225 comments on “Presenters in peril – is Twitter to blame??!!!

  1. If Lady Ga-Ga’s songs are put out on the internet free for everyone…would people still show up at the concert? Would they still dance and sing along if they knew what words were coming next? If people in attendance at one concert tweeted out what she was doing would that hurt attendance at the next concert?

    Maybe this will create presenters who make “performances” out of their “talks,” rather than just making more slide shows with words🙂 Maybe the only presenters who are nervous about this are the ones that are just delivering their words, instead of making a connection with each individual audience and delivering some deeper meaning that requires their presence to be felt, that requires them to look an audience in the eyes, and slightly customize their presentations words, tone, questions, and body language based on the people sitting in front of them.

    I have been in the situation where I have read every book, blog post, and tweet about someone and then watched them talk and have been deeply disappointed. The opposite has also happened. A great performer…a great teacher…a great story teller can be heard over and over no matter how many times their on line videos or tweets about their previous speaking engagements have been viewed.

    • Hi Paul,

      thanks for your comments. ELT presenters as Lady Gaga! Now there’s a thought…

      yes, of course every speaker has to always make contact with the people she or he is talking to. Nevertheless you wouldn’t want to teach the same lesson twice would you – however much it changed as it went on?

      Jeremy

      • I was actually going to include an example about teaching a lesson twice…
        There are days when I love teaching a lesson four times, each time slightly different. And there are some years that I look forward to teaching the same lesson, each time slightly different. Just last week I taught a lesson and thought I can’t wait to do the same thing next year.
        So I guess I would want to teach the same lesson twice, just like I would want to play my favorite song twice.

    • Paul.

      Lady Ga-Ga is on record as saying that she doesn’t care who puts her stuff online as the money is in touring. The same cannot, though, be said of ELT…

      Gavin

  2. Given that a presentation, like a class, is never a static thing, and given also that the river is always flowing forward and never twice the same, I don’t see any of this as problematic. Essentially, I have been giving the same presentation for 25 years (with different titles along the way) and if anyone has noticed, what I hope they’ve seen is my growth both as an educator and as a person over time. The same presentation is never the same presentation, really, is it?

    As for tweets: I appreciate those who send them out during my own talks and appreciate those who send out tweets during presentations I would like to have attended but couldn’t. Those tweets are “nuggets” though, as Scott might say, and never will be anything more than that. They do serve the note-taking purpose you mention, but they also serve to create a bit of buzz — which is rarely a bad thing. Thank goodness no one tweets things like “he’s wearing THAT sweater again” or “if i hear that joke one more time I’m going to scream” but even if they did, that would be feedback worth having. One would want to ditch the sweater and come up with some new jokes before heading out the next time around.

    And videos online? No one really sits at home watching hour long pre-recorded plenaries, do they? There’s a reason TED set an 18 minute long limit for its videoed talks, and it’s got nothing to do with limits on youtube or elsewhere. Besides, none of us are likely to get 1,000,000s of hits on our videoed talks: a few hundred at best, but then seeing that someone has clicked on a videoed presentation does not mean they’ve sat through it to the end. I rarely do. Do you?

    • It’s true, Chuck, that every iteration of a talk is different – especially if there is an interactive element in the talk (and maybe I am really making a case for more interaction and less talk – not always easy, though, when you’re doing a plenary at KOTESOL or JALT, say).

      On the other hand, there is a lot that is the SAME about each iteration, too. The reading text that I am going to reveal to you, chunk by chunk, and on which you are going to bring your predictive skills to bear, is an activity that is spoiled if you’ve already seen the text. If subsequent sections of the talk build on that activity and on that text, it’s not simply a case of finding a new text for each time you give the talk – it’s having to design a whole new talk, effectively. Many of the activities I do in my talks rely on an element of surprise, not least because I think it’s a sound pedagogical principle when teaching grammar,for instance. If the surprise is NOT a surprise, not only is the point lost, the activity flops, and the audience is likely to feel short-changed.

      • Hello Scott,

        yes, it’s the killing of the surprise, the great ‘punch-line’ conclusion to a piece of the talk that can never be the same if we have heard it again.

        And yet…I HAD seen Guy Cook’s translation talk before and it was better the 2nd time round.

        Hmmm. Looking forward to your next (longer) comment)

        Jeremy

    • Hi Chuck,

      great to have you along!

      I think (I hope) you are right about people not watching the whole video talk. Perhaps that should give us comfort?

      I very much hope that we do grow as educators – and that this is visible to those who we work with!

      And I think I do agree that tweets from conferences are more about buzz than anything else. But when i was sending out tweets from Guy Cook’s wonderful talk about translation yesterday I did TRY and ‘get it right’….

      Jeremy

    • Chuck, I can tell you from my statistics that a half-hour talk of mine I posted on my own blog has been played watched 577 times, 42 times to the end, which I am pretty happy with. The interviews I’ve done do even better – between 20% and 30% of people who start watching them get all the way through, which adds up to a fair number. Most of the video interviews are upwards of the TED time limit.

      I’ll admit, I have watched an entire recorded plenary on my laptop, although it was a speaker a have a great deal of respect for talking about a topic which particularly interests me. A lot of the time, I can barely sit through a plenary as it takes place in front of me ; P

    • Chuck, I can tell you from my statistics that a half-hour talk of mine I posted on my own blog has been played watched 577 times, 42 times to the end, which I am pretty happy with. The interviews I’ve done do even better – between 20% and 30% of people who start watching them get all the way through, which adds up to a fair number. Most of the video interviews are upwards of the TED time limit. I’ve thought about this, and I know that we should pitch things to people’s attention spans, but I decided that there is plenty out there for people who want a three minute surface skim over a topic. I wouldn’t claim to have any great depth myself, but I have made the decision to put out videos (presentations / interviews) at their natural length. One hundred people will get bored and start doing something else, but maybe ten or twenty will follow along and get something new out of it.

      I’ll admit, I have watched an entire recorded plenary on my laptop, although it was a speaker a have a great deal of respect for talking about a topic which particularly interests me. A lot of the time, I can barely sit through a plenary as it takes place in front of me, so I’m a bit of a hypocrite really!

  3. Interesting issue, Jeremy, and while I sympathise to an extent (and with all due respect) I have to admit I don’t think the concern has (enough) merit, for a couple of reasons:

    1. The audience for a talk at a conference is (relatively speaking) minute. On the one hand only certain teachers in certain places are benefitting from exposure to it (raises the issue of inequality amongst teachers and contexts, I guess), and on the other hand the presenter’s good work is not reaching (or resonating) as far as it might with something like Twitter and video. I think any presenter worth their salt in ELT is (or ought to be) more interested in reaching as many teachers as possible, in whatever format makes it feasible. As an example, the chances of ever seeing Harmer or Thornbury here in Australia strike me as being remote or once-in-a decade possibilities. Does that mean I shouldn’t benefit from the substance of your excellent work in the field, because you’re worried you won’t be able to recycle the same presentation in places I will never get to? (Should add: I know both you and Scott well enough to know neither of you would ever adopt such a selfish position — this was just a handy hypothetical example!)

    2. The presenter’s (and I use the term here as a generalisation, not with specific reference to Scott or yourself) worry about not being able to use the same talk in a variety of places or conferences means, quite simply, that they need to adjust and consider that this might represent certain advantages. Among them, challenging oneself to bring something new to each event (rather than endlessly recycling), or adding to work already done with new developments (presenters could then encourage an audience to look at the videos for previous presentations on the topic to get an orientation ahead of the next talk in this ‘series’), and/or taking one’s previous talk and doing the necessary homework to adequately localise it to the context one is presenting in.

    3. Presenters may be missing the massive potential for promotion that web 2.0 represents. A tweeted presentation which is obviously getting a good reception is an excellent advertisement to either go see that presentation for oneself at another event, or for a business or organisation to actually request the speaker for an upcoming event. By way of example, I found the tweets about Guy Cook’s presentation on Translation absolutely fascinating and really thought-provoking, but I still want to see the actual flesh on the skeleton the Tweets formed, I want to see Guy do it in person, and you can bet on it I will be going to see him if he’s presenting at an event I happen to attend in the future.

    In short, a couple of relatively minor negatives in this process and development (for individual presenters) pale in comparison to the opportunities, for teachers and of course the presenters themselves.

    =D

    – Jason

    • Jason, you say it’s good that speakers are challenged to bring something new to each event – and I agree in principle, but there’s a limit to how many talks you can keep creating, especially when conference organisers seldom reimburse you for the preparation time you put in. The experience I had last month in Slovenia was a happy exception: my sponsors (a publisher) paid me not only for giving the presentation, but for the time spent traveling (one day on either side) AND for the time preparing the talk as well. Perhaps if more presenters demanded this, there would be more originality at conferences. More often, though, the expectation is that you will press a button somewhere in your head and the talk will magically spill out.

    • Hi Jason,

      thanks for your comments. I find myself in sympathy with the sense that presenters may be somewhat selfish and should stop worrying about it (I think I got that feeling).

      I DO entirely accept that the benefits for people ‘out there’ are great and we should bear that in mind.

      I’ll stop there and read Scott’s longer (and no doubt more developed) comments…

      Jeremy

  4. Jeremy,

    I followed Scott’s tweets on the subject today, and my opinion is very similar to the responses (I saw) being tweeted to him: no, tweets about a session and film of it are not spoilers. We might know the main issues raised in a plenary (I do believe Scott made a point of setting the difference between sessions/ presentations and plenaries), we may even discuss them as they are tweeted – though as much as I am crazy about twitter I’m not sure we can really develop discussions thoroughly in it. But I think we’d all agree it will never substitute the real thing, being in the auditorium. Much like the lessons (you mentioned) we adore and use again and again, we never do the same lesson exactly the same way twice: the audience is different, the ideas are different… In short, in my (humble) opinion you have not ruined Scott’s life.

    You also ask whether the tweets from people participating / narrating a conference really inform the people who read them or if they are just “mood music” – love the term by the way! As someone who followed the same tweets which initiated this whole debate closely (and was really sad not to have wi-fi in the afternoon to follow your session but who read the whole transcript made available by Marisa Constantinides later) I can say they not only inform, but they incite reflection, discussions among those who are following. Are these great, deep discussions??? No, but they’re a beginning, they ignite something in the person following, a desire to know more, to read more on the topic and develop the thinking further.

    I have followed tweeting from/of several sessions / conferences since I joined twitter, many from your talks, from Jamie Keddie’s, Ken Wilson’s, Lindsay Clanfield’s, Gavin Dudeney’s – the list is endless – and if anything, they’ve made me want to attend the sessions I joined discussions about. So the tweeting raises interest, it increases it, not kills it.

    As for the filming… I’m going out here and shoot my own feet, but I am not so sure about filming. Even though I have watched films of conferences I couldn’t attend – and love to have that made available – I have to be totally honest and admit I am not sure I’d attend one of those sessions live if I were at a conference where I had the opportunity if there was a concurrent session I also wanted to attend. Because despite what I said about two lessons never being the same, the essence is the same, most activities and what we say is the same… I think I’d go to the other session. (I’m afraid some people want to kill me for saying this…)

    I hope I was able to answer your questions. Please don’t stop tweeting sessions and plenaries you go to. Your remarks and questions always get me going and thinking – as I am sure many others. And Scott. your session is one I most want to attend – the first opportunity I have – BECAUSE of the tweets I have seen.

    Chilly regards from Yorkshire,

    Cecilia

    • Hi Cecilia,

      I hope people DON’T want to kill you!

      I think I probably agree that tweets from a conference don’t ruin things too much. Thinking of what I did at the IH DOS conference, people may have an idea of the activities I used and the points I made: they may even have picked up some of the poems I used. But thinking about it, if the talk is any good, it is the SOUND of the poems being read that matters. So Twitter has been fine for me.

      But they filmed the session – I let them because it felt churlish to say no – and that IS, as you say, a different thing. Will people who watch the film (if anyone does) want to hear the same poems again? Well it IS a bit like theatre, I guess, so maybe. But maybe people like you would say ‘seen that. Don’t want to see it again!’

      By the way, I am not asking that question about me; just that because the session had (on purpose)definite performance elements, then maybe (just maybe) people won’t be put off seeing the ‘performance’ again…? And that is the same for all plenary events?

      (as Gavin seems to be saying below)

      Jeremy

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  6. I agree. They’re not spoilers. I don’t mind when people do it and usually I put my slides and a notes page online for the attendees afterward. I do it mostly because I don’t want to photocopy anything for a handout (blush). In any case, I thought about whether I was shooting myself in the foot by doing so, but in the end, if someone’s been to my talk before, they won’t go to the same one again. There are lots of different people out there.

    • I put my slides up too, but I edit them carefully so there are fewer ‘spoilers’. And I agree, that ‘there are lots of people out there’. But if you’ve been asked to give a plenary (and it’s the plenaries that tend to get filmed) it’s just you – there’s no one else they can go and see instead. So there’s quite a lot of pressure to be original. I’m not saying this is a bad thing: I think it’s very good that speakers make that effort. But I think that the consequences, for speakers, haven’t always been taken into account.

      • Yes, Scott, that’s right…a concurrent session is one thing (not going to come and see you because I’ve seen that session online, but a plenary? You have no option if you want to stay in the conference!

        Jeremy

      • Hmm. Having only presented one plenary myself, I probably can’t comment well on them as a whole. I likely will never do that plenary again though; it seems special, less-straight-for-classroom-use. I suspect future plenaries I do will have the same feel for me. Of course, I don’t expect that’ll happen very frequently.

        In the end, I see your point. Perhaps it’s one advantage to the ELT community in Canada being less tech-friendly. Haha.

    • Hi!

      Yes, but of course some of the people who see your slides online won’t have been to the talk and when they do fins themselves in your session they may think ‘oh damn…seen it all before’!!

      Jeremy

      • Hi Jeremy,

        That might be true, but just like students who think they know a grammar point just because they’ve been introduced to it previously, attendees may think the talk is just an animated version of the information on slides they’ve seen, but obviously (hopefully) it isn’t.

        It’s up to us to ensure what we say is more important and engaging than what’s simply on the slides. It’s the speaker that makes the talk worthwhile, not the presentation. Attendees usually realise this if not before, after the talk is given.

        If after they still think “oh damn…”, then really, they weren’t paying attention and just want to complain. That says something about them, doesn’t it?

        Tyson

  7. Interesting question Jeremy, and one that I am well aware applies even more with online conferences and webinars in virtual rooms, for example Elluminate, where the presentations are recorded and often made available to non-attendees.

    I suspect the real issue is the rapid/instant nature of the dissemination and the “reach”. In the past conference procedings have always been shared with participants and more broadly, but by much slower processes and over a much smaller audience. This enables a presenter to get more “mileage” out of a single presentation before it becomes too well known.

    For me as an individual recordings lack the flavour, immediacy and opportunity to participate actively and so they are only a pale shadow of the real thing whether that is virtual or face-to-face. Sometimes I have attended sessions because I have seen recordings or segments of a presentation on a topic by that person and have enjoyed what I have seen. So for me it cuts both ways.

    I have Tweeted from several virtual conferences and I find it useful for me as it means I have to actively engage with the material to summarise as we go. Organisers and presenters have usually been very positive about this. From the other side I find that Tweets about conference sessions give me enough information to let me know whether I want more in which case I may join immediately if the conference is virtual, or catch the recording. I also almost invariably visit the blog/website etc of the presenter.

    I rarely repeat exactly what we have done on a previous occasion whether it is a lesson or a conference session and I’m sure this is true of most of us. We “tweak” for different audiences and sometimes, certainly for me, input from the audience changes the direction and balance of the presentation considerably.

    So I don’t personally think the more rapid and widespread dissemination of conference presentation content is an issue that precludes the re-use of a presentation. It may lead to more in-depth questions being asked if some participants are already familiar with some of the content. For me, as is probably true for most of us, this would be a good thing.

    I live and work in rural Western Australia with most face-to-face conferences completely unaccessible because of costs and travel time. Tweets and recordings from conferences help me to keep up to date with what is going on in the world of teaching and learning in a way that was impossible for me even when I lived and worked in the UK.

    Jo Hart

    • Hi Jo,

      so glad you came along and commented…

      I think the value of online films and twitter etc (especially if you live in rural Australia or rural anywhere else!!) is inestimable. Fantastic. great.

      I also agree that you don’t get exactly what you saw on film when you see someone ‘love’.

      But there IS a difference between films and those ‘conference proceedings’ we used to rely on. Reading a report of a session does not give you a feel for what it was like to ‘be’ there, but watching a film does.

      I am still hanging on to the idea that many people do not actually watch all the way through (Chuck Sandy’s point above)- or, also, that having watched the film you *might* want to watch the real thing!

      Jeremy

  8. IMHO, neither twitter nor online videos are a menace to the future of presenters. 140-character long messages will never be able to bring anyone to the atmosphere of the conference hall. Microblogging is a wonderful tool for real-time sharing and databank of the content of conferences, specially for those unable to attend them for any reason.

    In fact, I believe that these snippets work beautifully as teasers, and not spoilers as one might claim. We can get a teaspoon of a seminar through twitter, youtube, etc… But never the main course.

  9. I really see it as this…. what’s the rush? I think a lot of people have to slow down – the truth, the message – it ain’t going nowhere.

    David

  10. Yes, agree with people who have pointed out that what you get from twitter are not spoilers. I followed your feed from Scott’s plenary and so I know what the 6 big ideas and 1 small one are – which only leaves me feeling “I would love to hear Scott talking for an hour on those 7 subjects”. In short, I don’t think for a moment that twitter does anything to “spoil” talks. I’m less certain about video-ed talks being freely available – but ultimately I think that people who have seen a talk before have to make a conscious decision to be there and see it again or not, and the presenter is therefore not “required” to make it an entirely different experience. (This is no different from pre-twitter days, since there was always a possibility that you would have people in one audience who had already seen the talk). The problem then is if you rename the talk but it is in essence the same talk as then people might feel that they have been tricked into seeing the same thing twice.

    • Hi Andy,

      thanks for your comments. And because you were following the tweets and now ‘know’ the architecture of Scott’s talk, I am pleased that it has acted (as one or two others say) as a way of wanting you to hear the whole thing ‘live’.

      And thanks too for reminding me/us that the ‘audience’ have some freedom of action in this. If you have seen it before maybe (like Gavin and Herbert Puchta below) you may happily see it again, but you can vote with your feet and stay away. It’s up to you!

      But giving a talk a different name? That’s a bit rubbish to be honest. Of course content moves from one talk to the other, but not the whole content…

      Jeremy

      • I regularly re-name talks (but the abstract remains the same) so as to accommodate the conference theme (I know that nobody really takes these themes seriously, but…) So, at one conference a talk might be called ‘Grammar for the 21st Century’ and the same talk will be re-born somewhere else as ‘Grammar: The Way Ahead’ or ‘Grammar: Coping with Change’ or ‘Grammar: what’s hot and what’s not’ etc (I’m making these up, but you get the idea).

  11. If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to draw a parallel with the world of football. I read an article a couple of years ago celebrating 50 years of Match of the Day (the BBC’s match highlights programme for those of you who aren’t familiar). It seems hard to believe in these days when TV coverage and money dominates so much but the big teams at the time were against the idea as they were worried the knowledge that the match would later be broadcast would result in fans not actually attending at the stadium. Now, I’m not suggesting that TEFL conferences will eventually have multi-million pound deals for global coverage, rather that in time, tweeting ‘live’ from events, blogging after them and posting video recordings will eventually be seen as a normal part of proceedings.

    I also think we shouldn’t forget that not everybody involved in ELT and on the conference circuit uses Twitter or is active in online PD. Even if a couple of attendees at an event have seen tweets about the plenary before or watched a video recording of it, the majority won’t have. Besides, a good presentation is worth repeating, right?

    • Hi Dave,

      sorry I came to this a bit late.

      I love the football analogy! Yes and people still go to matches all the time (though they get mad when people tell them the score before they watch them on TV).

      I am beginning to think (based on the comments here) that it is true that not THAT many people watch this stuff all the way through (unless it’s Scott of course!!!)

      Jeremy

  12. Dear Jeremy,
    As someone who followed the DOS conference tweets as they were appearing, I really enjoyed the chance to join in with something I couldn’t attend. As a lot of the comments have already stated, I think the chance for a wider discussion is a great advantage of tweeting and filming.
    Chuck also mentioned the very slim chance that people will watch the whole of a youtube video. That is, of course, providing they’re already following the discussion and have found the link in the first place. Lamentably few teachers are engaged in these online communities, so I think there is still a big enough audience who are unaware the videos and tweets even exist!
    I hope you won’t be dissuaded from continuing with your presentations, as someone who would love the chance to come to one of your talks!
    Sandy

    • Hello Sandy,

      I meant to reply before.
      It would be great if you were at one of the talks!
      I think in the end you are probably right. Not THAT many people watch these things unless they happen to get a ‘following’ or are used on t training courses. So we are probably all right?
      And I am persuaded by people who say that watching a talk by e.g. Scott or Gavin or Andy or you when they can’t get to conferences….that IS worthwhile.
      Jeremy

  13. Since it was my comments that precipitated this discussion (including some off-list exchanges with Jeremy) can I first of all thank Jeremy for going public with the issue, and for the thoughtful responses that it has already elicited.

    Let me explain my point of view and associated worries.

    1. Seeing something you’ve seen before – unless it’s a work of art – is never the same as seeing it fresh. For me personally, I am usually irritated if a conference presentation by a big-name speaker is one I have seen before, and has simply been re-packaged. My immediate reaction is (no matter how good the talk is): I could have gone to see someone else instead.

    2. More to the point, I have been guilty of this myself. For example, a plenary talk I gave a few years ago in Seville, and to which I’d given a new title so as to reflect the conference theme, had been seen by many of the attendees a year before in Huelva – and I (justifiably, in my opinion) got a number of negative comments about this in the conference evaluation.

    3. Like Cecilia, I’d probably not go and see a talk that I’d also seen on film – and I’d be irritated if – because it was a plenary – I had no other choice. Attendees often travel large distances and are charged a lot to attend conferences, and it’s reasonable of them to expect that what they’re getting is not yesterday’s dinner re-heated.

    4. For all these reasons, and because attendees’ expectations have been raised over the last decade or so (gone are the days when a noted academic could get away with simply reading a set piece aloud) conference presenters – especially plenary speakers – are under a lot of pressure to deliver something original and well-crafted. Powerpoint, video, and internet access, have all improved the quality of presentations immeasurably (although it still gladdens my heart to see speakers like David Crystal dispense with all three) and the effort that goes into preparing a talk is now relatively time-consuming. I don’t begrudge this time, but life is too short to be preparing a new talk for every conference I’m asked to speak at.

    5. Even without being filmed and tweeted, over-exposure is always a problem. I give very few talks in Spain now, for this reason. And, because in the last two years I have given plenary talks at least half a dozen important conferences in Turkey, I declined an invitation to go back there this coming spring: I’d simply run out of talks that I could be sure – for most attendees – would be new. When, however the organisers insisted, I relented – realising that I still had one plenary talk that hadn’t yet been seen in Turkey. That was the talk that I gave on Friday, the one that was both filmed and tweeted around the world. Admittedly the film – to which I gave my consent (it would be churlish not to) – is only for internal use, but I can’t help feeling that this is yet another talk that I’m going to have to ditch soon.

    6. To the argument to the effect that ‘It doesn’t matter, people come to see the speaker not the talk’, I can only say that I find this somewhat demeaning, as if conference speakers are simply performers, and that the content doesn’t really matter. Seeing Jack Richards, say, give a talk is not the same as going to a Dylan concert and basking in the performance of a familiar song. In the latter case, it probably doesn’t matter how many times you’ve heard the song – in fact, the more times the better – the pleasure is in this unique here-and-now performance. That is simply not the case with conference presentations – or, at least, I hope it’s not. Rather than bask in his performance, I want to hear what Jack has to say.

    7. While I am sympathetic to the argument that a twitter feed or livestreaming a conference prsentation or making a video available afterwards provides access to people who otherwise can’t attend, those who are broadcasting the presentation in these ways have to accept that in so doing they are reducing the likelihood of that presentation ever being seen ‘live’ again. A plenary talk that I gave two years ago and is now available on YouTube has been viewed over 6000 times. That’s simply not a talk I can ever give again. (A related point: when conference presenters accept a fee to present, do they automatically waive their right to control how the subsequent film is used? If they do, perhaps they should think of charging a bit more).

    8. Boo-hoo, I can hear you say! You are lucky that you ARE invited to give talks, travel to exotic locations, be wined and dined and (sometimes) even paid for the privilege. Yes, I AM lucky. I’m certainly not complaining. I just think that conference organisers and attendees should be aware of the consequences of broadcasting. If I say ‘no’ to your invitation to speak at your conference, you now know the likely reason.

    • Regarding the tweeting/recording of the plenary you plan to give in Turkey (and one which I hope to attend), I don’t think Twitter is a big problem here. I am active on Twitter and am often online while doing other things on my computer and I follow most of the people who were tweeting on the #DOSconference hashtag and yet I didn’t catch the tweets about your talk, certainly not enough to make me think there’s no point in attending your session here. I maintain that attendees who have seen some tweets from a previous version of the plenary will be a very small minority in the audience.

      Video recording is a different issue though as the potential reach of hosting recordings on a site like YouTube is much greater. You mention that speakers should perhaps expect higher fees if the session is to be recorded and made publically available but there’s another point worth thinking about: in the event that the speaker is paid to give a talk, do the conference organisers have a right to feel aggrieved if the same talk is repeated elsewhere?

      • Dave, I don’t think conference organisers care a toss if your talk is repeated elsewhere – AFTER the event. And most probably don’t care if you’ve done it somewhere else before, either: they tend to want YOU, the performing monkey, and you might as well be talking about anything, really.

        But I take it as a matter of professional pride that – if asked to do a plenary – it will be original, in the sense that few people are likely to have seen it before. In the old days, this was easy to control, simply by being aware of geography. But nowadays it is impossible to monitor: a talk I gave in Ulan Bator may now have been seen by 200 teachers in Patagonia.

    • Haha. Interesting question! One response is to kindly offer them to teach it to other students. They never accept my request. In the end, one lesson never works out to being exactly the same as a previously taught one.

    • Hi Scott,

      What a fantastic discussion this post turned out to be!

      in response to your question, as to how we, as teachers, feel when students say they have done a lesson before… well, that has happened to me a few times, and I always tell m students there’s a point for me to bringing it up again. But I guess that IS different when we are referring to plenaries…

      As an atendee, however, I do have to say that I would still go to a plenary, even if I had watched it on Youtube or whatever before (and yes Jeremy, there ARE those of us who watch the videos all the way – I am eagerly raising my hand here, goody-good atendee I am. I think watching it live is different, the emotion, the thrill, the little differences, the possibility of interaction…). I agree with Dave Didgson when he says not as many people are active on online PD as we might think (unfortunately), but unlike him – an despite being from the 5-time-world-cup-champion-country my analogy will not be a football one, but rather a music one – a topic you are passionate about as well Jeremy.

      Who would decline the chance of going to a concert by a band/singer he/she likes because you have the CD or show DVD?? Not me, and not many people I know!

      • Good point, Cecilia. I know people who go to the same artist’s concerts in a tour over and over and over. Sure, music may not be entirely comparable to a plenary, but even if I’d watched it online, I’d still want the live experience so I could interact during it or after it in Q&A. I would imagine that most speakers would vary up what they say from conference to conference a little. Otherwise, it becomes mundane to them too.

  14. Tweets from conferences create interest. They make the reader want to hear the rest of the argument, the fine detail which can’t be tweeted. They may, therefore, actually increase the desire on the part of the reader to go to see the presentation.

    Filming is a problem. The only practical way forward I can see is for speakers to be given the right to decide when a video should be released, presumably after the talk has been given on a number of occasions and has reached its ‘present by’ date, but not its ‘view by’ date. Anyone have any other suggestions?

    • Glennie said “The only practical way forward I can see is for speakers to be given the right to decide when a video should be released, presumably after the talk has been given on a number of occasions and has reached its ‘present by’ date, but not its ‘view by’ date”.

      This is very good advice, and other speakers should take it to heart. In fact, when the video that I referred to above was filmed (at the New School in NY) I asked the producers not to release it until after the JALT conference in Japan (two months later) where I was to give the same talk – they kindly agreed. I did this less through fear of the ‘spoiler effect’ than out of respect for the conference organisers, who (I assumed) had the right to expect something new.

      Another problem with films, though, is that you have little control over them – not just their ditribution – but their editing, or, more to the point, the lack thereof. Last Friday, while I was being filmed, a video clip in my powerpoint unaccountabely failed to work (it had worked half an hour before when I’d given the technology a trial run), which meant a few minutes faffing about – all caught on film. I asked the cameraman if this could be edited out and he agreed – but you don’t always have this option.

      Just as there’s no way of controlling what people are tweeting. I’m not suggesting that there should be – but I hope those who are reading the tweets realise that the version of the talk that they are getting is a highly selective, and possibly unreliable, one. I would not want Talk X to be evaluated on the basis of Tweet Y.

    • Hi Glennie,

      I like the idea of a ‘release’ date. But of course even that poses the question of when that date should be…

      I always try to insist on a copy, at least, of the film.

      Jeremy

  15. This is a very interesting issue as it is very new and tech related and I find it highly valuable that teachers and presenters take time to reflect aupon it.
    I don’t think twitter is “to blame”. I enjoy tweets about presentations and conferences, they give the flavour, the atmosphere, the enthusiasm of what is going on. Not the real Mc Coy.
    I really think that no teacher or presenter gives the *exact* same conference/speech/ lesson each time. Different public each time, but also… different presenter !! what I mean is : bearing in mind all the discussions, experiences, readings, meetings that the same presenter has experienced in between speeches, will he/her really give the very *same* conference, speech, lesson?
    Certainly not. When I really enjoy a play, I *love* to see it a second or even a third time because… it’s never the same !! most of the times it’s better !
    And even *if* some presenters managed to deliver the *exact* same presentation, interaction with pulic would be different, which would in turn slightly change the course of the presentation.
    I think twitter and recording presentations will help presenters to think more about interaction, feedback and about the *evolution* of their thinking in between talks.
    This can only be beneficial to everyone.

    • Hi Alice,

      I find myself hoping that you are right – that people quite enjoy seeing the same thing again in a different context. Talks DO need to evolve, and as all actors know, the show is never the same if the audience is different.

      What we are skirting round a bit, I think, is that big plenary events are a bit like theatre – hence my comments earlier about speaking poems etc.

      Of course, then we might say that a plenary in an EDUCATION conference should not be like theatre.

      Should it?

      Jeremy

      • I suppose that what underlies my worries is the extent to which plenaries HAVE become performance events, a tendency exacerbated by the proliferation of presentation technologies over the last decade or so, such that if your talk is not ‘all singing, all dancing’, adverse comparisons might be made wth previous plenary speakers. Gone are the days when a few smudged overheads were all you needed. And, while these technolgoical innovations are on the whole very welcome, they are not without their problems (as I discovered to my cost on Friday). Moreover, there is a real danger of the medium (including the speaker’s own wise-cracking style) becoming more important than the message. Which is the drift I’m getting from some of the above comments, i.e. it doesn’t matter what you say, we just want to watch you saying it.

      • Jeremy,

        Isn’t life a big theatre, somehow?
        What should be avoided, I think, is not performance, it’s stardom. But by making the “performance” unique and secret and available only to “the happy few”, the making of ELT stars is reinforced.
        By opening the window, on the contrary, inspiration and vocations of other presenters may emerge.

  16. Pingback: Tweets that mention Presenters in peril – is Twitter to blame??!!! « Jeremy Harmer's Blog -- Topsy.com

  17. Jeremy,

    Thanks for an interesting post – a theme that’s been bubbling under for quite some time now. Why do people go to plenaries?

    Well, plenaries are often (but not always) given by carefully-chosen people. They often (but not always) address a core theme of the conference. They’re often (but not always) given by ‘experts’ in that theme. They’re often (but not always) the result of someone having seen the speaker before and thinking that they would be ideal for a particular conference. They’re often (but not always) given by a small handful of people who spend each year travelling around the world trying to do a good job, but also get a decent return on the investment they put in (as Scott intimates) to the preparation.

    They’re generally the only thing on at that time – you either go to the plenary or waste your time on shopping or other pursuits. Plenaries are complicated animals…

    By a quirk of programming last year, Herbert Puchta and I ended up doing plenaries at three consecutive conferences. We each attended the other’s? Why? Well, there’s professional courtesy, for one. Then there’s the simple fact (and here I diverge from Scott) that a plenary is a performance, and no performance is the same as the last. I watched different audiences react to Herbert’s plenary, I picked up different things each time, I consolidated my knowledge of his theme, I benefitted from his as a speaker. Much as with a singer, each performance was different, enjoyable and stimulating.

    Put it this way, if you had two talks on leadership at the same time, one by Herbert Puchta and one by John Neverheardofhim, which one would you choose? Or, rather, which one would most conference attendees choose? We go to plenaries not just because there’s nothing else to compete with the, but because we do want to see a performance, as well as learn something. There’s nothing demeaning in being considered a good performer. Our profession could do with many more of them.

    Whether we like it nor not, plenaries are sold as much on who is giving them (and their reputation as an entertainer) as they are on the likelihood of good and stimulating content. The mere fact that people tweet or video these talks will never (IMHO) deter anyone from going to see that speaker live. For me it is the difference between listening to a great album, and watching the commitment, excitement, wonder, enthusiasm and enjoyment of the same group performing it live to an audience willing them to do it well and give a good account of themselves. Nothing compares…

    I’ve seen Scott give many brilliant talks over the past ten years (sometimes more than once). He’s never disappointed me in terms of craft, content and delivery. Watching it on video is never going to come close to that, and a few short tweets is never going to recreate the happening.

    I’m happy to be tweeted, blogged, videoed and all the rest, and have been for some time. I haven’t noticed a drop in session audiences, nor ‘bookings’, nor do people rush up to me and groan ‘not that old joke’… it simply hasn’t happened. What has happened, conversely, is that it has helped me look at my various talks and the things that concern me in my work life in as fresh a way as possible, and to develop new talks as often as time and ideas allow. This seems to me to be a very good thing. Gone are the days when a plenary speaker could hawk the same talk around the world for four years.

    It sort of takes me back to my stand-up comedy days. All those stars had a mere twenty minutes of material, and it served them well around the hundreds of clubs across the UK (at the height of my gigging, I knew some routines better than the original writers). It’s the reason so few of them made it to television – they only had twenty minutes of funnies in them. I like it when people are kept on their toes and we don’t simply allow them to drift along from conference to conference. New media have changed much of our lives – we simply have to learn to live with all these things.

    One thing to note – you can say ‘no’ to being filmed – people do it all the time and I’m not sure anyone will hate you for it, either…. You’ll never stop the back channel, though (nor should you be able to).

    Ramble over…

    Gavin

    • Hi Gavin,

      I answered Alice before `i read your comments properly.

      So yes, of course plenaries are performances – but they don’t have to be ‘star’ performances. in other words I have been to some plenary sessions that weren’t that good in performance terms, but which were enlightening and powerful in terms of content.

      I have certainly listened to some people’s talks more than once, and often find the second experience better than the first (it happened to me yesterday with Guy Cook).

      You CAN say no to being filmed but it’s difficult and often it’s done before you have really noticed and it is then extremely difficult to kick up a fuss

      Somehow, though, I am less worried about this than I was..IF people watch a whole film through they are not (as Scott suggests) likely to remember it for long – so provided there is a bit of time between the two events?

      Jeremy

  18. Are Tweets spoilers or appetizers? Of any 100 people attending a plenary, how many a) will have seen the previous presentation on the internet; b) be expecting the presenter to deliver exactly the same presentation as before or c) care, especially if they don’t have the luxury of attending many conferences?

    “…a plenary is a performance, and no performance is the same as the last.”

    Which is why people are perfectly willing to part with obscene amounts of money to see Jagger, Richards et al perform the same show they’ve performed since Reagan was president. 🙂

    • Hi Dawn,

      thanks for your comments. I kind of agree with you (see my comments to Alice and Gavin above). But how like a Stones concert is an ELT conference (apart from the dinosaur-like age of some pleary givers!!!!)?

      Jeremy

  19. We don’t film/stream plenaries at ETAS and if we did it would have to be with the full permission of the speaker.

    As a conference organizer I’d probably be fine with a speaker giving a plenary they’d given at IATEFL (as I know the majority of teachers attending SIG Day in Switzerland won’t have been to IATEFL) or one they’ve given in Japan but wouldn’t really want a speaker to recycle the same plenary they gave at an AGM here 4 years ago.

    Regarding Tweets. I don’t think they give the game away – they probably create even more interest and desire for people to “see the whole thing live” But one thing that I might find slightly irritating if I were a plenary speaker would be the sight of 40% of the audience head-down, typing away while I’m up there giving my all. I wonder how fully can people really listen and give their full attention if they’re typing away at the same time. But again, I understand that people want to take notes and twitter could be seen as another way of taking notes.

    Regarding selection of plenary speakers. I’ve found that generally people are attracted by either “the name” OR an extremely interesting topic – even if they don’t know the presenter so well. Of course it’s wonderful to have a big name + universally appealing topic. But I think there is also a place for inviting speakers who are perhaps unknown in the country where the conference is taking place – yet have a lot to offer.

    I would like to add – that conference organizers sometimes also go on the strength of someones blog as a way of selecting a plenary. And what tends to happen is either the main publishers offer plenary speakers they’d be willing to sponsor OR the organizers decide who they want and then work on finding a sponsor. I’ve experienced both ways.

    • Good to have the perspective of a conference organiser, Steph.

      As for your irritation at people tweeting while you’re talking, I’m glad you said this and not me, but it irritates me enormously (like my nieces-in-law texting at the dinner table this Xmas). But I recognise that I am in a minority – of two, probably – i.e. you and me!

      • Steph/Scott,

        Are we to assume, then, that in the golden olden days when people took their notes on paper that they did so in some clever fashion involving holding see-through notepaper up in front of their eyes and writing in the air in order to maintain the necessary eye contact and engagement?

        I think we should be told…

        Gavin

      • No, I’m in that minority too. But the last time I mentioned how “odd” it makes me feel (on another blog post far far away in which none of the people on this thread were involved) I got abused and flamed like I was some kind of monster.

        Partly this is because I have tried it mysefl and found it impossible to fully engage in the talk 9and so gave up). Though I dod realise my lack of ability to multitask i this way does not mean that other people are similarly handicapped, and partly this is because it feels more like texting than taking notes. I know it’s not, and I understand on a theoretical level, the backchannel concept, but my gut reaction is one of … I guess mild irritation is as bad as it gets, but it is still there. Not fair, almost certainly, but there nevertheless.

      • As a person who has to be doing something else (such as taking notes or doodling) when watching a class, lecture, pleanry, etc…) to REALLY pay attention to what is being said, I take Gavin’s side on this. Maybe not everyone can do two things at once and not missa beat, but some can, and we do not mean to be disrespectful in any way.

        I do, however, understand how it can be irritating to look at someone (special or otherwise) in the audience and not make eye contact. Point taken.

    • Hi Steph (again),

      yes that’s a good point: no presenter I know would repeat the same talk in the same place. That WOULD be irresponsible.

      But if everyone’s seen it on film that kind of makes it the same?

      (and see my comments on tweeters below)

      Jeremy

  20. I agree with many of the other comments here that the tweets from a talk can only give a flavour of it and whet the appetite to see the talk in full. I have wondered about how being filmed would change things for presenters like you and Scott and can understand how this is something you would want to address in some way. I have to say that I have assumed that it would, nevertheless, always be worthwhile seeing the talk live and I’m glad to see Gavin confirm this with his comment. I would even quite happily watch the same recording again because, at different times, we get different things from it… or have forgotten most of the content!

    I do appreciate the tweets from a talk or a conference. I enjoy knowing what’s happening, even if I can’t be there or subsequently see the recording. Of course, it’s so much better to be able to see the presentation and the experience of watching plenaries live during the ISTEK and IATEFL conferences last year was just great! I would happily pay something towards the costs of providing online coverage because it would be so much less than paying travel, accommodation and the fee. But, if it’s not available, for any reason, then fair enough! It does seem that, as Gavin has commented, “New media have changed much of our lives – we simply have to learn to live with all these things.” Sought after presenters like you, will have to find ways to make the changes work for you, as your audiences will also have to adapt. We certainly shouldn’t expect you to be constantly creating new talks for us out of the goodness of your heart! While recognising that people will have paid for the conference, it should also be remembered that if they’ve seen it before online, they probably got to see the it for free from the comfort of their own home/office. People in those situations, should probably go along with the mindset that they are now going to experience it live, in the company of other people.

    • Hi Carol,

      thanks for reminding us of the power of tweets to make people who aren’t there feel included. That’s a very good justification for doing them.

      As far as i can make out on this blog the majority of people say they would see the same talk again even if they’ve watched the film. That’s comforting.

      But for the presenter, well they (we) like to be able to startle the audience a bit, and that’s the problem.

      Jeremy

  21. David :

    I really see it as this…. what’s the rush? I think a lot of people have to slow down – the truth, the message – it ain’t going nowhere.

    David

    This is so gnomic and profound that I don’t quite know what to say!!!!

    Jeremy

    • I understand David’s comment (“What’s the rush?”) to mean: Why do persons X, Y and Z need to know at this exact moment in time what Speaker A is saying? Why the tweeting? Can’t it wait? It’s not a cricket match, for heaven’s sake, where people really DO feel the need to know the score as it evolves. But in the case of a talk, the import of the talk is surely as relevant in one hour’s time, or one day’s time, or one week’s time, as it is now. “The truth, the message – it ain’t going nowhere”.

      Until someone can prove to me that, beyond the room, there is an urgent need for the twitter feed, my advice to compulsive tweeters is: relax, enjoy the show, be here now. What’s more, your occasional eye contact may help encourage the speaker. And X, Y and Z can watch the film later on. That way, everyone wins.

      • Tweets are a pretty useless vehicle for complex information. Links, football scores, banter…great, but they convey nothing of a plenary or talk in my opinion. However, they do foster community, and build ‘brand’. Wouldn’t you say that senior figures in the ELT world who have engaged with social media technologies benefit from ‘brand recognition’ in their careers?

    • Jeremy,

      I’ll take that as compliment – but didn’t mean to be cryptic.

      I’ve read with interest all the comments and thank you for being a rallying point for all our voices/minds. Especially since this is a topic I’m actively involved in.

      But I’ve been profoundly disappointed at how few have addressed your point #2. Also, how so many leaders of technology feel no disappointment in the triumph of context over content (or to use a McLuhanism – “the medium as the massage”.

      I wasn’t being facile with my comment. I use technology with the best of them but don’t see its proper use, especially by leaders/mentors, during a presentation/lecture. Tweet before to get people there. Tweet after, how you feel. But what’s the rush? Why can’t people anymore be part of the experience and concentrate on the content of the presenter? Why must the presenter too, become a showboat? These are serious questions I believe. I’m not trying to “pull a luddite”.

      I believe in our teaching, we should use technology in the service of an idea, not just because it is there. To be brutally honest to those doing this type of tweeting – “it’s not about YOU”. Tweeting during a presentation or taping away on your ipad/laptop is taking away from that magic that happens during a presentation – shared narrative, where both audience and presenter create the experience.

      About question #1 – I don’t think it will ruin Scott’s future talks. It is about “being there”. Also, a good presenter will always be “in the moment”. However I do agree that the presenter should have some say over wholesale video taping and distribution of the recording (still, I hope they choose to permit this).

      Again, thanks and bookmarked this discussion!

      • David,

        Agree with you about this.

        I also wonder whether we can really understand the full picture of a well thought-through presentation immediately? This rushed need to see everything right now reminds me a bit of the way the news media try to analyse complex events as soon as they happen. What happened to reflection in tranquility?

        And really, though I agree that distraction can happen to anyone, with or without technology, and when they’re taking notes on paper, I really do think that the constant interaction with the machine takes people away from the moment. Just as when I approach someone to say hello and they continue looking at the tweets on their phone. That’s not a criticism of anyone- really it’s not- I know how addictive it can be.

        I’d add that since the presenter puts so much work into being ‘in the moment’ in his/her presentation, shouldn’t we allow them the courtesy of doing the same? I don’t want to try to read Scott’s mind, but perhaps that’s partly what bothers him.

  22. I can totally understand the perspectives put forward here by the “plens” (if you’ll forgive the term).

    One issue that comes out of this (and which Scott alludes to above) is that top quality plenary speakers are rarely (and I happen to think exceedingly rarely) financially compensated enough considering the time, effort, expertise and sheer passion involved with presenting at the top level in our profession. That said, there is a certain ironic egalitarianism exhibited here: almost nobody who gives TEFL their all is very well-paid! From quality classroom teacher to globe-trotting methodology expert and plenary speaker, we’re all relative paupers considering what we do and how much of our lives we’ve dedicated to it.

    Nevertheless, and this sort of comment is unlikely to make me popular, I honestly feel that there are too few people doing too many plenaries in too few countries (or perhaps better said: mostly just in Europe). Video (recorded and live) now represents a chance to bring top quality presenters to many more teachers, and to have a much more profound influence. (The examples of Scott beaming in to teachers in Palestine, with Simon Greenall’s help, or beaming across to IH teachers while presenting in Japan strike me as being pretty representative of the “good” we can achieve here, not to mention maximise speakers’ time and exposure). It should also, in my opinion, free up more time for these experts to do other things, spend less time on planes and in hotels, and — dare I say it? — encourage conference organisers to recruit a more diverse range of plenary speakers (perhaps even more local ones!).

    And as tied up for time/resources as plenary speakers are, it’s worth remembering that the situation is much worse for your average teacher — precisely the person who could get the most out of exposure to the profession’s experts. It’s wrong for so many of them to have to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars and use their holiday allowance to get to see a couple of good plenary speakers (or else, just miss out) perhaps once a year. If the artistic value of a live plenary performance suffers a little (or even a lot) because it is recorded and distributed worldwide (bearing in mind that I am totally in favour of an individual speaker’s right to forego or limit in some way how a recorded talk is distributed), then I think it has been a worthy sacrifice considering the bigger picture involved.

    For those “average” teachers out there, with horrible schedules and low pay, who nevertheless dream of improving themselves as professionals, even making time to sit and watch a recorded video for an hour is often a pretty big ask of their available time. I don’t know, but I think it’s worth being a little careful (if you’re a plenary speaker) before you go lamenting whether or not one plenary to the next has already been seen before… However you choose to look at the situation, the truth is that not enough of the teachers who really need to see you have seen you yet.

    =D

    • Fair point, Jason, and maybe I’m being a bit of a drama queen, and exaggerating the problems of repeated viewings of a talk. As Simon Greenall observed, on Twitter last night, “A teacher once said to me, ‘Heard you do this talk before. But don’t worry, I don’t remember a thing.'”. And it’s true, when people have told me that they saw me speak at XYZ conference, if asked, “Oh, what was I speaking about?” they haven’t a clue. In fact, I often have to rescue them from their embarrassment by saying something like, “Don’t worry, all my talks are the same, anyway!” (Teachers have a similar inability to remember or even know who the writer of their coursebook is: “Erm, I don’t know. It’s the one with the green cover.”)

      But, at the same time, I also have an obligation to the people who HAVE travelled miles and invested a lot in attending a conference: if anything, my obligation to them is greater, much greater, than to those who – for whatever reason – are reduced to watching me on YouTube. And, as I keep insisting, if *I* feel shortchanged by the fact that the talk I’m attending is one I’ve seen before, either in another guise or by means of another medium, then I suspect that some of my audience will too.

      • Certainly not a drama queen Scott. It’s good (and a good time, I think) to consider and question an issue like this. I appreciate hearing the perspective of experienced plenary speakers, particularly as I think you/we are definitely going through a time of fairly major transition.

        As has been discussed below, I’m intrigued by the opportunity for more in the way of plenary talks (unscripted, discussions with more than one host and with audience participation) rather than speeches, not only as a positive development as a result of this tweeting/video thing, but because it would make attendance at events truly special/unique… and, erm, might discourage some truly boring plenary speakers out there to up their act or get out!🙂

    • Footnote to the above: Jason has given me a good line to open my next plenary with: “Forgive me if you’ve seen this talk before, but there’s a bloke in Alice Springs who hasn’t”.

    • Hi Jason,

      I am in sympathy with much of what you say – and I do think there is something a bit creepy about people who are invited to go and give talks (and enjoy the benefits thereof) worrying about it. Sometimes I get paid, sometimes not. But it’s my decision whether or not to accept so I can’t complain on that score.

      I am also – as earlier posts on this blog have suggested – entirely sympathetic to the idea that there should a greater variety of plenary speakers out there. Whatever the merits (or de-merits) of people like me, there are hundreds of others out there who have just as (if not more) important things to say.

      And I DO recognise the value of filmed talks for people who can’t get to conferences…

      So, still very confused about all this…

      Jeremy

  23. As a conference organizer I would love to be able to pay both plenary speakers and workshop providers top dollar. This has been something I’ve had very lengthy discussions with – especially with people who are more firmly lodged in the academic world. The problem is this. Conference organizers are often national or regional associations made up of volunteers. These associations are non-profit making organizations. You could also argue that conference organizers should be paid for their time (I’ve just spend around 5 hours at the computer as we fast approach our call for papers deadline for SIG Day 20011 – all unpaid work!)

    Conference organizers can usually somehow find willing sponsors to bring in speakers (if they can’t secure a publishers backing) – but it’s difficult. Other speakers are financed by publishers, so the question of pay is very much between the speaker and the publisher.

    I agree with English Raven – when you compare our industry with a different industry we are all – whatever our level or post, probably vastly underpaid! And I know many teachers who really do struggle to attend national events (with all the associated costs) Very few teachers I know can really afford to attend conferences like IATEFL. They are all working hard – and getting by (often on really low pay) This is why it’s important that language schools provide free in-house workshops and training, so tutors who do go to such conferences can then pass on the nuggets to the regular teachers (perhaps in a different way – and of course acknowledging where they got the insights from – perhaps with reference to a teacher training book by the big name to encourage regular teachers to go off and read more)

    Nevertheless I can totally understand how a plenary speaker might object to their presentation being beamed around the world – and how that would mean a continually re-writing of plenaries. I think there is tremendous time and work involved in that.

    Perhaps one solution might be that once a speaker has presented a plenary a few times in different places (got some mileage from it) over say a year or two, then they can put the plenary up on line for free viewing around the world.

    • Hi Steph,

      thanks for that corrective – I mean reminding us of all the hours and hours and hours of unpaid work that conference organisers put in to events which speakers usually only have to do their 60 minutes or so at. The real heroes of the presenting world aren’t actually the presenters at all, but the organisers and then the people who actually fix it so that presentations ARE put online.

      I think my view is beginning to shift as this conversation goes on: as Scott has said, like any teacher, presenters, all presenters, spend a long time preparing talks and the the various media that go with them.. We’d like to be able to use them for a while anyway. But I have noticed that they last for less and less time. Film just exacerbates this..

      Jeremy

  24. Gavin Dudeney :
    Steph/Scott,
    Are we to assume, then, that in the golden olden days when people took their notes on paper that they did so in some clever fashion involving holding see-through notepaper up in front of their eyes and writing in the air in order to maintain the necessary eye contact and engagement?
    I think we should be told…
    Gavin

    Thanks Gavin – having a really good chuckle now. I knew someone would make that comparison, but you use such a brilliant/funny image! Sorry – I can’t help it. I don’t like students tapping away on their phones when I’m in class. And if I were a plenary speaker, I wouldn’t like it either. And I would also feel really rude, tapping away at someones plenary or workshop. Regarding taking notes – (cough, er, actually, I can write the odd word on a notepad – without looking at the notepad and keeping my eyes on the speaker!!)

    Seriously though, it’s such a personal thing. If plenary speakers don’t mind it – or if people in the audience can listen and type then there’s no problem. It just doesn’t sit well with me personally. OK I’m in a minority of 3!

  25. Hi Jeremy, thanks for raising this interesting topic. The tweeting and videoing of conference talks is still relatively new and thus may only seen by a minority at the moment but, as Dave suggested, this will soon be part and parcel of the way such events are viewed on the Web so it’s going to become of increasing importance.

    Like many others who have commented here, I don’t see the tweets themselves as spoilers and I wouldn’t object to people doing it in my talks. The thing for me is the essentially fragmentary nature of these notes. Like so much other consumption on the Web, content here is ‘unbundled’ and made short, sweet and bitty for easy digestion. I don’t deny there’s a great art to summing up a key point or opinion in 140 characters (it’s one of the best things about Twitter) and it creates great interest because of it’s live nature, but I think these snippets at the end of the day can not help but present a kind of chopped-up product. I’m just not sure how satisfactorily a series of tweets can sum up a talk and they may misrepresent it altogether. It can also get tricky to filter those tweets which give a subjective opinion of proceedings and those which are just attempting to sum up the main points.

    I think tweets of talks are at their best when capturing the here and now of the event, making you feel that you were there, etc. but surely the content of the talk is best offered by the speakers themselves? Like many others, I make available abridged slide presentations of my talks on my site so that people can access the main ideas that I wanted to transmit. In fact, many conference organizers now also request this of speakers.

    With regards videoing, as Gavin said, there is always the option to say no and I have done so in the past. But, of course, I see the great advantages for those unable to attend conferences regularly and I agree with Jason that this can be good publicity for any speaker, like the tweeting too. Exposure is great, but overexposure is not as Scott said. I guess as speakers we can’t have our cake and eat it.

    • Hello Ben,

      thanks for a very thoughtful response. I too worry about the fragmentary nature of tweets. It all depends on the talk, I think. on Friday Scott’s talk was beautifully structured and elegantly delivered so it WAS easy to summarise the main points (I thought). That is less easy in some other talks.

      What’s been nagging at me throughout this whole conversation is exactly the one you mention. Everyone wants everyone else to be able to hear what they are talking about (why else would we do it?) but we don’t want TOO MANY people to know!
      That’s crazy.
      Perhaps we should just stop complaining and accept our good fortune?
      Jeremy

  26. Steph,

    “Regarding taking notes – (cough, er, actually, I can write the odd word on a notepad – without looking at the notepad and keeping my eyes on the speaker!!)”

    That’ll be the old Victorian equivalent of touch-typing then – something which plenty of younger people are really very good at. Ain’t nothing new under the sun🙂 I’m pretty good at using a stylus on my Ipad and looking up, too!

    Seriously, though, if people can’t take notes (using whatever medium they choose), how are they supposed to record their thoughts and feelings and – more importantly – how did we all survive four years of quality university tutoring where listening and writing was of paramount importance?

    Is there something more visceral in people wanting those loving, laughing eyes on them throughout their whole performance?

    Gavin

    • Gavin/Steph,

      I can longer object – if I ever did – to people tweeting in my talks because I tweet in theirs. It really doesn’t bother me. But when i am tweeting I do not give the speaker (as opposed to the speech) as much attention as I might otherwise have done. Sometimes.

      Depends on the talk, too. Yesterday I missed some of what Guy Cook said since the effort of trying to summarise complex ideas in 140 characters was quite strenuous!

      Interestingly, I think (no actual evidence to back this up) that people stop tweeting when the speaker really gets them going…

      Jeremy

    • Gavin/Andy/Scott

      I guess what bothers speakers about tweeting is not the fact that they take notes! it is the *communication* via twitter, and the possibility to say bad things about them. Doing this would be impolite (according to my idea of politeness, anyway) but it may happen. But I think you cannot make a rule based on the impolite people, given they are very very few amongst teachers, and even fewer amongst the very teachers who have travelled long distances to see you.

      • This is exactly it, Alice. I think when people are doing “something else”* when attending a conference talk, there is a sort of continuum from taking notes at one end (which presumably nobody would ever be bothered by), to talking on the phone at the other (which presumably more or less everybody would be bothered by). I think for me (and before anyone starts reacting, I know this is illogical), I see someone on a laptop as being at the note-taking end of the continuum with someone on a mobile phone at the communicating-with-someone-else end of the continuum. Obviously these days there is a huge overlap between the uses of these different pieces of technology, but it’s hard to get past the laptop-is-serious-work tool, phone-is-for-calling/texting-your-mates tool dichotomy.

        (*Obviously people who are doing nothing but sitting there also occupy a continuum from absolute rapt attention to daydreaming about something else entirely, so all of this is somewhat moot when you actually bring it down to basics, and take out all the biases)

      • Hi Alice (Gavin, Andy, Scott etc),

        there IS something different about tweeting I think, since people are communicating wit other people even as they listen to the speaker. But if my mind is active when I attend a session I’m kind of doing that with myself anyway?

        As a tweeter, I have found some of the tweets backwards and forward have greatly enhanced my experience of attending a session. The general level of enjoyment in the room rises, I think.

        Backchanelling can be horrific (as an earlier post of mine on this site describes). But it can also be great. Nick Peachey set up a backchannel for his session at the IH DOS conference a few days ago. It seemed to work. It was fun!

        Jeremy

  27. Scott Thornbury :

    I regularly re-name talks (but the abstract remains the same) so as to accommodate the conference theme (I know that nobody really takes these themes seriously, but…) So, at one conference a talk might be called ‘Grammar for the 21st Century’ and the same talk will be re-born somewhere else as ‘Grammar: The Way Ahead’ or ‘Grammar: Coping with Change’ or ‘Grammar: what’s hot and what’s not’ etc (I’m making these up, but you get the idea).

    I try not to re-name talks. But up until now my most important Word document is a record of every talk I have given and where – and I try desperately to remember when I have included a bit of material from one talk in another – when it has been relevant! Because before people started filming and tweeting my biggest fear was to give a talk that I had given before. But now…?

    • Very good idea, Jeremy, about keeping a record of your talks. I wish I’d started that ages ago, instead of operating on the principle of “This is Belgium, so it must be grammar”.

  28. Scott Thornbury :

    A footnote to the above. How do YOU feel, as a teacher, when students say: we’ve done this lesson before?

    That IS the nub of this isn’t it! But conference attenders usually have the possibility to opt out of a talk. Students don’t I guess….

  29. Hi, everybody,

    As a conference attendee, I have several points in favour of tweeting. First, I have seen the same talk more than once, Jeremy Harmer´s at IATEFL and Buenos Aires, and it was a clear example of “it´s never the same”. Second, I am an avid tweeter at conferences for several reasons (already mentioned) but when the plenary or presentation is enthralling you automatically stop tweeting or tweet less so that you can give it all your attention both in terms of your senses and brain activity. Third, I have read tweets of a presentation I had attended before and it has been quite an enjoyable experience to relive the presentation.

    As a presenter, I am also in favour of tweeting for the following reasons. I truly believe, as Jason said, in opennness and sharing, and I can benefit from a bit of web 2.0 marketing myself to become known in a wider circle than that of my country, something which Jeremy, Scott, Gavin and others have already accomplished.

    So let´s tweet folks!

    Vicky

    • Hello Vicky,

      thanks for coming along.

      You absolutely SHOULD be (and are) known far more widely known than just the ELT world of Argentina! I certainly enjoyed tweeting out of your excellent technology session at FAAPI last year!

      You are absolutely right that sometimes you just have to stop tapping away because the speaker demands your whole attention. That’s great.

      But in most talks (when I am not tweeting) I find my mind wandering from time to time. When I’m tweeting that is far less likely to happen.

      Jeremy

  30. Maybe the time has come for ‘Conferencing Unplugged’ where every talk is unique, because it is structured in such a way that it draws from the ideas and experiences of the people in the room.

    • I love the idea, Matt – not always easy to achieve where the people in the room number in the hundreds, but…

      Certainly, the more informal, spontaneous events that I’ve participated in recently have been (from my point of view, at least) the best. Last September I had an unrehearsed, unscripted 90-minute conversation with Paul Nation before a live audience (it was also simultaneously broadcast using live-streaming) which was very dogme-esque in the sense that it WAS a conversation – no powerpoint, no video, no handouts etc – although the recording and broadcasting of it did require quite a lot of technological wherewithal.

      • Hello Scot and Matt,

        unplugged presenting is and can be a real wonder. Just like improvised comedy (but perhaps with more serious intent).

        But I have been to some sessions – panels etc – which, denied a Thornbury-Nation axis (!) haven’t really worked at all.

        Still you make me wonder how/why it might be possible to put an unplanned improvised session into a big conference. Do I dare?

        Jeremy

  31. Hi Jeremy

    This is an interesting one and one that I thought about before the conference, because the session I did there was one that I was repeating for about the third time.

    As far as Twitter goes, I don’t think that’s any great problem / threat. I think what you can get from attending a confrence through Twitter is pretty minimal, proably a few quates and the odd link at best. I’m not knocking it though as that can be enough to make a difference to some people and it’s actually more likely to encourage them to turn up to your next talk than to discourage them.

    As for the complete filming of the session itself, it does worry me a little, but more from the perspective of having my gaffs caught and published forever online for people to see!

    I actually think that when someone comes to a one hour session, they probably leave with about 10% of what you tried to convey and I would be happy with that much. I tend to throw a lot of stuff at the audience and just pray some of it sticks and strikes a chord somewhere and encourages them to dig a little deeper and explore a little more for themselves.

    As for it beeing a spoiler, I’m not really sure about that. I think even if you have watched the session online first it’s unlikely that you have retained all the ‘information’ and really engaged with it and thought about how it applies to your context and to be honest I wonder how many people have sat down and watched a complete 1 hour plenary from start to finish online(I confess that I haven’t).

    Perhaps though presenters should be rethinking the way they deliver sessions and drawing more on the experiences of the people in the audience and making the session more relevant to and about the audience (Would that be more of a dogme approach to presenting?). A lot of sessions do seem to have become a kind of one man show that spotlight the briliance of the presenter.

    I think though that Scott does have a very valid point about sessions being recorded as these are in a sense the intelectual property of the presenter and it would be nice to see that appreciated a little more. After all we all need to eat.

    Best

    Nik Peachey

    • Hi Nik,

      (and a very enjoyable session it was too!)

      now I am feeling depressed. Because you are right, film does pickle a ‘performance’ in aspic so that some of the asides we use, the quickfire reactions to things that happen spontaneously, are there to be viewed in ‘cold blood’ – and can sound pretty daft out of context and away from the breathing and living people we were with.
      Or the film catches us forgetting, for a millisecond, the line of a poem which we know perfectly well. I did that last Friday. Damn. Damn! It didn’t matter at all in the session, but I would hate to see it on film, endlessly repeating itself!
      Which is a reason to worry about filming. We have no editorial control.
      Should we? How?
      Jeremy

  32. As many people have mentioned, Twitter can’t include enough of the content to spoil your talks, and doesn’t seem like something you need to worry about, although of course you couldn’t stop it even if it was.
    Complete videos are another matter. Anyone who has seen, for example, the ‘motivating the unmotivated’ film on your website doesn’t need to see it live. For this reason it should (and at least in some countries, unless you sign a legal release form, it is) up to the person in the film as to when, where and how much of the video is put online. A five minute clip gives enough of a taster without ruining the talk. The whole talk can then be put online later, once you’ve retired it. (Although I’d rather see a videocast with slides, amature conference videos without proper sound don’t make for very useful viewing.) However, attendees need to use a bit of common sense too (and I’m sure they do) and think about whether they really want to go to a talk they’ve already seen online.

    • Hi Gem,

      well yes, I stopped doing that ‘motivating the unmotivated’ talk almost the moment it went up online. Yet if some of the comments here are right I needn’t have done – because (a) people wouldn’t remember much of it and (b) many probably didn’t watch it right through to the end…

      I really like the idea of a 10-minute segment as a kind of record of what went on, and last year at the IH DOS conference that’s what I asked for, rather than the whole session. It made me feel better when using the same talk a few times later last year. This time they filmed the whole thing and I haven’t asked for any restrictions. It will be interesting to see (a) how many people watch it, and (b) whether anyone is going to pop up and say ‘seen it. I’m bored’! If I believe Vicky and Gavin and various others above in these comments then that’s not gping to happen!
      Yes, conference attenders should do their homework and not pitch up for things they already know well. Less easy for plenaries, of course…
      Jeremy

  33. Matt Byrne :
    Maybe the time has come for ‘Conferencing Unplugged’ where every talk is unique, because it is structured in such a way that it draws from the ideas and experiences of the people in the room.

    Wow – would plenary speakers really be prepared to turn up with a “blank page” and talk without a plan? (sounds terrifying) But – interestingly this is something that does come up in conference feedback. People do say they would like more “Q+A” time in the plenary. Might that be an idea – to have a general theme that the presenter feels comfortable with, but nothing planned and then just open up the floor to Q+A’s?

  34. jeremyharmer :
    Hi Steph,
    thanks for that corrective – I mean reminding us of all the hours and hours and hours of unpaid work that conference organisers put in to events which speakers usually only have to do their 60 minutes or so at. The real heroes of the presenting world aren’t actually the presenters at all, but the organisers and then the people who actually fix it so that presentations ARE put online.
    I think my view is beginning to shift as this conversation goes on: as Scott has said, like any teacher, presenters, all presenters, spend a long time preparing talks and the the various media that go with them.. We’d like to be able to use them for a while anyway. But I have noticed that they last for less and less time. Film just exacerbates this..
    Jeremy

    Hi Jeremy,

    I think we all play important parts. Certainly the plenary speaker has a great pressure for those 60 mins (I imagine) Plus they have to make the sometimes long journey to the country where the conference is. And I can really understand how difficult it is to try to “please all the people all of the time” mainly it’s impossible – but we still try to do it (and then perhaps beat ourselves up when it doesn’t happen)

    I think most plenary speakers I’ve seen have done a fantastic job. But in line with what Scott said earlier, it’s often the atmosphere, or certain images or interactions that stick in the mind. With you – I always think of the Angel of the North!

    Which brings us back full circle – is it really a negative to view the same plenary more than once. Perhaps not…….like the class who say “but we’ve had this lesson”…….yet, when you repeat the lesson with them, they still don’t get the answers……so more and more is picked up with repetition. But then in terms of drawing people to plenaries…….would most teachers see it that way?

    • Hello Steph,

      I am so pleased about the ‘angel’ image. isn’t it amazing!The Angel of the North, i mean!
      I think it is indeed possible to get more out of something the second time around – as I did with Guy Cook at the weekend. But I also have sympathy with Scott’s worry about how, if you build dramatic surprises into your talk, they get somehow too diluted by repetition.
      Maybe it’s a balance thing?
      Jeremy

  35. Hi Jeremy and all

    A very interesting discussion!

    Like Scott, Andy and others, I’m not great at multi-tasking either, but that’s not the only reason why I think it’s good to take a step back and really think about this one.

    I like some aspects of Twitter, and think it’s fun. However, there is an aspect of Twitter which is pretty addictive, if not obsessional… something of the ‘I tweet, therefore I am.’ as I tweeted recently 

    We may think it’s all about getting information out to thousands of people immediately (and don’t get me wrong, I think in some ways it’s great for the bloke in Alice Springs to know what’s going on at the DOS conference in London)… but is it really totally about that? Is it, really?

    Well, I don’t know the answer to that, and perhaps we won’t know the answer to this social phenomenon at this distance. For myself, I’m quite happy to be able to read Scott’s or others’ ideas or hear him when I’m in the same place.

    In the meantime, here’s a very thought-provoking piece on distraction from Alain de Botton. http://www.alaindebotton.com/blog which certainly strikes a few chords in me.

    • Thanks so much for coming along, Sue. Sorry I didn’t answer before. A bit tied up, and this post (and comments) seems to have taken on a life of its own a bit!
      I am i by your question about why people tweet. I said (and other too have said on this blog) that it’s all about interacting, note-taking, passing on etc. But it is also (see u have me worried now) a bit about tweetperformance isn’t it? Is it? Look at me the great tweeter
      Or am I just being silly now? Not sure.
      Thanks for Alain de B!
      Jeremy

  36. Aside from a small part in the middle where people were talking of release dates etc, only Steph has mentioned the possible intellectual property ramifications of tweeting etc at conferences:
    “We don’t film/stream plenaries at ETAS and if we did it would have to be with the full permission of the speaker.”
    The lack of manners seems the most appalling to me – that you would report what someone says without asking them if it’s ok. I mean when did the price of conference admission mean you get to record/report what you want? There is a similar problem in universities now where lecturers often refuse to allow students to record lectures/tutorials as they might end up on youtube. Even a beduin guy living in the back of Petra told me he now has to stop people taking photos/recording him as it all ends up on facebook!

    • Hi Darridge,

      I always think it is a bit impolite too, but I never really know what to say when asked if I can be filmed. I usually insist on a copy (I think I said that above), but that may not be enough….
      Maybe the profession/conference organisers should come with a proper view on this – a policy paper.
      Or maybe (and I think that’s the way the conversation has gone on this site) we should just stop worrying so much and be pleased that people get to see speakers online that otherwise would not have a chance to do?
      Jeremy

  37. Andy,

    Duly noted that you find your own attitudes illogical, but I do think it’s interesting that a lot of these objections seem to be not so much about the ‘activity’, but the ‘tool’.

    Someone using a piece of paper may be writing a shopping list, playing hangman with the person sitting next to them, or writing ‘What a dull talk!” three hundred times in a row. They may be marking student compositions… Yet paper and pen seem acceptable to many people who object to other ways of occupying ourselves in talks.

    someone using a ‘proper’ computer may be doing any of the above, plus playing a computer game, writing email, reading a book or article, listening to the radio (via discrete in-ear headphones), etc. etc. Yet we see computers as acceptable tools – they’re proper, not for messing about.

    Yet someone using a mobile phone (or even, perhaps, a tablet computer such as an iPad) seems to suffer from some kind of bad press. Is it because, like Scott, we’ve suffered perceived rudeness during social occasions? I wonder where our ‘do as I say, not as I do’ attitude fits in?

    When we tweet a photo from our latest meet-up with people, we’re essentially dong the same thing: we’re using our mobile phones at the dinner table. Yet for us it’s a celebration of joy, of shared experiences, of professional development. Yet young people who do the same are simply being rude at dinner.

    A computer is a serious tool, a mobile isn’t. I know you said you realise it’s illogical, but does everybody? Mobile devices are no longer merely tools with which we commmunicate with friends and share inanities along the lines of ‘Wot u doing?’, they’re serious work tools, and I do think we need to look at our attitudes to them compared to other tools. It’s terrible blinkered.

    Gavin

  38. Well, I imagine it’s time that’s the key. It’s only recently that mobile phones have been anything other than a device on which to have a conversation and/or send text messages. Maybe in a few years when people get used to the fact (I mean in a fully internalised way) that mobile phones are far more than that, this problem of perception won’t exist. But until that time I think that (a) people like me who still struggle with it, need to constantly remind ourselves that this is the case, in order to overcome our gut reactions; and (b) people for whom this is all second nature need to be less hypercritical and condescending to people who are still attempting to internalise that change of use.

    (But it may not even be time – it may just be generational. I see computers as tools because my first exposure was through word processors, whereas my kids see them as toys – even to the point of the verb they always use for “do something on the computer” is “play”)

  39. Andy,

    Good point – I’m just editing some videos for my talk on mobile learning and the word ‘play’ comes up always with kids, even when they’ve been involved in a quite complex app which forces them to do ‘mental maths’ (as I believe it’s called these days) rather than using a calculator or paper. For them, the addition of a photo and a challenge to reveal that photo make the learning fun, and therefore they are ‘playing’.

    I guess we need to learn to see beyond those kinds of words and examine more what’s happening, rather than imagining that everyone on a mobile phone is automatically texting their mates or updating their Facebook status.

    Gavin

  40. Footnote to this discussion: as an example of good pratice, IH World have asked me if I would prefer the film of Friday’s talk to be open access or restricted to IH World users. This is exactly as I would have wished, and, given the talk will be a plenary both in Barcelona and in Istanbul in the next few months, I have asked for it to be restricted. Later on, perhaps, it can be ‘unblocked’.

    • Hi Scott,

      well they haven’t asked me yet!

      It’s a good compromise, isn’t it! But it avoids our essential dilemma.
      On balance I’m beginning to think we should stop worrying about it. It’s up to the audience to use their intelligence. As Steph says, second time around you may reflect on what you hear more and (as I say!!) maybe the experience of watching the same talk but in a different group of people is quite interesting in itself?

      But i reckon twice is about as much as one can take?

      Jeremy

  41. Ooh, I dunno about a lot of this, I really don’t…

    There’s nothing wrong with being entertaining, I reckon – as long as there’s some thought and some content in the talk. I’d much rather be entertained than bored. some jokes, some anecdotes, some video – these are good things. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying ELT conferences. After all, they’re hardly staid academic affairs now, are they?

    There’s nothing wrong with a bit of technology, either. I like to see people who’ve spent time on their presentations. I enjoy it when they’ve carefully edited audio and video clips to add to their presentation. It makes me feel like they cared enough to do a good job. Good pictures, audio, video and the rest – decent looking slides… Nothing wrong with any of that.

    Of course Crystal can do his thing standing on a stage, just him – that’s what he’s been doing all his life and I’d expect him to be good at it. But not everyone can – and there’s nothing wrong with some electronic eye candy to go with the content and the entertainment.

    Last time I saw someone use anything other than PowerPoint was XXXXX in Turkey two years ago. He used slanty, badly-printed OHTs with text that was too small for the audience. He used these because he professed not to like technology, seemingly unaware of the fact that he was using technology, just a rubbish one.

    Nobody is claiming that we all have to be clowns, but I’ll take the subtle mix of entertainment, content and developmental opportunity of a well-honed ‘modern’ presentation over the dull monotone of someone intoning eighteen sheets of A4 any day of the week. What on earth is wrong with being entertained?

    In terms of investment, though, I do take the point about video. Whilst I don’t care a jot who records or broadcasts my talks, I do sincerely understand those who are not keen on it. I’m just putting the finishing touch to a talk on mobile and handheld learning which will have a few outings this year. I reckon (conservative estimate) it’s taken me well over fifty hours to prepare: research and reading, collecting data, collecting and editing video material, collecting images, making a new PowerPoint template, putting all the content in, looking at the timings, adding notes to slides for those who may download them, etc., etc. I suppose it’s not wrong to want to be able to use that talk a few times to recoup that investment.

    Yet at IATEFL I will still make an audio recording of my own talk and upload it along with the slides, the handout (if any), bilbiography, etc. Why? Because (as I’ve said elsewhere) I think people go more to see the speaker than to hear the content (sorry if that offends anyone) – and I’ve had no reason to change that opinion over the past couple of manic tweeting and videoing years.

    Gavin

    • Gavin,

      I agree with you, pretty much.

      Entertainment is fine – and in big conferences entertaining plenaries play their part in a big 3/4-day event. Every speaker has their style and different people respond differently to different styles.

      Ooops, stating the b…. obvious…. I think.

      I admire David Crystal’s speaking style enormously. Wouldn’t work for me, though. I believe that my use of technology enhances rather than detracts from what I have to say – though others may have a different – even negative – view of this of course.

      I DO think the speakers him or herself IS the deal. What do they have to say and, for multi-conference goeres – HOW do they say it this time?

      But for others, a mix of challenging interesting content, prepared to provoke maximum engagement, through humour, technology, lack of technology, seriousness, whatever….as I find myself saying a lot, if u can tell that a speaker has thought about HOW to present their ideas and if they clearly have a passion for what they are saying, then they get my vote.

      Jeremy

  42. Scott,

    Scott Thornbury :
    Until someone can prove to me that, beyond the room, there is an urgent need for the twitter feed, my advice to compulsive tweeters is: relax, enjoy the show, be here now.

    Why should anybody have to prove that to you? If they enjoy it and find it useful, why should they feel the need to prove it to anyone?

    Gavin

  43. jeremyharmer :
    Which is a reason to worry about filming. We have no editorial control.
    Should we? How?
    Jeremy

    Hi Jeremy

    Well I think there could be some editorial control at this event and I think they would be happy to have you suggest edits, but that isn’t always the case.

    Reading through some of the many many comments here, the thing that worries me most is the attitude of many that the conference event is all about listening with rapt attention to the speaker. Generally what I find most interesting and developmental about conferences is actually meeting and talking to other people who are attending the conference. In a way, for me, the presentations are only really the stimulus for the conversations I have with people at the event. I would like to try to use technology to capture that ‘backchannel’ of conversation about the talk as it is happening. I think this kind of use of technology is one that we should be modeling for the classroom too. So many teachers complain about students lack of attention and texting during classes, but I feel that this is really our own failure to take full advantage of their multi-tasking skills and the knowledge that the ‘audience’ brings with them.

    Best

    Nik Peachey

    • “…this is really our own failure to take full advantage of their multi-tasking skills…”

      One person’s ‘multi-tasking’ is another’s ‘continuous partial attention’. Any tips for telling the difference?

    • Hi Nik,

      I believe quite strongly (as you do I think) that the chief value of a plenary (for example) is the conversation it provokes over coffee afterwards. That’s where people learn stuff and form opinions about what they have experienced (and whether other people agree with their assessment). I know I have had my opinion about what I have heard changed in that way on quite a few occasions.

      Jeremy

  44. Nik Peachey :
    Hi Jeremy
    Reading through some of the many many comments here, the thing that worries me most is the attitude of many that the conference event is all about listening with rapt attention to the speaker.

    I really think you’ve misread there Nik. Reading through I don’t see anyone saying that. I think that’s an (extreme) interpretation of why people are concerned.

    I understand where you’re coming from regarding the fact that conferences are all about the interaction, the discussion and the stimulation. As I’ve said, personally I find it very hard to tweet and listen at the same time (like Gerald Ford, I probably couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time), and I recognise that others can. But this means that for me having the conversations about the plenaries, is something that happens afterwards. I don;t need to be doing it while it’s going on.

    I dunno maybe kids these days go to the cinema and have constant conversations via text/twitter/whatever with other people in the audience while the film is going on, but personally I still prefer going to the pub afterwards for that chat.🙂

    • Andy,

      I reckon some people enjoy both the pub and the live tweeting. Maybe that’s what it’s all about – doing what works for you as long as you’re not being rude or anything. And if note-taking isn’t rude, then I don’t think any other form of recording our thoughts should be considered so, either.

      Gavin

      • Well quite. I think I;ve made it pretty clear that I’m describing what works for me. The problem is when people from either “side” of the debate start talking in absolutes, whether that absolute be “Don’t touch anything while you’re in my session” OR “Get over yourself, Granddad. We’re the future”

    • Not in those words, but I think there does tend to be a lot of sneering and even abuse directed at those who perhaps need a while longer to adjust to new ways of working.

      But perhaps here I’m still dealing with my own past experiences rather than anything anyone’s actually said on this thread.

      [I guess where I was directly coming from with that comment was that I felt I’d been pretty clear and explicit about the fact that I understand there are a wide range of approaches, and a wide range of personal styles, yet your comment seemed to imply that I either hadn’t made that clear, or worse, that I was actually saying my own approach was in fact the only good one]

      • Andy,

        I thought I’d been at pains to recognise that you were speaking personally earlier in the conversation (by referring back to your own post about your views being illogical, etc.), but my apologies if that isn’t the case.

        I was simply advocating balance and fairness – which seem like fine ideas to me – and free will to choose how people participate in a conference talk, as long as they’re not setting fire to the presenter.

        I merely think it’s problematic when people decide that something isn’t acceptable to them *in a particular context* – like it’s fine to tweet down the pub, or over dinner with friends, but not in my talk…

        Gavin

  45. Scott Thornbury :
    One person’s ‘multi-tasking’ is another’s ‘continuous partial attention’. Any tips for telling the difference?

    Well I tend to think the difference is, those who can multitask will do it, those who can’t won’t and those who appear to be doing it but aren’t have just lost interest in what we are saying. I think it’s important that we provide the opportunity for choice and try to involve the contribution of those that can.
    As for those that have lost interest in what we are saying, we have to decide whose ‘fault’ that is!!

    I think what’s important for me though is how this transcribes to the classroom where I tend to think we are failing to take advantage of our students abilities for multi-tasking and blaming it on their short attention spans.

    My interest in this stemmed from Second Life, where there is always a huge amount of back chatter going on during presentations. At first I was horrified by this and thought it really rude, but I soon became aware that it was not only relevant, but also enhanced the experience and added value to the session for me.

    Best

    Nik

    • Thanks Nik. That makes sense. (Although it occurs to me that the backchannel in Second Life works, not in spite of, but because it is part of the general SL culture of constant distraction. I’m not sure I’d like a conference talk of mine to be conducted under the same conditions, i.e. people coalescing and dissolving all around you, and Jeremy Harmer incapable of sitting down!)

      Incidentally, as an example of heightened attention by means of collaborative classroom work with computers, this recent post on the dogme list is quite inspiring (forgive cross-posting): http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dogme/message/15922

  46. jeremyharmer :Hi Alice (Gavin, Andy, Scott etc),
    there IS something different about tweeting I think, since people are communicating wit other people even as they listen to the speaker. But if my mind is active when I attend a session I’m kind of doing that with myself anyway?
    As a tweeter, I have found some of the tweets backwards and forward have greatly enhanced my experience of attending a session. The general level of enjoyment in the room rises, I think.
    Backchanelling can be horrific (as an earlier post of mine on this site describes). But it can also be great. Nick Peachey set up a backchannel for his session at the IH DOS conference a few days ago. It seemed to work. It was fun!
    Jeremy

    OUI oui ! I love this idea of the tweeting experience actually *enhancing* the whole conference experience itself.

  47. Nik Peachey :

    Scott Thornbury :
    One person’s ‘multi-tasking’ is another’s ‘continuous partial attention’. Any tips for telling the difference?

    Well I tend to think the difference is, those who can multitask will do it, those who can’t won’t and those who appear to be doing it but aren’t have just lost interest in what we are saying. I think it’s important that we provide the opportunity for choice and try to involve the contribution of those that can.
    As for those that have lost interest in what we are saying, we have to decide whose ‘fault’ that is!!
    I think what’s important for me though is how this transcribes to the classroom where I tend to think we are failing to take advantage of our students abilities for multi-tasking and blaming it on their short attention spans.
    My interest in this stemmed from Second Life, where there is always a huge amount of back chatter going on during presentations. At first I was horrified by this and thought it really rude, but I soon became aware that it was not only relevant, but also enhanced the experience and added value to the session for me.
    Best
    Nik

    Hi Nik,

    Regarding classroom experience (and just in my own experience) I’ve found that leaving teenagers ‘free’ to text, type on their laptops – in general ‘multi task’ during the time where I’ve been highlighting or clarifying something just doesn’t work. We’ve been doing something pretty challenging like looking at how writer’s achieve effects (in the English 1st language IGCSE paper) I experienced (when the students were left with laptops, phones etc) the following.

    1) On walking around, the students rapidly ‘click’ between screens and think that I haven’t noticed the facebook/Youtube/e-mail account up on the tool bar!

    2) Students use spell and grammar checks and get used to typing their responses. (OK reflective of the real world – but not good if they are preparing for a written examination where they need to write on paper, with a pen, without a dictionary!)

    This went on for about a term – with me trying to prompt them, or have them use their laptops/I-phones as resources or ways to enhance what was happening. It didn’t work. It was just a continual source of temptation and distraction.

    After 90% of the students did appallingly in their mock exams, I changed the classroom. It’s not my style naturally, but I needed to demand and keep these kids attention, for the simple reason that in order to understand, process and then put into practice the business of identifying imagery, demonstrating skills of inference and so on, there simply is no short cut – they need to focus on what’s going on, process it and nothing else. Computers come out for dictionary work only – and then they’re shut again.

    What I’ve seen is this. Previously students “thought” they understood the concepts – they were unable to see the gap between their perception of their own understanding and the reality. “It’s all easy” was a common response. These students have been used to answers at the click of a mouse. The exam showed them – the gap. The resulting classes have been transformed and more and more students are finally starting to grasp difficult concepts and show that. They are now working – silently and were appropriate discussing their interpretations of text. They are even beginning – so they tell me, to really enjoy ‘getting to grips with the language and its subtleties’

    So I do think it depends what you’re teaching in class and who is in the class. Some presentations/themes demand full and undivided attention. Jeremy alluded to this when he mentioned how challenging he found it to summarize the content of Guy Cook’s plenary whilst trying to actively listen at the same time.

    Regarding conferences – one of my main reasons for conference going, especially to IATEFL is the mixing and networking, the talking and reflecting afterwords. Personally though, I’d rather listen and not reflect on a plenary while the plenary is happening. As someone else commented. “What is the rush – it’s not going anywhere?” Often I need to sit through the whole plenary to get an overview and perhaps understand the details that were given initially in a wider context.

    In other words, my feeling is it is useful to have space and time to ‘digest’ the plenary content instead of twitting snippets which taken out of context and isolated from the wider picture may be misunderstood. Kind of like grammar really – we can isolate language – let’s say cleft sentences or the passive and look at them – but they only really make sense within context as part of discourse. That’s my feeling on plenaries too.

    Again – only the way my brain works – I’m not at suggesting that if other people work differently then that’s wrong!

  48. Scott Thornbury :
    Although it occurs to me that the backchannel in Second Life works, not in spite of, but because it is part of the general SL culture of constant distraction. I’m not sure I’d like a conference talk of mine to be conducted under the same conditions, i.e. people coalescing and dissolving all around you

    I’m not so sure about that ‘culture of constant distraction’, but despite the distractions I feel better with people in SL just being able to leave a session if they aren’t interested, than them having to stay and sitting there fiddling (Tweeting?). Though of course many are disappearing because their computer just crashed!

    As for the chat / backchannel in SL I think this is another of those examples of a technology that solves a problem we didn’t realise we had. It was there, it worked and people started using it for their own purposes.

    Best

    Nik

  49. Nik Peachey :

    As for the chat / backchannel in SL I think this is another of those examples of a technology that solves a problem we didn’t realise we had. It was there, it worked and people started using it for their own purposes.
    Best
    Nik

    If we didn’t realise we had it, was it a problem? An equally credible argument could be made for drag-racing: without the invention of cars we wouldn’t have had the problem of no drag-racing. Thank heavens cars were invented to solve this problem.

    Isn’t it simply a case of: we have the available technology so, irrespective of its merits, let’s do it. I tweet because I can.

    • I think Nik has a point (below). We tend not to persevere using technology that doesn’t DO anything for us. Speaking personally, I really enjoyed tweeting the first time (in Prensky’s Cardiff IATEFL talk), but didn’t think I would keep on doing it. Just a novelty. trying to keep up, probably and yes, perhaps I tweet because even I can!!

      What has kept me going (and not losing interest in the whole silly idea)is the enthusiasm of people who read tweets; the enjoyment of reading others tweets; the community it builds (yes, I know, sometimes silly, sometimes petty and bead-tempered) which is mostly supportive and surprisingly professional.

      So I agree with Scott up to a point, but as Nik says, available technology fades away pretty quickly unless people think it’s worth using.

      How about that? The middle way!!

      Jeremy

  50. I am one of the guilty tweeters from the DOS conference! I have to say I wouldn’t have tweeted if I hadn’t found the talks so enjoyable!

    It was my first attempt at tweeting from a conference and I found it a great help to my own understanding… I don’t see it as any difference from going back to my school and telling people about the great talks.

    I also gave a presentation and was flattered thatbpeople were sending tweets and that they actually wanted to film it. For me, those giving presentations in education should be glad thatvtheir ideas are being spread to a wider audience – isn’t that the whole point?!?

    I loved ken robinsons TED talk. I saw it second-hand for free on the net. It resulted in me promoting ken Robinson to anyone who would listen to me and I bought all his books.

    Speakers should be pleased that people are wiling to spread their good work for them. Twitter should be embraced as a great educational tool.

    I think it’s when we stop tweeting that the speaker should be worried…

    • Hi Mike,

      glad you enjoyed tweeting from the conference.

      I like the views you have expressed here. Actually speakers get more from being tweeted about (and filmed?) than they might lose….

      The only worse thing than being talked/gossiped about is not being talked/gossiped about, perhaps?

      Gavin may well be right. Twitter (and other web 2.0 social media sites)are just slightly new ways of doing old things?

      That’s quite a big question, it seems to me.

      Jeremy

      Jeremy

  51. Scott Thornbury :

    Nik Peachey :

    If we didn’t realise we had it, was it a problem? An equally credible argument could be made for drag-racing: without the invention of cars we wouldn’t have had the problem of no drag-racing. Thank heavens cars were invented to solve this problem.
    Isn’t it simply a case of: we have the available technology so, irrespective of its merits, let’s do it. I tweet because I can.

    </blockquote"
    Um. That reminds me a bit of that awful 'If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound?" Cars weren't invented to solve a problem. They have solved some problems and also created others, but really they are just part of the ongoing cycle of human change.

    As for technology, I don't think it's a case of 'irrespective of its merits'. I think because we discover it has merits we use it. Afterall the internet is litered with cobwebs of technology and failed tech companies that turned out to have products with no merit. The amount of websites / tools / software companies that actually catch on and make it into mainstream use is EXTREMELY small and difficult to predict.

    YouTube is a classic example. It was a website originally intended for online dating, but the people who used it decided that it would be more useful to have the biggest video library in the history of the world. Did we know we needed it? No, but now we have it I think it is extremely useful.

    As for Twitter, I don't think people Tweet because they can. They might Tweet because they want other people to know that they can, but like YouTube, I think a lot of people do find it really useful. That's why it is still about and why another possible 1000 other web based start ups are not.

    I actually think the tech market place is very darwinian (is that word?). You don't survive long if you can't prove you are useful. I'm not so sure about the Educational Tech marketing place though. This is one reason why I have a tendency to prefer technologies that were developed 'authentic' use rather than made for EFL ones.

    As or the tree in the forest, of course it makes a sound.

    Best

    Nik Peachey

  52. I recently attended a conference where I was sitting next to a person tweeting onto a netbook, tapping away while I was trying to pay attention. It was like being at a concert, with someone rustling their way through a box of chocolates for the duration of the performance.

    • Matt,

      I recently sat next to someone at a conference scratching away on a bit of paper with a pencil – I can tell you, that was annoying!

      I’ve also sat next to people eating sweets, drinking coffee, doodling, playing hangman, talking to the person next to them and a whole lot more….. Damn tricky things, conferences🙂

    • Hi Matt,

      of all the comments here this is the one that worries me most (I mean in terms of my own behaviour).

      I really hate people who eat stuff, all the crinkly paper and the munching in cinemas. I nearly turned round and leapt on someone who was in danger of breaking the incredible mood in ‘127 Hours’ which I watched the other day. When I go to concerts, it is intolerable if people start talking etc. And the same happens in theatre etc.

      Still I sit in conference talks tapping away at the computer. I do TRY and sit at the back. I do HOPE it will not distract people. Hmmm.

      A conference talk is not a work of art in the same way as a film, play, concerto is it? Surely?)

      Guidance from all please….

      Jeremy

  53. You know, the same way I like people to focus in an informal chat with me, I guess I’d be annoyed to see people doing other things in my talks…
    I don’t like people answering cell phones while they are talking to me, for instance…

  54. Pingback: efl-resource.com » ELT news feed » Death by tweet

  55. ALiCe__M :

    Jeremy,

    Isn’t life a big theatre, somehow?
    What should be avoided, I think, is not performance, it’s stardom. But by making the “performance” unique and secret and available only to “the happy few”, the making of ELT stars is reinforced.
    By opening the window, on the contrary, inspiration and vocations of other presenters may emerge.

    Alice, you are absolutely right – and I love the idea of opening a window. Of course a fantastic ‘performance’ may do that too, I think. Music, poetry, that kind of thing, beautifully performed can make you expand your thinking. So why not a conference talk?
    Jeremy

  56. Gavin Dudeney :

    Andy,

    I thought I’d been at pains to recognise that you were speaking personally earlier in the conversation (by referring back to your own post about your views being illogical, etc.), but my apologies if that isn’t the case.

    I was simply advocating balance and fairness – which seem like fine ideas to me – and free will to choose how people participate in a conference talk, as long as they’re not setting fire to the presenter.

    I merely think it’s problematic when people decide that something isn’t acceptable to them *in a particular context* – like it’s fine to tweet down the pub, or over dinner with friends, but not in my talk…

    Gavin

    Wow! This is quite an interesting little ‘sidebar’ to the main conversation.

    I like tweeting. In talks. BUT I am nervous now that my tweeting may distract other attendees (I’ll address that below). But I do think that it just depends on who you are and what you want. I haven’t actually seen a talk yet that was ruined by people tweeting, but I have come across many people who (a) enjoyed tweeting and (b) enjoyed being tweeted to. I think that’s good enough for me – unless and until it does cause harm. And on the basis of the comments on this blog, it doesn’t do the speaker any harm, really – that’s what everyone seems to have been saying – so I guess we’re OK?

    Tweeters rule; non-tweeters rule. OK?!!!

    Jeremy

    Jeremy

  57. jeremyharmer :
    Point well made, I think (see my response to Matt). Question: is computer tapping different? My fear is that it is….

    Jeremy,

    No… don’t think so.

    The world is full of distractions – ambient noise, traffic, people shouting outside, the neighbours throwing pots at each other and all the rest. If someone is incapable of attending a talk without homing in on these little things then I’m not sure what to suggest. I see no difference between any ambient noise created in a conference context – someone huffing and puffing or eating crisps next to me would annoy me much more than someone tapping on a keyboard. In both cases, however, I have the capability to shut them out and home in on the speaker. It’s not an especially difficult skill.

    Unless a talk is packed and you arrive late, you have a choice of where to sit. So don’t sit next to Crisp Boy or Tweet Girl – go to the quiet corner where people sit in rapt attention, adoring gazes cast up to the stage to capture every drop of wisdom. It’s a big world – surely we can all live together in talks?

    Gavin

  58. Pingback: Tweets that mention Presenters in peril – is Twitter to blame??!!! « Jeremy Harmer's Blog -- Topsy.com

  59. Just been thinking about this whole thing over a dull sandwich…

    When I do a plenary I tend to assume that people are there because either:

    – they’re interested in hearing me speak
    – they’re interested in the subject matter
    – both of the above
    – they had no option, because nothing else is on

    I spend an inordinate amount of time preparing these things, and – more often than not – they’re customised to the country/region/conference, etc. I’m interested in the subject matter, enthusiastic about it and I want people to share that. So that’s my part of the deal.

    What’s their part?

    Well, I see it as coming along and showing some kind of interest in my talk – and people do. Most people (I’d say 99.99999%) will give you the time of day and listen, make notes and ask questions (when there’s an opportunity). I did once have someone take a phone call in a plenary in Singapore. Did I mind? Well, I thought it was odd, and certainly unexpected, but I don’t know how these things work everywhere in the world, and that may have been perfectly normal. And it didn’t spoil the plenary for me, or the others.

    Listening to one person for an hour, sitting quietly in a chair, is a feat of amazing patience and commitment. Consequently I don’t mind what else people do in terms of note-taking, fiddling, schedule reading, doodling, coffee drinking or anything else. I really don’t expect anyone to sit on their hands for an hour – we don’t work like that. If they give me *some* of their time, I think that’s a fair bargain.

    How people take notes or record their impressions or describe their experience is neither here nor there to me, and I don’t see why I should have any control over it whatsoever. It’s my plenary, but it’s their time. It’s also up to them to interpret what I say. If this isn’t what I meant, that’s really my problem for not being clear (or maybe theirs for not getting the point), but that’s what happens in discussions and conversations worldwide, and banning Twitter or any other form of recasting a talk is not going to make a jot of difference to that phenomenon.

    So, for me, a plenary is a bargain and I think most everybody plays along. People listen to the speaker as attentively as they judge is necessary, the speaker gives his/her all and everyone goes away happy that they did what they could to make it a special event. Conversations afterwards can be as skewed and potentially shallow as any series of tweets. How many times have I heard, over the coffee break, conversations along the lines of:

    “What did you think of XXXXX’s plenary?”
    “Yeah, it was good”
    “Yeah”
    “Seen Keith yet?”

    The tools don’t make people clever or stupid, that’s for sure. And someone sitting on their hands for an hour and giving me 100% of their time and concentration does not necessarily mean that they understand more, or take more away, from my session than the person who takes copious notes on paper, tweets their thoughts or carves them into their forearm with a protractor.

    Gavin

      • Sue,

        I don’t think so, no. The day a plenary speaker is given control over how I can take notes in their talk (or what I do as part of their audience) is the day I stop going to plenaries. In the meantime, I intend to do what works best for me, whilst being a polite and decent member of the audience.

        A plenary is a public space, after all. That public space has always extended way beyond the plenary room.

        People have gone back to their institutions and based CPD sessions on the content, people have written them up for articles, cited them in articles and books, talked to their chums about them and all the rest. The Twitter conversation around a plenary fits as comfortably into that space as any other.

        If people are worried about their talks being trivialised or mis-represented, maybe they should have them filmed and made available to set the record straight.

        Oh no, wait a minute…

    • I wouldn’t go so far to say that tweeting during a conference presentation is impolite – it depends a bit how you do it (as Jeremy took pains to point out). It’s just distracting – for the speaker (if they’re aware of it), for those sitting around (ditto), but mostly for the tweeter him/herself. Their attention is clearly divided, because they are not attending the speaker but they’re also conscious of – and possibly attending – other tweeters.

      The analogy with note-taking is a false one. Note-taking is a well-established, totally private activity. Like doodling. Tweeting, on the other hand, is interactive. In that sense, it belongs to the same genre of communication as texting. People interacting with other people while I’m talking to them – whether talking or tweeting or texting – and where I’m unaware of what they’re saying, is a different order of distraction. It’s like whispering among themselves. It’s like passing notes in class. It’s like taking cell phone calls.

      Well, come to think of it, it IS a tad rude, yes.😉

      • Hmm….

        ‘Well-established’ sounds a bit like an ‘old or new’ argument to me.

        In any case, tweeting is not necessarily interactive – which is what you seem to suggest. I follow many people who only tweet links to interesting articles and websites and seem to use it as a bookmarking or note-taking platform. I’m not sure any of us can conclude with any certainty how any person uses Twitter and what they use it for. It seems a tad presumptuous.

        As it is, however, I’m going to come back to one of my original points and extend it a little: when can we expect, from the people who have expressed in public a desire to see tweeting neutered at conferences, similar calls for passing notes, whispering a comment to the person next to you, etc., to be equally slated?

        Again, I reckon it’s a clash of old and new – we don’t bang on about people whispering to each other in plenaries, do we? You don’t see any blog posts about people passing notes between themselves in plenaries, do you?

        So, all I can see is that ‘well-established’ activities are acceptable, and ‘new’ ones aren’t. And that sounds vaguely unfair and unreasonable to me.

        Gavin

      • Correction to the above: I meant to say “…because they’re not ONLY attending the speaker, but they’re also conscious of -and possibly attending – other tweeters”.
        Sorry. I got distracted.😉

      • So (a neutral question this..no edge) did you feel uncomfortable in Greenwich last Friday – about 5 people tweeting away – but u couldn’t really see me cos I was hiding at the back?!!!

        You didn’t look uncomfortable at all.

    • For me, the rudeness, tends to lie not in the actual activity of tweeting itself but in the act of doing something which a presenter has been very clear about not wanting or liking having done in his talks (like Sue, sorry, not trying to speak for Scott) but instead for all presenters who would prefer not to be tweeted. An educational conference is not – as has been stated, many times throughout this series of comments: a music concert, outdoor movie theatre, opera in the park or any other public arena. Respect is a key issue here.

  60. Gavin Dudeney :

    I don’t think so, no. The day a plenary speaker is given control over how I can take notes in their talk (or what I do as part of their audience) is the day I stop going to plenaries. In the meantime, I intend to do what works best for me, whilst being a polite and decent member of the audience.

    On the issue of whether tweeting in a plenary is polite or not, it surely boils down to what the social norms of a particular community are. But as tweeting at conferences is a relatively new phenomenon, then it’s difficult to know what the social norms are with regards to whether to tweet or not. In the absence of these norms, then surely it should to be down to the presenter to set the agenda. The question is Gavin, if a presenter indicated at the start of a talk that they would prefer people not to tweet, what would you do? Carry on tweeting regardless? Walk out? Or respect their wishes and stay and watch without tweeting?

    We accept that different cultures have different social norms and most people (I like to think) respect that and change their behaviour on account of that. So why is it so hard to understand that different presenters might have different views on what is or isn’t polite behaviour whilst giving a talk?

    • Whoops! Made a bit of a mess quoting there. Obviously the second and third paragraphs are my words and not Gavin’s. Sorry for that.

    • How about the following:

      1) Please don’t take notes in case it distracts you or you misinterpret me
      2) Please leave your bags at the door
      3) Please turn in your cameras

      Or anything else. All a bit precious, if you ask me.

      Gain

      • You can’t take a camera into a movie theatre without getting booted (and prosecuted), and talking loudly in a theatre is similarly taboo. What’s the difference?
        Is IP less important in a plenary?

      • So Gavin, presumably you’d just carry on tweeting regardless? Doesn’t social etiquette exist at conferences? It’s funny that you’re being so flippant about it because it wasn’t that long ago that you were lecturing on the social etiquette of Twitter. http://slife.dudeney.com/?p=366

    • Hi Peter,

      if a speaker asks me not to tweet I won’t I think. But I might think they were a bit, well, precious (to use a Dudeney word!). A plenary is by its nature a public event so the public have the right of access!

      (But I would want to try and be fairly discrete (see above). I remember tweeting from the front row in Herbert Puchta’s talk at ISTEK last year, holding my phone up…and I regretted it when i thought about it afterwards. Herbert is far too much of a professional to have been putt off by it, but I was uneccessarily conspicuous and in that sense, perhaps, a bit rude (as Scott suggests)

      Jeremy

      Jeremy

  61. Wow, this conversation is getting interesting!

    I think it is boiling down to whether it is okay to chew our popcorn loudly during the movie… (I digress, I joke🙂 )

    I can’t agree that a plenary is a “public place”. Nor a classroom. A public place – to go back to Socrates, is a place open to everyone. Our conferences and plenaries are very much walled and profit besotted spaces. Let’s not pretend otherwise. They reward those of intelligence I’ll admit but also those who pay the piper.

    I can agree they are “social” spaces. And as such, there is a sort of decorum and etiquette expected. If you agree to attend, attend to the talk. The ideas, and not like your watching the boob tube and doing whatever you will.

    I really only have two questions to ask others about all this…

    1. Will Jeremy’s blog melt down from memory overload?

    2. Do you allow your students to use cell phones, tweet, tap on their laptop while you are going on about the implications of Swain’s output hypothesis?
    — I used to be so open but found out quickly that I’m an educator and not entertainer. Come and learn or go out and chat whatever you want outside over a coffee….

    David

    • Hi David,

      meltdown is certainly possible for this blog!!

      I think there’s a serious point there. Teaching = teaching = educating, so we may ask students to behave accordingly.

      Conference plenaries are and always will be part-entertainment (though if only entertainment they dissipate immediately and leave you feeling hungry).

      There’s a difference?

      Jeremy

  62. So much has been said (138 comments). But I have a couple more points to make.

    I think tweeting is the same as note taking, but it uses a different medium. Can it be distracting to someone next to you (just like rustling sweet papers at a concert)? Well, during the concert we´re normally still and quiet, listening to the performer, interacting mentally and emotionally. We only show our appreciation at the end by clapping.

    I think that presenters would be frustrated if they looked at the audiences and saw people just looking at them. We expect a high degree of interaction during a talk: laughter, head nodding, signs which show they are following our line of thought. Maybe tweeting is a new way of interacting?

    As for distracting others, if I were in that situation and the tweeting really bothered me (and the reasons may be several), I´d just move seats. (Did that once when the person next to me fell asleep and snored).

    Another question asked: Why the sense of urgency and the need to tweet at that immediate moment? Funny that! Before this discussion the notion of “urgency” simply hadn´t occurred to me! But, okay, this is exactly where tweeting differs from note taking. Because we take notes for ourselves and only share them later, generally in a f-2-f meeting with other teachers. Tweeting means sharing on-the-go with loads of people.

    Yet, I simply see it as a new medium, which has the great added benefit of being online. I plead guilty to having tweeted a great deal during last year´s IATEFL conference. I was one of the two people from my language institute present at the conference – I tweeted out to the 478 teachers who follow my institutional twitter account. These teachers could not afford to go to the Conference and the buzz which was created by following the tweets was amazing. That´s how I’ve managed to convince at least 8 teachers to save up and go to IATEFL this year! The tweets showed them how exciting an international conference can be. Surely this can only be good for all speakers, presenters, for the ELT community, and, most of all, for the teachers themselves?

    Now, going to another issue: can the speaker ask the audience not to tweet? Well, why not, if it´s done nicely? I wouldn´t feel offended and I would gladly not tweet. And if I knew beforehand that a presenter did not like people tweeting, I would simply not tweet at all during their presentation. I’d just take my own notes (on my laptop of course).

    The question which has got me going is, in fact, your question number 2: do tweets really inform or is it just a big fad we´ve all succumbed to. Looking again at the transcripts of the IH DOS Conference (tweet transcripts Marisa (@Marisa_C) sent us for the first two days http://tinyurl.com/4wk5mpk and this is the transcript for the Saturday tweets http://wthashtag.com/dosconference), which I followed online avidly, I firmly believe tweets provide solid information for us who are not at an event.

    The IH DOS Conference showed that up to 4 people tweeting quality tweets is sufficient to present a good summary of a talk. But I also noticed that the way people tweet a straightforward talk is different to the way they tweet presentations which involve showing resources, films or include audience participation.

    A straightforward talk is tweeted in more detail. We get information, opinion and examples. We even get clarification of information. See all these three messages tweeted at 11:17 a.m.:
    @Shaunwilden: GC looking at the historical reasons why translation went out of fashion, goes back to the reform movement
    @Harmerj: Translation was pushed aside in late 19th century cause of academics (Henry Sweet) & businesmen (Berlitz)
    @IHDubai: back in time – C19th – commercial reasons for banning translation – back to reform movement

    This is one of many examples of how tweets do give reliable information. But we never get the rich little details, e.g. when Jeremy tweeted: @Harmerj: Guy is telling his InshAllah story – excellent intro to why translation matters.
    I’d love to hear the story and of course, everything else Guy Cook had to say if he ever repeated this at a conference.

    When a talk/presentation is based on more practical aspects, shows a number of resources and includes demonstrations, tweets share links which are commented on. We also get the running commentary tweet of what is taking place, e.g.: “Listening to so and so reciting….” etc. This in fact frustrates twitter-world, especially if it includes a performance of some sort:
    @IHDubai: beautiful music and a 2009 poem by Caroline Duffy – powerful stuff – WOW!
    @nickkiley: This is dramatic, captivating stuff from @Harmerj Poetry to music

    Which got the following reaction:
    @criscattaneo: ?@nickkiley: #DOSconference This is dramatic, captivating stuff from @Harmerj Poetry to music?. Hmph,This is like watching a silent movie!

    I don´t think Cris could have put it better. That´s exactly what it feels like at times. Twitter doesn´t capture everything that happens live during a talk. Nor does it capture the effort and enthusiasm presenters put into their talk. That’s what doesn´t make watching the live talks redundant, even if I´d read the tweets before and the presentation were practically the same.

    But films would capture all that, wouldn´t they? Yes, they would.

    Yet, the issue of filming is tricky. I don´t see why presenters have to say “yes” to being filmed. We live in a society in which we are very much aware of people´s public image. I think everyone has the right to decide things about their own “public image”. Presenters should be asked before being filmed; they should agree to the terms and conditions for the publication of the films and I think they could ask for a higher fee (if fees aren´t involved, this should be a clause in the contract between the presenter, publisher , institution, etc.).

    But filming is very democratic and allows for sound sharing of practice and theory. So, maybe presenters could have talks in their portfolio which would be those which could be filmed and those which couldn´t. That might be a solution for avoiding re-working several presentations? Just a thought.

    Sorry, very conscious this is a huge, huge comment.

    • Valeria,

      well the comment may have been long, but I think it is extraordinarily informative. I really really like the way you describe different kinds of tweet – from informative to tantalisingly opaque.

      Lots to think about.

      Jeremy

  63. Hmm….

    Maybe we should all put some sort of disclaimer or rules on our presentations so that everyone in the audience knows what’s permitted or not? I’ve started the ball rolling here:

    Please feel free to use this as a basis for your own, should you wish😉

    Gavin

  64. Peter Fenton :
    Gavin (..) It’s funny that you’re being so flippant about it because it wasn’t that long ago that you were lecturing on the social etiquette of Twitter. http://slife.dudeney.com/?p=366

    Peter,

    Thanks for the reminder – though that was an entirely different discussion, I think. It had nothing to do with conferences, and the right of individuals to make notes and record their reactions to content they’ve paid for in any way they choose.

    I can write silently on my iPad, I don’t annoy anyone whilst doing it and – when I get back home – all the links to resources mentioned are clickable, the notes are searchable and I can paste them into other pieces of work I do. Paper notes just don’t cut it for me – if I tweet a link someone gives in a talk, when I get home I can find that tweet, click the link and follow up on the research. I’m simply not prepared to get home, dig out a scrap of paper, type the link in, etc. It seems like a senseless waste of precious time to me.

    Gavin

    • Gavin,

      the advantages for the iPad/laptop tweeter are quite clear to hose of us who do it. I find, for example, that tweeting from a computer (when i can find and follow links and when I can listen, look and type all at the same time) is far far better that peering short-sightedly at my iPhone.

      I am still worried about irritating people next to me though – my crisp-packet computer keyboard!

      Jeremy

    • The point I was trying to make is that it’s slightly hypocritical to talk about the importance of etiquette in one sphere (that sphere being Twitter, as you did in your blog post) and then just pooh-pooh the idea that manners and etiquette might exist in another sphere (that being conferences).

      Of course, everything you say about note-taking and being inconspicuous is entirely logical and makes perfect sense when you think about it. Unfortunately, many people’s perceptions when they see someone fiddling on their phone is to think ‘rude sod isn’t even paying attention’ or something along those lines. Of course, we know different but not everyone is that clued up about it.

      It wasn’t that long ago that whenever anyone got a mobile phone out in public, they were automatically assumed to be a bit of a flash git and maybe a bit arrogant and rude to boot. Just like this point of view no longer holds true, attitudes towards tweeting at conferences will surely change until it is no longer an issue. In a few years people will probably read this blog post and wonder what all the fuss was about. However, attitudes don’t disappear overnight and whilst you are undoubtedly ahead of the game on this one, I don’t see it as all that unreasonable to occasionally acquiesce to those who might not hold the same opinion as you.

      Personally speaking, if I were sat next to someone at a conference who was using their phone, iPad or whatever, I wouldn’t be at all bothered about it but at the same time I could understand why others might be a bit put off by it.

      • Peter,

        All fair enough, I think. But – like everyone else – my time is limited, and I like to use it carefully. Using an electronic device at conferences allows me to cut out a step in a process, and it saves me time. The problem with waiting politely for everyone to ‘catch on’ or ‘catch up’ is that I could be waiting for the rest of my life. The speaker who used OHTs two years ago is hardly likely to embrce my use of an iPad in the next decade or so…

        Gavin

  65. Even if I enjoy looking at reports from conferences, my problem with the plenary videos is that they are very very amateur products. This is true of almost all sketches or longer plenary talks, be it the Harrogate IATEFL, an IH conference or most of the TED talks. Usually there is one camera, placed at a fixed point, at the back of the hall, and you can either see a ’grand total,’ full of backs, a giant screen and a very small presenter lost in the props, or a zoomed picture of a fidgeting, nervous lecturer, but nothing about the side effects, the atmosphere of the conference.
    Even worse when your attention is distracted by something. The other day I happened to see the plenary of a distinguished presenter. Most of the time you could see the back of the audience in a fully packed room. Suddenly I caught sight of a naked back in the second row, and this back had a rather tricky tick of the shoulder muscles. As if a squirrel was running up and down on this back. I have to admit, my attention was completely diverted from the fantastic lecture.
    I think a good conference talk is something like a performance, and, in a sense, a work of art. But if it is transformed into another field of art (into a film), its effect will change, and not always with the desired outcome.

    • Hi Mihaly,

      like you (though I didn’t see it) I am also transfixed by that naked back!

      A very very good point about the standard of filming. I hate some of the ones that people have made of me for exactly the reasons you have mentioned.

      But when people watch conference sites like IATEFL they don’t expect really good quality, I think.

      I am still intrigued to know by the way how many of you/us/them watch a talk all the way through.

      Anyone?

      Jeremy

  66. Dear all,

    an experiment! The organisers of the International House World Organisation DOS conference http://www.ihworld.com have asked if the film of my session should go on their internal site, their public site, or not go up at all.

    I’ve said let’s put it up on the public site to see (a) how many – if any – people actually watch it, (b) if they watch it through to the end, and (c) if that messes me up for the talk which (as it evolves) I intend to give a few times this year, if anyone will let me.

    Then I can compare results with Scott (who’s gone internal) to see if our experiences are any different. Unscientific, but perhaps a little bit informative.

    Jeremy

  67. Hi Jeremy,

    It is an honour to have your approval.
    As to your question: this weekend my twitter account was hot with tweets and RTs from the DOS conference. But even if I knew for sure that some of the lectures were brilliant, I simply did not have the guts to be nailed down before my computer and see the videos. To be frank, I opted for Sherlock Holmes on the channel TV.

    Mihaly

    • Hi Jeremy,

      I remember watching a 10 minute video online of your ‘Fluency Paradox’ talk last year, which was also from the DOS conference. My reaction at the time was that it was enough for me to want to see the whole talk and I would have been eager to watch all of it the whole way through.

      I’ve also watched (the whole way through) a video of Scott on YouTube giving a talk about grammar at the New School in New York about a year and a half ago. I also watched about 3 or 4 videos from IATEFL Harrogate the whole way through, although I have to admit that I only watched those that I was really interested in. I certainly didn’t make a weekend out of staying at home to watch IATEFL online!

      I agree that the video quality is an issue but it’s better than nothing. The biggest problem is when the camera doesn’t zoom in on the slides sufficiently so you can see them, or as was the case with the IATEFL Pecha Kucha, they aren’t allowed to for copyright reasons. That restriction actually made the video not worth watching in my opinion.

      I also remember listening to a recording of Gavin’s talk at IATEFL whilst viewing the slides and that was just as good if not better than watching a video recording. A lot less to get distracted by anyway!

      • Peter,

        We’ve been trying to sort out the slides thing for IATEFL Online, but more often that not people include images that are not CC or royalty free and there are problems. OK definitely doesn’t make much sense without slides, that’s for sure. In terms of video quality at IATEFL Online, though, we are using broadcast quality equipment (since last year) and an excellent AV team.

        In terms of audio and slides, I actually quite like that model and have been trying to encourage others at conferences to record themselves too – since it’s impossible for us at IATEFL to get round more than about 10% of speakers.

        I usually use a tie clip mic with Audacity on the same machine I’m using to present and don’t bother with editing – then simply upload the audio and the slides, and it doesn’t take long at all. It’s a cheap and cheerful solution.

        Gavin

  68. Just wondering – (for the people who like to tweet during plenaries) How far would the view that tweeting is non-intrusive and in keeping with active listening go? Would you tweet during an important business lunch? Would you tweet while your friend was telling you something important? Would you tweet while out on a romantic date at a candle-lit restaurant and your partner is in the middle of proclaiming their undying love? Would you tweet while assessing/observing a lesson?

    If yes, why and if no why not?

    • Well, during a plenary, you’re not “actively” listening, I think. At least in the meaning of active listening which I understand, which involves paraphrasing, rephrasing, clarifying etc.

      • Well actually, Andy, I do believe that when your brain is fully engaged by a speaker you ARE listening actively; agreeing, disagreeing, reacting, thinking. In some earlier post on this site I recounted a moment where I got into a huge debate with myself (I know, I’m nuts) as the result of something a speaker said.

        If active listening didn’t work lecturing would have gone out of fashion years ago. But it hasn’t because, when done well, it works!

        I think.

    • Steph,

      1) Important business lunch – no (unless people agreed that it was useful…)
      2) Friend – no (it’s a one-to-one dialogue)
      3) Romantic date – no (it’s a one-to-one dialogue)

      I’m not sure this helps much. A plenary isn’t anywhere near any of those situations, which all involve some kind of discussion between individuals. A plenary is uaually listened to (with whatever amount of attention we all choose) or, very occasionally, involves some kind of pair or groupwork. I’m afraid I don’t see the relevence.

      Gavin

  69. Andy Hockley :
    Well, during a plenary, you’re not “actively” listening, I think. At least in the meaning of active listening which I understand, which involves paraphrasing, rephrasing, clarifying etc.

    So plenary is like a background noise then?🙂

    • No, not at all, it’s just that “active listening” has a definition which doesn’t apply in this case http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/peace/treatment/activel.htm
      It involves a very clear response and it’s almost a dialogue (though it isn’t technically because the active listener doesn’t provide any real input)

      I know what you mean though, but given the above I’m not quite sure what to call it. “involved listening” perhaps?

  70. Hi Andy,

    I see what you mean. Active listening normally involves entering into a 2-way interaction, using spoken discourse to encourage, re-affirm etc. But (dipping into a completely different field now – that of hospice work) There are ways to actively listen without entering into dialogue. OK, not the same thing, being by the side of someone unable to speak and sitting in a plenary.

    Also research into the way we read suggests the mere formulation of mental questions, which are then answered (or not) by the text make reading an active process. Perhaps it’s more along these lines I’m thinking…….don’t we do the same thing when we listen actively. (formulate mental questions/interpretations) only to have them confirmed or refuted.

  71. Gavin Dudeney :
    Steph,
    1) Important business lunch – no (unless people agreed that it was useful…)
    2) Friend – no (it’s a one-to-one dialogue)
    3) Romantic date – no (it’s a one-to-one dialogue)
    I’m not sure this helps much. A plenary isn’t anywhere near any of those situations, which all involve some kind of discussion between individuals. A plenary is uaually listened to (with whatever amount of attention we all choose) or, very occasionally, involves some kind of pair or groupwork. I’m afraid I don’t see the relevence.
    Gavin

    Fair enough Gavin. I really love the diversity of minds here🙂

  72. jeremyharmer :
    So (a neutral question this..no edge) did you feel uncomfortable in Greenwich last Friday – about 5 people tweeting away – but u couldn’t really see me cos I was hiding at the back?!!!
    You didn’t look uncomfortable at all.

    Well Jeremy, since you ask, at one point during one of the video clips (the one on Reading Recovery, where the mother of the boy who had benefited from the reading program, said “You see, school works!”) I looked over to you to catch your eye – knowing that this had been the theme of one of your blog posts. But your head was down, and there was no eye to be caught. It may be that you had just nodded off (I have that effect on people). But everyone else was watching the video.😉

    • How could you even suggest that I would nod off in one of your sessions?! What dreadful calumny!!

      But you are absolutely right (the nail on the head u have hit). I wasn’t looking up because I was at that very moment tweeting. Which brings us neatly back to all the comments here. I DO miss some stuff when i am tweeting. The ears still work, but sometimes you have to look down. So I missed that comment (which i would have enjoyed).

      I think some summarising comments will be in order later today. Mostly Tweeting is not a 100% universal benefit; but for me the benefits still ouweigh the negatives.

      • Jeremy,

        Surely, though, at any given moment in any plenary you might have been looking down for a variety of reasons: making a note, doodling, cleaning a speck of mud off a shoe or countless other things.

        So again, it appears that it’s only looking down to tweet that’s bad. I must confess I find that odd.

        Gavin

  73. I was wondering how to summarise all this. Can we? Worth it?

    The conversation has been really enlightening for me; genuine discussion about an issue (well issues, really) that is still relatively new and where we are all finding our feet.

    As far as I can see the consensus on filming is that (a) it is really useful for people who can’t get to hear speakers in person and, as such, should definitely continue. Even though the filming is not always of the highest quality, still it gives people enough to hear speakers they otherwise might not have the chance of hearing.

    It is unclear whether viewers watch a whole 60-minutes’ worth of a talk or just bits of it.

    It may be that 10-minute excerpts as ‘teasers’ would be an attractive alternative for those speakers who are worried that a full film messes them up for future outings of a particular presentation.

    (An alternative [we shall call it the ‘Dudeney diversion’!] would be to post an audio of the talk together with the ppt/keynote/prezi slides)

    Does having your presentation filmed mean you can’t use it again? The consensus from this discussion seems to be no; that even if people have seen the whole film they may not remember that much of it, and anyway seeing someone present ‘in the flesh’ is always better, and anyway (some feel) watching a talk is often more informative second time round than the first time.

    However, many presenters (I am one) still feel slightly uneasy about this. I will be interested to see if posting my most recent session publicly will have any impact …..

    Ways round our discomfort, then, would be either (a) refuse permission to be filmed (difficult because sometimes it just happens), (b) insist on a release date sometime in the future, or (c) insist on only a section of the talk going up – I like that option!

    And then we got to tweets! It seems clear that they do have a positive function for both tweeters and tweetees, many of who have attested to the enjoyment and information they get from reading what people are saying from inside a conference. However (thanks Valeria) some ‘mood music’ tweets like ‘ooh, he’s doing a poem’ are not especially useful….can be frustrating.

    Tweeting can be done ‘decorously’ and not offend anyone. However some people are uncomfortable at the sight of lots of people (or the person sitting next to them)hammering away on keyboards. Gavin may be right that this is peculiar, but the fact is not everyone is thrilled by tweeters in conference situations. A consensus seemed to emerge that (a) if you want to tweet be as discrete as possible and that (Gavin excepted, i think) (b) it IS OK for a presenter to ask for people not to tweet. Personally I can’t see why they would!

    No one – but no one, as far as I can see – worried that tweets would mess up a presenter’s talk for next time.

    But of course all this is an evolving discussion. The times they are a’changing.

    For me, though, I am hugely gratified to have ‘hosted’ (well not really, but you know what I mean) a discussion which has been interesting, provocative and for my own professional life at least, useful.

    Jeremy

  74. Gavin Dudeney :

    Jeremy,

    Surely, though, at any given moment in any plenary you might have been looking down for a variety of reasons: making a note, doodling, cleaning a speck of mud off a shoe or countless other things.

    So again, it appears that it’s only looking down to tweet that’s bad. I must confess I find that odd.

    Gavin

    Fair point!

  75. Perhaps conferences/talks etc. should have a twitter section a bit like smoking sections in restaurants or mobile phone zones in trains – or perhaps the üresenter could give one talk to the twitterati and another to the sit quietlyati (for double the fee of course)

  76. Damn, Damn, Damn!

    See that’s a drawback of films.

    I just watched the first 5 minutes of my filmed talk at the IH DOS conference online. And even though I have spoken Carol Ann Duffy’s poem ‘you’ from memory time and time again, I made a mistake when I said it at that conference.

    The last line should be “There you are on the bed like a gift, like a touchable dream”and for some reason I left out (why? Why?) ‘on the bed’. Now that’s there for all to see. And it’s going to stay there. And later for the first time ever I stumbled over a line in “It may not always be so”, my favourite sonnet.

    Please can we re-record?!

    Jeremy

    • This has been a fascinating discussion to follow. I didn’t notice the mistakes in your DOS Conference film – just enjoyed listening to you read the poems. I followed it the first time round in tweets and didn’t get nearly as much as I’m getting from the video, but I would still really like to see the talk ‘live’. Even though I will know some of the activities etc which you’re going to present, it will always be a reminder of things I forget over the time after I watched the video – it would be well nigh impossible to retain and use everything from all of the talks I’ve watched / been to.
      Sandy

    • Jeremy,

      We have all forgotten a line or a word here and there… the bit you forgot on (coincidentally my favorite) Carol Ann Duffy’s poem does not alter the meaning – nor the poetry – of it. Of course it would’ve been better if you had said it, but I hardly think it deserves a re-recording.

      Let your soul rest easy 🙂

      • Thanks Cecilia,

        soul is in ‘easy’ mode now!

        But you’d feel silly if you were playing a Beethoven concerto and you left out some of the notes. You’d just hope that no one had recorded it!

        I mean I’ll get over it (!), but still, very irritated with myself!

        Jeremy

  77. Jeremy,
    It was fantastic. The video was awful, nothing could be seen on the projector screen, and due to my not too broad band computer, sometimes it was like a great Chaplin film, but it was a terrific show, from the beginning till the end of all the 58 minutes. With fascinating ideas and tasks. Good poems, nice music. Thank you.
    Mihaly

  78. Hi Jeremy,

    I was on twitter trying to enjoy the presentations of the DOS conference as much as one possibly can, and I did.

    Now I JUST finished watching the filmed version of your presentation, and I felt a sudden urge to let you know about my thoughts. No matter how many times you presented this talk, I would be there. The moments one lives through the talks YOU do are quite unique, and so is every single presentation.

    So if you ask me, I WILL be there, if I had the opportunity to see this talk again.

    Thank you for agreeing to be filmed so that I could be part of this wonderful experience!

    Erika

  79. ALiCe__M :Jeremy,
    Isn’t life a big theatre, somehow?What should be avoided, I think, is not performance, it’s stardom. But by making the “performance” unique and secret and available only to “the happy few”, the making of ELT stars is reinforced.By opening the window, on the contrary, inspiration and vocations of other presenters may emerge.

    I went to a very good conference in Seville recently, where Jeremy was the opening plenary. As people made their way into the plenary hall, loud music (Shakira) was playing on loop and photos of the presenters swirled onto the large screen at the front. After a brief presentation in which the star credentials of the speakers were advertised, Jeremy began his (very good) talk, with his every move being tracked by a professional photographer and his assistant lightman. The photos, if anyone is interested, can be seen at http://www.aceia.es/?seccion=eventos-detalle&evento=conference10 It was a rather weird experience. Nothing to do with Jeremy or the other presenters, but this was a very deliberate attempt to sexy up the speakers’ star qualities.

    • Hi Philip,

      yes, the ACIEA conference in Seville was great wasn’t it! And your talk was challenging and thought provoking. Very enjoyable.

      There was something a bit nuts about having the official photographer walking up and down the aisles, wasn’t there. It WAS all definitely ‘star power’ stuff and that is a bit disconcerting.

      I wonder how many people it put off.

      And yet, because that IS often the setup we do tend to prepare plenary talks knowing that it will be a possibility – I mean that organisers will set the event up that way…

      Jeremy

  80. Scott Thornbury :I suppose that what underlies my worries is the extent to which plenaries HAVE become performance events, a tendency exacerbated by the proliferation of presentation technologies over the last decade or so, such that if your talk is not ‘all singing, all dancing’, adverse comparisons might be made wth previous plenary speakers. Gone are the days when a few smudged overheads were all you needed.

    I sympathize with your worry Scott, about plenaries and presentations becoming a bit too much about the “performance”. But hasn’t teaching been a bit of that as well??? At least down here in Brazil performances are a little expected. I am sorry to disappoint some of my students eventually… Personally I got to the plenaries for what is being said, not for the performance… We’re not entertainers, but teachers.

    • Hi Cecilia,

      I think the analogy with teaching is well made. Teachers ARE performers (some of the time) – and actually whether we are quiet, noisy, facilitative, scaffolding or grandstanding, professional teachers are always ‘playing’ some kind of a role.

      That’s fine. It just shouldn’t actually get in the way of the main business of the encounter: learning.

      That’s more difficult with 2,000 people listening. In such a case entertainment is a necessity, sometimes, and no bad thing – always provided there is something worth entertaining about!!

      Jeremy

  81. Most of the discussion is based on the fact that people send tweets while they are attending a conference/presentation/plenary etc.
    Last year when I attended Jeremy´s wonderful presentation in Buenos Aires, I was the only participant tweeting. As a teacher trainer I can see that teachers are jotting down notes on a sheet of paper instead of sharing it worldwide.

    What happens with all the interesting information shared at conference where nobody tweets? Nowadays with the advent of Web 2.0 tools we must take advantage of the endless possibilities we have to share collaboratively and learn from each other.

    Let´s all benefit from the knowledge, views, experience, and enthusiasm of each other.

    • Hi Jennifer,

      yes I remember you tweeting from that talk in Buenos Aires!

      I agree, basically, with your point of view here – and only wish/hope is that my (and others’) tweeting doesn’t make either the speaker or the other participants feel uncomfortable. You certainly didn’t make me feel bad in BA, just pleased that someone thought that it was worthwhile!

      Jeremy

  82. I must admit that I didn’t manage to read all the 195 comments, so I might be repeating someone. However, I’ll add my point here (Jeremy, please delete it if it’s already been said). Personally, I don’t mind atteneding a wokshop I’ve already seen online or read tweets about. It’s always different to watch and to participate (similar to watching films in the cinema and at home – coffee, bathroom, phones etc). I usually find it interesting, revise (which is good for using the ideas in the classroom), get clarifications, see how things work, etc. There is only one thing: I must be aware that’s the same presentation. Then I’m at peace. If I’m not then I get disappointed. What I mean is that if I attend two presentations with different titles but they are about the same thing, using the same (!) slides I think it’s not fair. You might argue that if one workshop is called: ‘Vocabulary presentation’ and the other one ‘Vocabulary activities’ they are about similar things, but I’d say that the presenter should give it enough thought to make them significantly different. On the other hand I’d go to any presentation of my favourite presenters just to refresh their ideas in my head, ‘digest’ presentation skills and so on🙂

  83. Hi Marta,

    I think I agree with you (and Gavin and others here) that watching the same talk twice can be very rewarding.

    I do agree, however, that speakers need to make it clear what they are talking about. I DO agree that it is incredibly frustrating when you go to a talk because it sounds interesting (and different) and it turns out that it is the same one you have seen already…!

    Jeremy

  84. seburnt :

    Hi Jeremy,

    That might be true, but just like students who think they know a grammar point just because they’ve been introduced to it previously, attendees may think the talk is just an animated version of the information on slides they’ve seen, but obviously (hopefully) it isn’t.

    It’s up to us to ensure what we say is more important and engaging than what’s simply on the slides. It’s the speaker that makes the talk worthwhile, not the presentation. Attendees usually realise this if not before, after the talk is given.

    If after they still think “oh damn…”, then really, they weren’t paying attention and just want to complain. That says something about them, doesn’t it?

    Tyson

    Tyson,

    I should have replied earlier to say that yes, I agree completely. All the slides, video clips, audio etc…they are secondary. In the end a speaker has to convince by what she or he is saying. Because without that, all the fine show means nothing!

    Jeremy

  85. seburnt :

    Good point, Cecilia. I know people who go to the same artist’s concerts in a tour over and over and over. Sure, music may not be entirely comparable to a plenary, but even if I’d watched it online, I’d still want the live experience so I could interact during it or after it in Q&A. I would imagine that most speakers would vary up what they say from conference to conference a little. Otherwise, it becomes mundane to them too.

    Tyson,

    of course the speaker MAY give the same talk….but the people listening are different and it can be a whole different experience. Like when actor do a long run of a play and it’s different each time…

    Jeremy

  86. Hello Jeremy and others,

    Let’s also spare a thought for the audience while filming is going on. Occasionally the camera is turned on them, capturing individuals not only gazing up in rapt attention and nodding in approval (as welcome extras in the presenter’s movie), but also yawning, stretching, grimacing, belming, scratching their armpits, and doing all those other things that humans do in unguarded moments. They might be mortified to see themselves immortalised on the Internet in this way. So… shouldn’t the conference organisers be seeking the audience’s permission as well?

    And a cautionary tale for us all: A friend of mine had the unenviable experience of her skirt dropping to the floor while she teaching. She was lucky – this was before the days of live simulcasts and tweeting. Would today’s twitter paparazzi be able to resist the temptation to ‘share’ such unexpected entertainment?

  87. Hi Stephanie,

    you are absolutely right. The audience SHOULD be asked before any filming takes place. I was at a British Council event this week and they WERE asked. That seemed right to me.

    Dropping skirts! Ouch.Nothing that bad, so far (I don’t wear skirts myself, honestly!), but all those asides, the silly comments, they are captured. And that’s a pity.

    Jeremy

    • Hello Anon, Roger,

      short and to the point!

      I don’t, as it happens, think of myself as important at all, but I won’t burden you with the inadequacy feelings and all that stuff.

      This blog post was not about anyone’s importance really, but rather (because this is a world I know something about)about whether or not the same small group of teachers get to hear, too often, the same small collection of talks, and how/if this is a good or bad thing.

      But in the tapestry of life this isn’t even a small stitch – you are right. But the blogosphere exists just so that we can raise tiny little topics like this. Doesn’t it?

      Jeremy

    • I apologise for answering again.

      But it occurred to me (as I said on Twitter) to ask you the following questions:

      How on earth do you know if your statement is true?

      Jeremy

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  89. Scott Thornbury :
    I suppose that what underlies my worries is the extent to which plenaries HAVE become performance events, a tendency exacerbated by the proliferation of presentation technologies over the last decade or so, such that if your talk is not ‘all singing, all dancing’, adverse comparisons might be made wth previous plenary speakers. Gone are the days when a few smudged overheads were all you needed. And, while these technolgoical innovations are on the whole very welcome, they are not without their problems (as I discovered to my cost on Friday). Moreover, there is a real danger of the medium (including the speaker’s own wise-cracking style) becoming more important than the message. Which is the drift I’m getting from some of the above comments, i.e. it doesn’t matter what you say, we just want to watch you saying it.

    I wouldn’t put it so bluntly, Scott….. but there is something in it. I certainly wouldn’t want to see a plenary without substance, but I also need to be entertained, engaged and energised. This is a discussion that has taken place many times before on Jeremy’s blog – what is a plenary actually for? If I want to learn something new, I would rather read a book or an article than attend a plenary….

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