How to Win a Demo Slam

(Note: Previously posted on the EdTechTeam blog)

My heart is racing, my breaths are quick, my palms are sweaty, and I feel like I’m about to faint. “You can do it, Syl” I say to myself over and over again, as I await my turn. “And now….. Sylvia Duckworth!” the announcer says, and I force myself up to the podium, placing one shaky foot ahead of the other. I am filled with dread but walk purposefully to the front of the stage, and start my Demo Slam.

The Demo Slam is one of the highlights of an EdTechTeam GAFESummit that takes place at the end of a full day conference. This is a quick-paced, high-energy session where presenters have three minutes each to demonstrate something Googly in front of the crowd, who will vote for a winner at the end.

After watching and participating in many Demo Slams over the past three years, I have become a keen and curious observer of the sport, mentally taking notes about what works and what doesn’t work. What became clear to me from the beginning is that winning the competition has very little to do with technical expertise and everything to do with delivery and maximizing entertainment value.

Here are my top 10 tips for a winning Demo Slam.

  1. Choose something fairly easy to demonstrate. Nerves can trip you up if there are too many steps.
  2. Everyone loves a good story. Try to tell one during your Slam. String a few ideas together in a cohesive way.
  3. Be original. If you use a Demo Slam that people may have seen before, put a unique twist to it.
  4. Perform your Slam beforehand in front of your friends and ask for honest feedback and suggestions.
  5. Time your Slam while performing it out loud and make sure that it does not go over 3 minutes.
  6. Practice is key. Practice your Slam over and over again until you can do it without thinking.
  7. Trash talk the competition: they love it and the audience loves it, too.
  8. Play up the home court advantage if you have one. Remind the audience that you are from their home town and that they should vote for you.
  9. Play up the foreigner advantage if you have one. Throw in flattering comments about their city. Bonus: attempt to speak in their language if different from yours.
  10. It’s all about attitude. Try to exude confidence even if you are not feeling it.

After my turn at the microphone, the audience is applauding, and I stumble back to my seat, the other competitors high-fiving me as I pass. Regardless of the outcome, I am proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone for three excruciating minutes. After all, how can I ask my students to take risks in my class if I don’t take risks myself from time to time? It’s the only way to learn and grow, and to discover your true potential.

“The greatest failure is the failure to try” (William Ward).

NOTE: For inspiration, check out Google Demo Slam: Live on Air.



15 Tips for the Reluctant (or New) Presenter

I have a love/hate relationship with presenting. I love sharing my knowledge and teaching experience with others, but I always get anxious about public speaking. Every time I step up to the podium, I need to say to myself, “Syl, you can do this.”

Over time, I have gathered some tricks and tips to help prepare me for presentation day. Here they are:

  1. Go over your presentation days before. Make sure all the links and videos work. Try opening all Google Apps documents with a different Google account. (Note: see this sketchnote for some EdTechTeam tips on a great presentation).
  2. Practice your presentation. Ask a friend/colleague to watch and provide feedback.
  3. Check earlier in the week that you have all the equipment necessary for your presentation (dongle, clicker, power bar, projector, speakers, etc.) and put them in a bag by your door.
  4. Try to get a good sleep the night before. If you suspect that you’re not going to sleep well, try to get a good night’s sleep two nights before.
  5. Charge your devices the night before.
  6. At the venue, ask someone in charge who to contact in case you need help with technology. If possible, go to your presentation room early in the morning before anyone arrives. Plug in your laptop/speakers/projector and make sure that everything works.
  7. Make sure you know how to set the proper resolution for your laptop to maximize projection on the screen and to be able to view all of your open tabs. If you don’t know how to do this, get help. (NOTE: Every projector will display your screen in a different way which is why I recommend you check this early.)
  8. Internet connection: Sometimes there will be a special wifi network for presenters only, so ask about this. But if you have a hard-wired option, take it. In fact, it’s a good idea to have your presentation (and videos) in a non-internet-dependent form in case you lose all internet connection.
  9. Close all applications on your laptop during your presentation to prevent them from slowing it down. Also, make sure that you have turned off all notifications so that they don’t pop up during your presentation.
  10. If the room and audience is large, ask for a microphone. Wireless clip-on is best. If going with clip-on, avoid wearing a long top/shirt (or dress) without a belt to clip the receiver onto.
  11. If you are at a conference, try to get to your presentation room at least 15 minutes before your presentation. Sit at the back of the room, and as soon as the previous presenter has wrapped up, start setting up for your presentation. You might have to be assertive: that’s okay.
  12. When people start to arrive to your session, be friendly and say hello (it will relax you). Ask them how they are enjoying the conference, etc.
  13. Make sure you have lots of water nearby: you will get very thirsty!
  14. Just before your presentation, take a few deep breaths and remind yourself why you are there: You have something to offer and the audience appreciates you being there to share your expertise.
  15. Apply to present again and again. The more you do it, the less nervous you will be.

Many thanks to organizers of conferences such as GAFESummit, OMLTA, BringItTogether, ConnectISTE, and the AIM Summer Institute for giving reluctant/new presenters like myself the opportunity to step outside their comfort zone to hone their presentation skills. I am truly grateful and one of these days I hope to be able to present with full confidence!

Do you have a tip for presenters? How do you stay calm before a presentation? Please add your tips in a comment below!



Anatomy of an internet scam

I recently put this ad on kijiji to sell my piano:

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 11.20.36 AM

Within a few hours, I received this response (gray: him; green: me)

Untitled drawing

I realize by now that this guy is a scammer, but I wanted to see how far he was going to go, so I kept up the convo.

Untitled drawing copy

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 11.53.25 AM
In my email, I get this message from “PayPal” which looks pretty official, right?


So basically, the scam is this: If I want my money for the piano, I need to send the “Transport Company” $650.

I sent the scammer this reply:
Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 11.56.30 AM

And that was the last I heard from him. But it makes me wonder how many people fall for these scams. To me, they seem so obvious, but perhaps to others (more gullible, weak English skills, less knowledgeable about internet scams), not so much.

Have you ever been victimized by an internet scam or do you know anyone who has? I have been following with much interest (and horror) to Alec Couros‘ struggles with a Facebook romance scammer who uses his images and Alec is doing a fantastic job trying to educate the public about his plight. Are social media companies and the media doing enough to publicize this issue? What are your thoughts?