I have been on both sides of presentation giving, and as a consequence, I have developed a loathing of PowerPoint. (I have even been to PowerPoint presentations on how to make a PowerPoint presentation. Beat that.)
While none of the presentations I have been to have been memorable — despite the fact that all of the presentations I have GIVEN have been memorable — to ME, MYSELF AND I, here are some memorable presentation moments:
1. The presentation delivered entirely in Maori. It lasted about an hour. There was only one other person in the staffroom who understood Maori. That was the Maori teacher, who kept saying ‘Kia ora’ the whole way through it. At the end we all clapped. For all I knew, the speaker was praising Hitler. I clapped because it was over. By the way, this has nothing to do with the fact I lament that most New Zealanders don’t speak Maori. This is a shame. (The speaker in question wasn’t a New Zealander. He was a Brit who came to New Zealand and lived for a couple of years on a marae — not something most New Zealanders ever think of doing. We grow beards/long hair, buy a Macpac, dress up in clothing from Kathmandu and go to Europe instead.)
2. The day-long presentation about technology, in which the American technology expert had expected to be allocated a computer lab, but was not. He was understandably unimpressed about this, and as teachers ourselves, I suspect the entire audience empathised with him when he told us that his entire day’s schedule relied upon us having computer access, and that he was now having to make up stuff on the spot. Since he had five hours to fill, he spoke very slowly. He started with a bad joke about women. Next, an unfortunate joke about teachers, followed swiftly by a scathing remark about high school teachers. As a female high school teacher, I felt like walking out in protest, but I was there with our associate principal so I didn’t feel that was an option. Later, in the minibus back to our home town, the associate principal told me she’d felt like doing the same. I wish we had. We could have gone shopping in Palmy.
3. The technology presentation in which technology did not work. This wasn’t me, thank goodness. This is what I always FEARED would happen to me whenever I had to give a presentation with the help of a data projector. After a room full of teachers had piled into a room at an IT conference, the carefully prepared presentation failed to work. The data projector did not work; the computer itself did not work. After ten minutes or so, the poor guy at the front shrugged his shoulders and decided to just talk about Wikipedia instead. (This was when Wikipedia was new and groundbreaking.) I remember the presentation not for what he said, but for the strident school librarian in the audience, who took over proceedings by explaining the evils of Wikipedia and other online, user-generated information. “This will be the end of research!” she decried.
4. The IT Conference guest speaker who admitted as a side-note that he’d been a high school teacher once himself, but left after only a year, and then went on to have a successful career in IT journalism. At the end of his speech, one high school teacher in the audience asked what I’d been wanting to know myself: Why had he left high school teaching? I remember his uncomfortable laugh; I also remember his sheepish reply because it fit me too, at the time: In short, the politics of education wore him down. Two years later I left high school teaching myself, and I sometimes wonder if I would have, had it not been for people like him, whose experience in teaching paved his way into his next career. I felt less trapped. I’m sure this wasn’t the point of sending young teachers away to flash conferences, but there you have it.