Umming and ahhing

So after a considerable absence I’m back.  And for my first post for over a year I have decided to talk about…Me!

Last night I did something I have never done before…no, not that, something else.  I presented an online seminar using Adobe Connect.  For a lot of you this will be nothing new at all but for me it was a first step into a new world.  And it was fascinating.

The theme was using Web 2.0 as a source for material (specifically googlefight, Pinterest and Quora) and was part of a series of webinars hosted by the tireless Jürgen Wagner from the Landesinstitut für Pädagogik und Medien (LPM) in Saarbrücken to support the publication of their excellent book Web 2.0 im Fremdsprachenunterricht which has stacks of great ideas for language teachers.  Jürgern was kind enough to ask me to submit an article and long story short as part of the package I agreed to deliver a presentation on my article.

I will confess now to being more than a little terrified at the idea.  Teaching is one thing, presenting to an audience of your peers is something else, doing it online to a group of people you cannot see or hear was in a whole other category.

How did it go?  Well…okay actually, I got through to the end without any major mistakes but there were a couple of points I forgot and it was very easy to forget that the audience couldn’t see what I was doing as only my face was in shot, so cheerfully gesticulating at my slides was largely a waste of time but otherwise it wasn’t too bad.  Everybody who listened was very supportive which helped a lot and there were some great questions and comments which helped move the presentation along.

Would I do it again?  Yes, if Jürgen invites me back then I would love to have another go at it but next time I would try and eliminate the umms and ahhs.  Seriously!  You can watch the presentation here and there will be a small prize for the person who counts the total number of umm and ahhs (I gave up when I got into three figures) and for that reason alone I’m grateful to the audience for sticking with it when it must have been driving them round the bend!

I have a new-found respect for people who do this, it is not as easy as it looks and if you think it is then try it, or better yet try it anyway, audiences are patient and want to hear what you have to say and in a connected world this is an excellent way for teachers to continue to find new ideas and learn from each other especially when you cannot fly to conferences.

The next presentation in the Web 2.0 series comes from Ingrid Braband on Monday 21st January and you will find it here and you can email Jürgen ( ) beforehand to say you are coming, so hopefully I’ll see you there or when you do your webinar – there’s no need to umm and ahh about it 😉


About andrewpickles

Teacher of English in Germany
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11 Responses to Umming and ahhing

  1. Anja Woehrl says:

    It was the first time that I attended an online seminar myself. If all the presentations are like Andrew’s I will definitely attend as many sessions as I can! In an hour I got a very good overview of excellent sources, a lot of practical ideas for my teaching and useful comments by other participants. Thanks again for a wonderful webinar!

  2. Angelika Guettl says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I had’nt guessed that this was your first time in Adobe Connect – you acted like a pro 🙂 And, when you have found THE clue for not saying Ahh and uhhh – please tell me – I’d love to erase them in my presentations, too. In my opinion you can either be perfect (few people are) or authentical and convince through content, what you did in a wonderful way. Thanks! – Do you also do presentations in German?

    • Thanks Angelika!
      You made my morning, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I would be a very happy man if I could present in German but to my shame my spoken German wouldn’t stand up to it. It is one of my projects this year to work on improving it but an irony of being an English speaker in Germany is that it is strangely difficult to practice it as everyone wants to practice their English on you instead, still I promise to make a concerted effort this year to get to grips with it. Happily my receptive German is fine so if you are presenting at any point I’d love to be there?

      Thanks again and all the best,

  3. Emma Lavington says:

    Hi Andrew, I thought you did a marvellous job… showing, guiding, explaining, prompting, & responding. As one of the other participants said (well, wrote actually!) on the evening, you are a great communicator. Speaking to a screen without being able to see / hear your audience is truly bonkers and goes against a teacher’s grain 😉 . You did very well, stayed very natural and (most importantly) kept your sense of humour! Long may you gesticulate and ummm and ahhh (it really wasn’t that bad, perfectly natural… – I dread to think how many millions of times a day I say things like “right then..!” )
    Best wishes from Koblenz! Emma

    • Hello Emma
      Lovely to hear from you and many thanks for your comments. Bonkers is a very apposite word I think 😀 ‘okay’ is my word of choice in class – so much so that I sometimes have students play okay lottery for the number of times an hour I use it :-/ Hope things are going well in Koblenz and I look forward to catching up again soon I hope,

      all the best,


  4. Shona Whyte says:

    Hi there. Coming in late to this discussion, having just “met” you at my own Jürgenar last night. What I find difficult in doing (giving?) a webinar is the more or less total absence of real time feedback – the equivalent of eye contact, nodding or questioning looks you get in a class or seminar room. And trying to read the chat window while still keeping on track of a) what you’re saying right then b) what you’re going to say next and c) the larger picture of where you’re going in what time frame makes for an exhausting experience. But I agree it’s a very worthwhile format, especially if you think in terms less of information exchanged but ideas sparked and further areas of exploration identified. Much like a good modern task-based language classroom 🙂

    • Hi Shona, thanks for your comments, and yes I agree with you that the lack of feedback is very disorientating! However, I thought your presentation was really informative and engaging and the interactive element using the group breakouts was a great idea. As for ideas sparked, I’m now in the process of trying to persuade our budget holders to release some funds for an IWB or two. Hopefully next time I’ll be able to take part with the benefit of real experience 😀

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