Back in 2018, I stopped accepting offers to speak at conferences and other professional development events. Since I was booked out for a year, it wasn’t until the end of 2019 that I finally cleared my calendar. By then, I was committed to not giving any more presentations.
People still invite me to keynote events, but I’m quite serious about retiring from speaking.
The Easy Answer: Travel Burnout
Yes, my first answer is always the typical “I’m tired of traveling” stuff. And, yes, after years of flying and renting a car and eating airport food every week, I was indeed done. But, the problem with this reason is that folks keep asking if I’m ready to speak at events again. Have I un-burned out from travel yet?
The Real Answer: Speaking Adds Work For Teachers
The bigger reason I don’t want to give any more talks is that even the most wonderful talk in the world puts more work in the hands of teachers.
If I give a talk about Depth and Complexity, complex math projects, or asking better questions, every teacher in the crowd has to go home and implement everything on their own. And they’ll only have their memory, notes, and perhaps a PDF of my slides to go off of. The jump from “I heard about this at a conference” to “I implemented this well in my classroom” is enormous.
I can tell the difference in feedback since I moved to Byrdseed.TV.
- Old Feedback from Presenting: “That was a great presentation! You’ve given me a lot to think about!”
- New Feedback from Byrdseed.TV: “My students loved this lesson. Here’s a sample of what they came up with.”
Do you see how different that is? Teachers actually use Byrdseed.TV in their classrooms.
When I find myself thinking, “Should I prepare a talk about XYZ?” my answer is always, “No, I’ll just make five more lessons that build on XYZ and put them on Byrdseed.TV!”
So, a better reason for no longer speaking is that I am much happier taking work off of teachers’ plates than giving them even more work.
The Scarier Answer: Speaking Without Experience
I could end it on that happy note, but it’s worth pulling back the curtain a bit more.
If you’re a good speaker, it’s easy to sound great on stage talking about any topic. Good speakers are captivating and entertaining. They have charisma and well-rehearsed jokes. As a speaker, you learn what gets a good response and what falls flat. You learn how to tell a good story.
But that means that you can get up and merely tell a good story without speaking from experience.
The longer my speaking career grew, and the farther away my actual experience became, the more I needed to whip things up out of thin air. Conferences wanted me to give a keynote about This Year’s Trend™, but I had no experience with This Year’s Trend™. I was uncomfortable. I couldn’t keep giving the same five talks, but I didn’t want to become a charlatan. So I quit!
And those are three reasons I stopped speaking at events!
PS: And, yes, you should wonder whether the person on stage has actually done the thing they’re speaking about! Conferences rarely check. This is why I think most PD should feature actual teachers, not expert speakers.
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