Why The Open Keynote Is Still Open

dome with open top

“Is your keynote ready yet?” asks my mom, about my upcoming keynote at OER17. She never used to check if I finished my homework at school, and of course she knew NEVER to ask about my progress on my PhD dissertation back when. This one’s caught her attention, though. And no, it’s not “done” yet for several reasons. And I wanted to share these here on Prof Hacker because I thought it might have relevance beyond my personal experience, and to ask how other people’s keynote processes were (including and especially their first ever keynote). I also think people who are interested in open education might find some of the below useful as well.

  1. In my teaching I am pretty spontaneous. I plan for ages and then make modifications a day before, an hour before, during, even, in response to the students. It’s like I develop a repertoire of things I could do in a semester that are usually more than can fit in the semester, which allows me flexibility for each individual class. With conference presentations I am more organized and focused, but I still leave room for changes last minute. At the moment I have enough notes for 10 keynotes (never know when those will come handy!). So bottom line: even if I started a presentation today, I would still be modifying it up until just before keynote day. I still remember the day I decided to “flip” my presentation on flipping the classroom by walking with a wireless mic and talking to the (very conservative) audience. I made that decision one hour before.
  2. Our field (in this case anything edtech or open ed) is fast-changing and if you keep up with things, you get new ideas all the time that can shift your priorities. For example, there’s a cMOOC #OpenLearning17 going on right now, details at, and I am co-facilitating a week of it with Sue Erickson of Virginia Wesleyan College this week (and learning throughout the MOOC). Our focus is Open Access. Coincidentally, there is a conference on open in Cape Town, #OEGlobal and we are Virtually Connecting there, so this week is going to be packed with ideas about open with those two events that I am directly involved in.
  3. External to the field, changes in the macro and microworld affect what I prioritize. Macro like Trump and Brexit. Micro from as big as a health crisis for a family member to an idea from a children’s book or cartoon I experienced with my kid. And the meso-level: the personal process of getting a UK visa, coinciding with the Trump executive order. All of these things end up having relevance to education as a whole, open education in specific, and some of the themes in my keynote in particular.
  4. I, er, write too much. It’s a blessing and a curse. I mean, if I have an interesting idea, I can’t wait until the keynote to share it, now, can I? And then when I share it, people respond, and my thinking evolves. And then…you know, it changes what I thought I might say in the keynote. I’m explicitly blogging my keynote journey, including some of my struggles and crazy ideas along the way.

And there’s of course the extra “noticing” of how other people present. A hyper-awareness that reminds me of how it was like to attend weddings just before my own. I was noticing more than I normally would, and I am doing this now when I watch other speakers. It could drive me crazy, except I am hoping this becomes less of an issue in future. That it’s a first-timer impostor-syndrome thing that will fade away.

What do you do to prepare for important conference presentations? Tell us in the comments!

“The dome is open at the top” flickr photo by Supermac1961 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license


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