|Photo courtesy of Barrett Web Coordinator via Flickr|
1. Consider giving out door prizes to those who arrive on time. I collected all of the freebies from the professional conferences I've attended into a box. As people come into the session, they put their names into a basket for the door prize drawing. Once it's time for the session to begin, I take the basket away and do the drawing. I usually draw 3 names and allow the winners to come and select a prize from my box. This encourages people to get there on time, starts the session on a positive note, and puts everyone in a good mood. If you don't have a box full of conference swag, consider getting a few items at the dollar store, or ask your principal if he or she would be willing to donate some school promotional items that were leftover from past events.
2. If you're teaching about how to do something, if at all possible, allow the participants to practice during the session. That means if you're showing off a new website or going over how to create a file folder center, you need to arrange for the participants to have the materials and try it along with you. Particularly with technology, you'll have more buy-in if the teachers have had a chance to play with it on your time before you send them out with a mandate to use something on their time.
3. Avoid acting as if you're in a hurry. It creates an atmosphere of stress in the room, and may make the participants feel a bit cheated, like they aren't getting everything out of the session that they should have. Plan sufficient material to fill the time, with a few extras you can use if the session runs short. Treat those extras as a bonus rather than something they're missing out on if you don't have time to share them.
4. Always, always, always show how the material you're teaching is going to be a benefit or help to the participants. Avoid the temptation to sympathize about mandates you personally aren't sold on by saying things like, "I know you don't like this, but it's something we all have to do." Be the Ambassador of the Silver Lining, putting a positive spin on whatever it is you're asked to present.
5. This last tip is one that I have struggled with myself. If you're teaching the rest of the staff how to do something, chances are that you're pretty comfortable with it. Try not to say that it's easy. Chances are there is someone there for whom it won't be easy, and it makes them feel incompetent that they can't master something that should be easy. This has been very hard for me, because my instinct is to soothe. When teachers are stressed about learning something new, I always want to reassure them, "Don't worry, it's really easy." I am learning to bite my tongue!
I'd love your feedback on professional development to improve my own skills. What do you find works well when presenting? As a participant, what are your pet peeves?