I started this blog nearly six years ago. If somebody had told me back then that one day I might present at a conference, I would have suspected they are drunk. Today, totally sober, I can proudly claim that since I started blogging, I have presented at two major ELT conferences here in the Czech Republic. Why is then such an important turning point? Because I believe this blog is the reason why I’ve been offered the opportunity to present. And although I’m not one of those big names, i.e. people who have achieved something in the ELT field and thus are well-known to conference audiences, some people believed in me and gave me a chance of a lifetime.
Both sessions I’ve given so far took place in Brno, at conferences I was familiar with. The first time, I presented at the IH ILC Brno conference a few years back. I could choose the topic but I had no idea how many people will turn up for my session because people didn’t register in advance. I wasn’t too hopeful, but it was the first time so no audience or a very small one wouldn’t have been seen as a professional or personal tragedy, right? Nevertheless, I had chosen a topic I knew would be interesting for the local audience so finally, a relatively huge number of people turned up (38 squeezed into a small room).
The second time was at the P.A.R.K Conference. David Koster, the main organizer of the event, suggested that I should talk about blogging and I almost immediately agreed because that’s the topic which I am passionate about. This time, however, I was a bit more nervous because, well, I had some expectations, but most importantly, I was not sure how the local audience would accept such a topic.
Anyway, I started working on my talk straight away and it went well. First, I created a ten-page Word document where I drafted some of my ideas, questions and answers. It was an enjoyable process and at that point, I knew I had enough material to make a decent session.
However, at this conference, people register for the sessions in advance – online – so you can keep track of how many people to expect for your talk. And this turned out to be the major problem because in the end, only one person had registered for my session …
I panicked when I first discovered this. I took it personally (which they say you should never do). I suddenly felt like a failure. It was quite de-motivating too. It crossed my mind that maybe the session should and would be cancelled in the end. But what about that one person? It wasn’t fair to them. Plus I had already created my PowerPoint presentation which I was quite happy with. Then I got an e-mail from David who reassured me that even though only one person had registered, a few more people would come, namely him and Rachel Appleby, who had been very supportive on Facebook prior to the conference.
Well, that was the end of the darkest era but I should be totally honest and admit that I experienced a few more dark moments at the conference itself when listening to all those wonderful talks by Edmund Dudley, Frank Prescott and Philip Kerr. What on earth am I doing here? Look at all those speakers. They know their stuff. I have to speak for sixty minutes. I can’t do it. Then my time came at 13:45 (yes, the graveyard slot!). And you know what? I wasn’t as nervous as I was before the first session I had given two years earlier. I think it’s probably the fact that it’s the very first time and the number of people sitting there with high expectations that send butterflies to your stomach. But this was the second time and there were no people at 13:40 fighting for the last empty seats so I felt relatively calm (this calmness may well have been one of the fifty shades of hopelessness). On a more positive note, just before my session, I learned that Rachel Appleby had mentioned my name in her own workshop. I guess she wanted to do some last minute promotion and I thank her for that!
And then Lenka turned up – the only person who had registered for my session. I was so pleased to finally meet her. I think that with a large audience, you don’t really pay attention to the individual faces but Lenka was very important to me. She was a star to me. The centre of my attention. Isn’t that crazy? Well, not quite. I later discovered that Lenka had chosen the session because she wanted to set up a blog. Wow! I suddenly felt useful – like a real expert.
To cut the drama short, there were six people in the end. David, Louel Ross Calleja, Rachel Appleby and two of my lovely friends (on the left) joined the session. It was good because they gave me some immediate feedback right after the session, which convinced me it had all been worth it.
To sum it all up, the session itself was OK, I think. The atmosphere seemed relaxing (maybe a bit sleepy owing to the graveyard slot) and I felt it was an informal chat rather than a formal session. When I dared to look at the clock for the first time, I realized that I only had 15 minutes left and felt I hadn’t said anything important yet. But my friends reassured me later it had been just enough information.
Now I feel like Frodo who finally managed to take the One Ring to Mordor.
Am I a drama queen? 🙂