Edupreneur: Know What They'll Ask

SXSWedu opened up Panel Picker 2020 and my gears have been turning to submit a session. Looking ahead to conferences got me thinking about presentations, both at conferences and pitches to potential clients. Over the past couple of years I’ve done quite a bit of both, traveling to and presenting at various conferences as a way of building social proof and pitching schools and cultural centers to get my business off the ground. One piece of advice: Know what your audience is going to ask before they ask it.

You don't have to be clairvoyant, (though that certainly wouldn't hurt!) you just have to be self-reflective and critical enough to analyze your previous work. For example, after doing a few conference presentations I noticed the same questions popping up again and again in the Q&As. People would ask me how I work with non-verbal students. I’d explain the ways I make the workshops adaptable and inclusive through sensory activities, word walls, close coordination with speech therapists, and the like. Eventually, I learned to anticipate the question.

With this knowledge I could do two things: build it into my presentation or purposefully leave it out. There’s an argument for both and for me it really depends on who my audience is going to be. I'll give reasoning for both strategies in the case of the non-verbal student question.

Donnie Welch, a young bearded man with glasses, speaks in a school auditorium, gesturing with his hands out. Next to him is a projector displaying a slide on a screen him.

Donnie Welch, a young bearded man with glasses, speaks in a school auditorium, gesturing with his hands out. Next to him is a projector displaying a slide on a screen him.

Building it into the presentation gives me the opportunity to better control the conversation. Someone might ask the question about a specific student they have and want the kind of answer that’s better handled one on one or they might use wording I don’t feel comfortable with necessitating that I switch up their language when I reiterate the question. Building it into a presentation ensures that the language surrounding non-verbal students is in my own words and that the ideas I share connect to the full range of my audience. It also gives me the chance to say something like, “ If you’re interested in a specific student or classroom, you can feel free to email me and we can talk about how I can best help and consult,” which both avoids questions that can derail the group and sets up new client opportunities.

That said, If I’m giving a broad, quick overview of my workshops at an education conference like SXSWedu as opposed to specialized conference, like the Council for Exceptional Children, diving too much into a specific aspect or student profile could very well interrupt the flow and my greater goal of introducing my theories and curriculum.

In these situations I might not address my work with non-verbal students in detail because there’s so much content to cover. In doing so though, I know in the back of my mind that the question will come up during the Q&A. It’s a bit like a magic act, pretending to pull a card out of an audience member’s ear when it’s been up your sleeve the whole time. A mark of a good presenter is someone who is able to give clear, informed answers to whatever questions pop-up. It showcases a depth of knowledge and a calmness under pressure. Once again, like magic, there’s a bit of an illusion to it (you can’t substitute knowledge or experience, got to have that) because you can be prepared for the question and have an answer ready.

This certainly isn’t to say there won’t be new questions that throw you off guard or bring you pause, just that there are some you can predict, that you’ll be able to prepare for, answer with poise, and these moments of confidence will make lasting impressions that on your audience.

What makes this skill so important in presenting in the education sector especially is that people always want to have best practice in mind. Teachers and administrators want strategies that will effectively reach all their students. Answering confidently proves that this is a fully formed curriculum, ed-tech app, or product that you’ve thoroughly considered the insides and outs of.

University of Alabama Guest Lecture

Earlier this week I had a chance to speak with a group of aspiring theater educators at the University of Alabama about ways to ensure arts education spaces are inclusive and accessible for all learners.

After smoothing out and working around the technical blips that always accompany this sort of a thing, the lecture went well and the students asked a lot of great questions afterwards.

I’ve shared my slides publicly for people to visit. While the information itself is fairly short and really more a guideline for my conversation with the class, I thought it’d be nice to keep the content up for the students to reference and share as well as for anyone else who’s curious! Click the linked title slide below to check out the presentation for yourself!

Title slide of powerpoint presentation.At the top is the title, followed by a center is an image of hand painted stars, yellow finger paint on black construction paper. Below that is the presenter name and information.

Title slide of powerpoint presentation.At the top is the title, followed by a center is an image of hand painted stars, yellow finger paint on black construction paper. Below that is the presenter name and information.

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Edupreneur

What’s edupreneurship? Well as I define it: It’s simply being an education entrepreneur.

A lot of time people think this means specifically edtech work, but I would contest that there are a lot of opportunities to start a business that can benefit schools, teachers, students, and all education stakeholders that don’t involve technology at all.

In my edupreneur posts I’ll be sharing tips and tricks I’ve learned in my first year of running Donnie Welch Poetry. A lot of these are things I’ve learned the hard way and wish someone had told me!

I’ll be sharing posts that I hope inspire people to make the leap in edupreneurship!

(Photo by  Julianne Nash ) Donnie Welch, young caucasian male, sits on radiator by the window of a empty classroom. He’s in a red shirt, jeans, and sneakers, sitting with one leg crossed. The gray and white tile floor and white board of the classroom are visible in the foreground.

(Photo by Julianne Nash) Donnie Welch, young caucasian male, sits on radiator by the window of a empty classroom. He’s in a red shirt, jeans, and sneakers, sitting with one leg crossed. The gray and white tile floor and white board of the classroom are visible in the foreground.

Part of what motivated the creation of Donnie Welch Poetry was a desire to advocate for more arts education in neurodiverse learning. Rather than just standing on a literal or digital soap box, I decided that one way I could help get more arts ed in neurodiverse classrooms was to build a business that did exactly that.

I believe that edupreneurship can help drive education reform.

If you believe so too, then I challenge you to start a side hustle that addresses some of the wrongs you see in education.

Picture of stars & constellations from a poetry workshop. Black construction paper taped together with yellow finger paint on them. To the left are two columns of three, then a column of two, then one all the way on the right. The finger painting is different in each, some dots, some swirls and some full hand prints are visible.

Picture of stars & constellations from a poetry workshop. Black construction paper taped together with yellow finger paint on them. To the left are two columns of three, then a column of two, then one all the way on the right. The finger painting is different in each, some dots, some swirls and some full hand prints are visible.

Maybe you have a way to better track district budgets that could save money and get funds allocated to programs that need it?

Maybe you have the curriculum idea that’ll rock the STEM world?

Maybe there’s a way to create fluid partnerships between local musicians and band classes?

Maybe you have something else entirely!?

Whatever skills you have, bring them to the table. The education system needs new ideas and if you don’t do it then who?

Step up. Students need you!

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