Friday, 2 June 2017

Plenary Talk of David Evans


One of the highlights of the NATE conference for me this year was the Plenary Talk by David Evans. First of all, the topic of the presentation was the one which I am interested in - public speaking and TED talks. The name of the PlenaryTalk of Day 1 was "Confident Connections with TED talks". The idea of the talk was proving certain points with the help of TED talks.  David is an amazing speaker and storyteller, time during his talk went by so quickly. What have I learned from the talk of David Evans ?

The whole talk was built around the idea that the skills of public speaking are vitally important for us, teachers, as every time we enter the classroom we present ideas and information to our learners. 
The first impression that we produce when we enter the classroom happens in the first 7 seconds (according to research carried out on analyzing TED talks) will influence the learners’ interest in the subject. That sounds tough given also that the attention span of an average person equals that of a gold fish and has dramatically decreased in the last ten years (according to research). 

In such a situation body language becomes much more important than the words we say. When speaking about body language David Evans talked about posture, gestures, facial expression and smile. He taught us that in order to attract more attention we need to appear “big” meaning standing up straight, breathing properly and using our voice in a smart way. It turns out we have to work on all these and not only on what we have to say when preparing for the lesson. Balance is important in both the way a teacher moves around the class and in gestures he/she uses. 

When talking about facial expression, David noticed that the audience mirrors (copies) the speakers’ facial expression, that is why it is so important to be positive and smile. The attitude of the speaker (teacher in our case) reflects on the attitude of the audience. Interestingly, research proved that the more the presenter smiles, the more intelligent the audience think he/she is.

An interesting effect I have never heard about before that was mentioned during the talk of David Evans is the McGurk Effect. It turns out that we listen more with our eyes than we do with our ears. That observation plays an important role in understanding how the speaker and the teacher should communicate with the audience.

The ideas about the voice of the speaker (teacher) seemed quite controversial to some of my colleagues. The idea that a teacher should work on their voice to make it sound clearer and more understandable for the learner, seemed a bit far-fetched. However, there is sense in the observation that Russian people tend to be quite monotonous when speaking English, while native English speakers use intonation in a completely different way. The truth as usual lies somewhere in the middle. I completely agree about this observation and can understand how the flatness of the voice of native Russian language speakers might not sound very intelligible when speaking English.  I can relate to this idea as I do notice the given examples in my teaching practice too. So to me the idea that a teacher (as well as a presenter) should work on their voice power sounds completely logical to me.

In conclusion, David Evans presented 6secrets of successful TED talks which can be efectively applied to the situation of teaching as well:
1. You have 7 seconds to make an impression.
2, Non-verbal communication matters. A lot.
3. Smiling makes you look smarter.
4. The more hand gestures, the better.
5. The more vocal variety, th more charisma.
6. Scripted speeches are boring.
 He also gave recommendations of which TED talks to watch in order to get additional information on the issues discussed. 
2. The hidden power of smiling by Ron Gutman
3. The neurons that shaped civilization by Vilayanur Ramachandran

All in all, it was a sparkling, vivid, exciting talk and a great example of what a brilliant speaker should be like.

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