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June 2021 - Year 23 - Issue 3

ISSN 1755-9715

Reflections on Presenting at an Online Conference: My Journey

Doris Nneka Egwu is a teacher and dyslexia expert, currently working in Italy. Email:


A brief summary of the talk

This was the talk I presented at the IH- Bielsko  teacher training day. The topic of the talk was how I became an EFL teacher, and how I have looked to expand my knowledge to be able to teach every possible student. I talked about how I overcame the challenges of both learning and teaching the English language, and offered some anecdotes to highlight my progression towards proficiency.

The theme of the day was ‘From the Heart’ and what I was encouraged to give was a heartfelt recount of my ongoing journey as a student and teacher of English.


How you felt before the conference

When they first invited me to this conference I was terrified - and I must admit the feeling of terror never really left me! My first thought was what I could possibly have to say of any interest to those who would be attending. But, since my talk would be about overcoming challenges, among those my feeling of being inadequate and my impostor syndrome, I was reasonably sure that I would have something relevant to offer.

Indeed, I have experienced that others can see something about us that we cannot see, and can appreciate something that for us is just everyday news; perhaps by holding up a mirror to my own experiences in this talk, I would offer my audience a chance to see themselves reflected and consider themselves and their profession anew.

The talk at IH-Bielsko was not my first, but it was probably one of the most important and surely the most international. I have been giving speeches and training teachers on the subject of teaching English to dyslexic students for some time now, and this summer I had my first online lesson to a large group of trainee teachers. This time, though, was different. I was going to speak in front of an audience of trained teachers, both native and non-native, most with more experience than me, and it felt daunting.

I was lucky because one of the organizers was also my teacher, and he guided me through all of it. He reminded me of the power of images, and I decided to base my powerpoint only on images; after all I was going to tell a story, and what was more evocative than pictures to tell a story?


What your feelings were during the talk itself

My biggest worry heading into the talk, was about the time. I had 30 minutes to fill, but as much as I tried, as much as I paused in rehearsal, it seemed like I couldn't go over 22-25 minutes. What was I going to do with the rest of the time?

To my surprise, once there I kept talking for all the 30 minutes and I even had  to rush through the last part of my speech. My perception of time was completely overthrown, undoubtedly due to a combination of anxiety, elation, talking to a black screen and little by little easing into my talk.  I gladly welcomed not having to fill an awkwardly empty 10 minutes at the end.

Another moment that took some getting used to, was speaking to a black screen, and trying to engage those little black windows staring back at me blankly was at times alienating. I decided to focus on the pictures in my presentation, keeping my eyes on them and letting myself be carried away by memories, and the evocative effect I hoped they had on my audience.

My luck favoured me, because, among the sea of black windows, one of the participants didn’t turn off their video, so from time to time I met these kind and comforting eyes following my every word.


Post-conference reflections

Though I greatly savoured the opportunity to share my story with a wider audience, I don’t think that I would want to do precisely that again. Instead, I can see another talk taking shape in my imagination, one that would help other teachers to reflect on their own paths in much the same way that I reflected on mine.

Since the conference, I have wondered what the future holds for conferences and my place as a speaker at events once the pandemic has passed.

In some respects, there doesn’t seem to be a big difference between speaking live at an online conference and recording a video of the talk to be played back during the event. However, on the participants side I was told afterwards that the chat box was busy throughout my talk, with many people freely sharing their thoughts about the themes that I introduced. And for speakers such as myself, overcoming the stress of delivering a live talk added to the value of the experience.

This was a great opportunity and a big start for me, and I am already looking forward to my next talk.


Please check the The Art and Skills of the Humanistic Teacher Trainer course at Pilgrims website.

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