ELT Conference Pet Peeves

hard questionsI attend quite a few conferences. The last year many as just a fly on the wall – attending sessions, taking things in …. I’m lucky, I know – able to travel and experience face to face professional development in many times exotic settings.

I love the camaraderie at a conference, the many private conversations and sharing of ideas, the surprise presenter that knocks your socks off, the dinner banter, the rubbing of shoulders with teachers in the trenches, the smiles and energy ….

I love so much but yet, I’m continually frustrated beyond the pale by so many things. Small and large things that make me grind my teeth and shake my head. There’s no need for these things to happen at a professional conference but they do. Where is plain old common sense?

I’ve previously written about the need for a “flipped conference”.  Also, here are some other pet peeves I’ve written about.   However, we, conference organizers, fellow presenters – we could make a few more changes. Here are a few of my pet peeves that need to change. Any you’d add?

  1. Disrespecting the attendees. I wish attendees would be provided with enough time to discuss with our group/partner when asked.   Happens so often.  Presenter says, “Discuss these 3 things in your group”.   Even if a time frame is given, it is never adhered to. We just get started doing/saying something and then it’s the presenter jumping in and saying, “Ok, we got to move on.”  Presenters so often disrespect their audience and play lip service to really giving attendees time to dig into topics.

2. Powerpoint diarrhea.  This is just disgusting but is still endemic.  I got so dizzy last conference, presentation slides just full of text, really full.  Can’t we read this at home?  Provide a link if you will.  We didn’t come to hear the presenter read the slides and speed through “stuff”.   Plus, even if the presenter doesn’t actually read off the slide, it’s impossible to process this text while at the same time listening to them speak.  A presenter needs to create a common setting, common ground where attendees can share/participate in the idea related through the emotion of the presenter’s narrative. As one of my PLN on twitter said …..


Here’s an example from a recent conference. By no means the worst.


3. No professional development in teacher L1.  I’m perplexed by this.   Conferences are not a time for teachers to learn English. It should be done in their L1 where possible and appropriate.  Conferences are about “ideas” and language is only a vehicle by which to communicate them.

Why not label some sessions as English or the conference L1?  I think there should be a balance in favor of conference presentation in the L1.

4. Parachuted In Presenters.  I won’t belabor the point but just having many Brits, Americans flying in, does not a good conference make.  Plus, most just go through the motions, regurgitate and repeat the same presentation given at  X,Y or Z conference.  Plus, most are not practicing teachers – too many academics, too many applied linguistics pontificating on interesting but not  topics specific to teaching practice. Let’s keep conferences real and make the stars the local teachers!

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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1 Response

  1. Benjamin says:

    Enjoyed the post. Regarding #4, I am curious in knowing any specifics you could share where applied linguists presented topics not relevant to the practice of teaching. I heard many years ago a presenter (an academic who was not a teacher) state that all teachers were applied linguists. Also, academics can be teachers as well, no? Perhaps it depends on how one defines an applied linguist, an academic, and a teacher. But your point is well taken.

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