Hosting the Pecha Kucha evening at the 7th International ETAI conference, 4-6 July 2016, provided me with the opportunity to source the international and local presenters, send them guidelines with a delivery deadline, and then review their presentations, to check they had met the criteria and had the automatic timings set correctly. The presenters in order of their presentations were:
- Marjorie Rosenberg – The Very Serious Side of ELT
- Penny Ur – Seven Misconceptions about English Teaching
- Mel Rosenberg (later hacked by Andy Curtis) – FRASPINATION – An internet bored game
- Amos Paran – Who Wrote Shakespeare’s Plays or Who’s Your Will?
- Leo Selivan – 10 cool words that would enhance English
- Hugh Dellar – 20 things in 20 years
When initially approached, some of the presenters immediately gave me an affirmative answer, “Yes, sure” or “Ok”, whilst others were more hesitant. One presenter wrote to me saying, “If truth be told, I’d forgotten that I’d allowed myself to be talked into doing a Pecha Kucha!!! I’d been thinking about chickening out, but …. hey why not! Another presenter stated, “At first I groaned – And then I thought about what I could do …. So, end of moan. I am happy to do something. Am I mad? Yes, I am.” The latter responses were similar to my own when Leo Selivan (Leoxicon) asked me to host the event. “I don’t think I can. I work full time. I’m studying etc.” I responded and then I stopped myself and thought – If Leo is asking me then he must believe I can do it, and in the words of Richard Branson, “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you are not sure you can do it, say yes. Then learn how to do it later.” This year’s team of courageous ELT presenters demonstrated that they also subscribe to the Branson philosophy, and as a result each of the presenters put themselves out there, and we, the audience, benefited from their experience and humour, and had a great time.
Giving a Pecha Kucha is different from being a plenary or keynote speaker, it seems to fall much more into the ‘edutainment’spere, and the pressure on the presenter to ‘perform’ is not insignificant. For the host, though, once the presenters have agreed to present and their presentations have been received and checked, all that is left to do is to choose the order of the presentations, upload them onto the computer in the auditorium, check the timings, and write some introductory notes about each speaker. There shouldn’t be any surprises.
However, on Tuesday 5 July, a few hours before the Pecha Kucha evening was due to start, I bumped into Mel Rosenberg and Andy Curtis, who told me that they had had an idea that they wanted to run by me. “Andy is going to do my Pecha Kucha, sight unseen. What do you think?” I looked at Andy and asked him, “Do you know what Mel’s Pecha Kucha is about?” “No, not a clue.” Andy responded. “Though it would be a great example of creativity, if I presented it without seeing it, don’t you think? Do we have your permission to do this crazy thing?” I thought to myself, Mel’s presentation is not clear to me, and I’ve seen the slides, so how is Andy going to present it? But then I thought, this could be an opportunity to do something different from the ‘traditional’ Pecha Kucha format. So I said, “Yes. I like the idea.” Andy looked a little surprised, as he hadn’t expected me to agree quite so quickly. And thus the first Pecha Kucha ‘Unseen Hack’ was born.
Video courtesy of @MelRosenberg
As teachers we are always putting our students on the spot in front of their peers, asking them questions, getting them to do presentations, prepare speeches and debates and complete numerous other language tasks, that many of them don’t feel comfortable doing. Our students usually have no choice but to say ‘yes’, as the task often forms part of their summative assessment. As teachers/ELT professionals we must be role models for our students, and also be willing to put ourselves ‘out there’ in front of our peers, even when we may feel uncomfortable about the request, because saying ‘yes’, can be both challenging and rewarding. In fact, Emily Liscom (Education to the Core) would go even further, and say that by using the word ‘Yes’, to our students more than the word ‘No’, we might be surprised to experience improved classroom management and teaching strategies.
Thank you to each of the six/seven presenters for saying ‘yes’, when I approached you – each of you were courageous and inspirational, and are great role models to other ELT professionals and students across the globe.