jamboard; Poll Everywhere; using QR codes; Quizlet; Framapad (collaborative editing); Web Whiteboard;; Flipgrid; Catchbox. “Analogue” suggestions were: Plickers, Coloured cards (or module handbooks with front and back covers in different colours) for audience responses; demonstrating learning people’s names quickly; standing up/sitting down for binary (yes/no or true/false) answers … with follow-on binary questions to focus on the topic (and find the last person standing)!

SEDA’s blog guidelines allow me 500 words. I’m on 421 right now, so you’ll need to Google any ideas that catch your fancy.

Lastly, approaches to presentations were fascinating: use <Ctrl>+B to switch off your PowerPoint when you see people’s attention wandering … <Ctrl>+B to resume; speak without notes or PowerPoint; have your PowerPoint presentation argue with you; conference space.

Thank you, Maryam Ismail at SUZA, for setting this ball rolling!

Enjoy exploring these ideas next time you want to “wow” the audience!  I’m out of words. 

Ruth Brown, Higher Education Consultant

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