Monday, December 5, 2016

Trudeau as Teacher and Expert Presenter

My union nourished me well this past week. On Monday and Tuesday (November 28-29), I had the good fortune to attend the Presenter's Palette Part 2 workshop at ETFO headquarters with Jane Bennett, Ruth Dawson, and Joanne Myers leading the learning. On Friday (December 2), the Elementary Teachers of Toronto hosted Federation Day 2016 at the Toronto Congress Centre with a special keynote speaker: the Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.

This photo was taken by my dear colleague, Farah Wadia.
She sat a lot closer than I did.

ETFO Presenters' Palette Group 2016

Obligatory "silly shot" (but why am I silliest?)

I wrote about preparing for the workshop last week on my blog and Doug Peterson commented on it (twice!). He noted that "the skill set can't help but benefit any classroom teacher". He's right. Your audience can be fellow educators or students of a younger age range, but many of the strategies can apply to any group you address.

I decided to tie the two separate events together in my reflection by noticing how Prime Minister Trudeau used some of the techniques mentioned at the Presenter's Palette workshop. That might consolidate my learning solidly!

Joanne reminded us that for children, the capacity they have to sit still and listen is their age plus two minutes. She was quick to add that this formula doesn't translate exactly for adults - for grownups, we can listen for 22 minutes before we tune out. Good teachers and good speakers will change things up. Trudeau kept his talk short, because he said he wanted to get to the Q&A portion, where deeper engagement can occur.

Stance / Non-Verbal Communication
Ruth had the workshop attendees think of an important event, influential person, or pivotal moment in our lives and then we had to speak about it for a minute. We were videotaped so that the next day, we could watch ourselves to examine our voice, gestures, facial expressions, eye directions, stance, and our body language. A lot of people groaned when the task was initially introduced by our workshop facilitators, but it was useful to analyze ourselves with supportive, critical friends. Knowing how to act natural when cameras are around is important too - Usha described her experience with a news station to me and to Jacqueline when we discussed our minute-long footage and I recalled my "ping pong head" when I first went on a TVO show. (I'd put my minute story here on my blog but I've lost my USB stick with it on it! Maybe Ruth can re-send it to me?)
ETA: Kelly, Ruth's assistant, is amazing! She found the clip and sent it to me. Here's my clip.

The Prime Minister did a masterful job of using gestures effectively and communicating with the crowd and the cameras. He rolled his sleeves up, as if to say "I'm getting to work, down to business". He made eye contact and wore a smile that didn't seem forced. He stayed in front of his transparent podium during his talk but moved to a portable microphone and left the podium, which made him appear more approachable. For instance, look at his open hand stance in this tweet. Open hands, as opposed to finger pointing, makes the speaker appear inviting; it looks more like a two-sided conversation than a lecture.

Different Participant Types and Their Goals
I really liked how Jane offered different "lenses" for us to use when planning our workshop. Her metaphors made the ideas concrete. She advised us to examine our workshops for a balance between content and process - what she called "gum and chewing". She also encouraged the flexible use of strategies (planned activities) and moves (impromptu tasks you use when you notice things need to change). Jane recommended we consider four professional "hats" (presenting / coaching / facilitating / consulting - this reminded me greatly of Laura Lipton and Bruce Wellman's Consult-Collaborate-Coach mentoring work) and four types of participants (professors [engage them with facts], friends [attend to their feelings], scientists [involve them in formulating ideas] and inventors [take them on flights of fancy] - this reminds me of the Four Corners activity Moses Velasco did in our board's Leading Professional Learning workshop series, with feelings, big ideas, details, and action).
Trudeau balanced the needs of the big audience well. He told a personal story and related to the crowd as "one of them", which resonated with the "friends" demographic; he discussed the rationale behind giving precedence to neither the environment nor the economy when addressing the pipeline issue, which would appeal to "scientist" and "professor" types, and he encouraged creative and critical thinking for the "inventor" group:

Dealing with Elephants in the Room / Difficult Audience Members
One of the gifts we received from the Presenter's Palette workshop was a book called Lemons to Lemonade: Resolving Problems in Meetings, Workshops, and PLCs by Robert J. Garmston and Diane P. Zimmerman. Time was also devoted to discussing difficult people and situations you may encounter during presentations.
It wasn't just a "love-in" for the Prime Minister at Federation Day; he had to deal with audience members who were decidedly unhappy about his position on certain issues. There were large signs held in front of the cameras. He acknowledged their presence, promised he'd address their issue, but also used teacher humour and another personal anecdote to defuse things: "I shouldn't reward bad behaviour" (and he quickly assured the audience that those protesting weren't behaving badly and were within their rights to object, but he stated he wanted to answer other questions too from quieter participants, which is why he alternated between taking questions from the audience and questions written in and placed in a bucket for him to randomly select).

This is not a commentary on Trudeau's work to date as a politician. (To be honest, I didn't vote Liberal in the last federal election.) However, I thought that his time as a teacher has helped him to be an appealing presenter. Thank you ETFO and ETT for arranging such enriching events for teachers.

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