If you present at conferences or train other people, you’ll appreciate this short post. To begin, I want you to consider your expectations for musicians and stand-up comedians when you go see them perform. What are you hoping the experience will be like?

When you go to a music concert, you generally want to hear the band or performer play all your favorite songs. You might enjoy them playing songs you’ve heard that they don’t play often, but if you instead only hear songs you’ve never listened to before, you’re likely to be a bit disappointed.

In contrast, when you go see a stand-up comedian, you want pretty much the exact opposite experience. You generally want to hear the stand-up comedian say completely new material. If you instead hear only jokes you’ve listened to before, you’re likely to be a bit disappointed.

So, it occurred to me a while back that presenters are much more like stand-up comedians. When you come to see them present, you generally want to hear something new, or at least something that builds off of what you’ve already heard. If instead you hear only ideas you’ve listened to before, you’re likely to be a bit disappointed.

I think it’s important to take that into consideration when you present. It doesn’t take long before a presenter develops a reputation for always saying the same things because he or she frequently repeats the same content. As a result, I’ve tried to use a presentation for about a year, doing it only once at each conference, and then retire it. It’s certainly challenging to keep coming up with new content to talk about, but it’s also given me a worthwhile push to keep learning and implementing new ideas.


  1. Great post. I agree. I started about 2-3 years ago presenting at a variety of PDs here on the east coast. Every year I have changed it up, I think part of it is for my own learning that you described above. The feeling of being stale or not helpful is always a fear when I present to a team or district. I remember starting with the topic of Google Apps in Math, then the second year I opened up to Engagement Strategies in Math and now it has evolved into how to implement Engagement into Curriculum (3 Acts, Clothesline math etc that ties directly into CCSSM scope and sequences we use in NJ). I can foreshadow my next year to be focused on fraction development in the elementary schools or PD for el eds in general. I appreciate the work you publish and resources you put out, thank you.

    • Thanks Josh. Yes, I’m not saying to never reuse the same content. That is crazy talk. I just think that we have to be careful to not repeat content too much with the same audience. I think your set up sounds great.

  2. I notice that there are folks who attend a conference, and then recommend a session to a new attendee the following year, only for it to be absent from the program. I’m a fan of presenting two sessions: one from the previous year for those that missed out, and a new one for those that are coming back for your reputation. Great opportunity to build a network of returning participants!

    • That’s really interesting push back, Devin. I totally see your point. I’m not sure how this would actually work though because of logistics. What I’m trying to do (and what Dan Meyer has done for years) is to record talks I retire and upload them so they’re at least watchable online.

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