The Surrogate Son
Ten minutes in front of a school board, from my perspective as a Professional Presenter
The result was loose and informal (matching my jeans and coat ensemble) and very smiley. At this point in my life, looking boyish and harmless as I do, I’m running an extremely effective shtick which all but defies my categorization.
If I had to try, I’d call it “The Surrogate Son.” When I step in front of 40- and 50-year-olds, I am instantly adopted as their son. I start collecting these goofy and proud smiles, from the mothers, especially, who see in me their own sons, long gone from their eyes, mothers who hope their sons are somewhere warm, perhaps wearing a suit coat, perhaps doing something responsible like talking to a school board.
The Surrogate Son generates audience goodwill as fast as it undermines my credibility. It takes very little to get an audience in my corner but it’s a fight to get them to take me seriously. Winning that fight last night only required a good script and an assist from Scott and Karl’s Did You Know 2.0.
I opened: “My name is Dan Meyer and I like to teach. For whatever hand you played in getting me that job, thanks.”
I built several slides to demonstrate how communication, love, life, and friendship are moving online exponentially, citing stats from DYK2.
Then I put up a photo of a traditional classroom.
At this point in the presentation, I cringed inwardly, recalling how many bloggers have seized that same juxtaposition for ironic, self-congratulatory purposes. Realizing I was dealing with an audience that was largely oblivious to alternative tools and settings for education, I settled on a more modest approach.
I said I was disappointed in myself, that as much as I enjoyed my job, I felt like an agent of a system I knew was hurting kids. I told them that in that picture the students have been trained to believe that math learning happens for one hour daily, between two bells, and that learning with a capital-L happens only during school hours.
Our little Moodle install is a small stone thrown at that bummer fact, I said. I took ’em through some screenshots (I would’ve taken ’em through a live demo but for a wireless connection) and told ’em why.
A Note On Presentation
At one point I said this, “1 in 8 romantic relationships last year started online.” I originally attached this slide:
I did this ’cause a) it made it easy for me to stay on script without memorizing anything, and b) I could upload the slidedeck to Slideshare without any modding.
I came to my senses and included this instead:
There is only win or lose here, no ties. Only wild success and wasted opportunity. If you use a slide to complement your words, as I did there, you strengthen your point. If you use a slide to mimic your words, all your audience will do is fix on the subtle differences between the two and lose your point.