THE BLOG
11/24/2010 09:00 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Conference Speakers: I Can Read. Now Make Me Laugh.

When I was a teacher, I often found myself wondering what superintendents did for a living (of course, this happened only after I had completed my lesson plans).

I was pretty sure they worked in education, but the specifics of the job were lost on me. They looked busy, but I noticed they spent a lot of time out of the school district.

How could they run a school and not be in school?

Where did they go?

What were they doing?

Then I became a principal. I assumed this would allow me to understand the inner sanctum of a superintendent (this sentence just sounds weird and borderline obscene... mainly because it is).

But no. After a few years as principal, I still wasn't 100 percent sure what superintendents did for a living.

But they seemed happy.

They seemed to enjoy their jobs.

So I became one (not the only reason, so easy on the angry e-mails). And I found out what they already knew.

The superintendent's position is the odd duck of a school district (insert your joke here).

The job is as different from a teacher's position, as a custodian's or a coach's.

The superintendent is in education, but just barely. The primary focus of the job is no primary focus at all.

It's people. Students. Staff. Money (or lack thereof). Insurance. Architects. And meetings.

Lots and lots of meetings.

Meetings about stuff. Meetings about nothing. Meetings about meetings.

Most aren't earth shattering. If the truth be told one meeting isn't much different than the previous 174 (but my anger at wasting time causes me to digress).

Another item on the superintendent's to-do list is attending conferences.

They are meetings on steroids.

I've found conferences always mean the same things.

Uncomfortable chairs.

Bad carpet.

People who want to shake your hand.

Rooms that are too hot. Or too cold. And dry. Like desert dry (why is that?).

There are overheads. PowerPoint slides. And handouts.

And more podiums than I can count. Is it a law that you have to stand behind a big wooden box with the hotel logo on it when you speak?

And for every podium there are five people with giant name tags.

Each conference has at least 100 people listed as presenters. Which means, by the law of averages, one will be great and one will be good.

That leaves 98 other presenters (check my math).

Ninety-eight people who want to have a conference presentation on their resume. Why they want this, I will never know.

As far as resumes go, is speaking at a conference a deal breaker on getting a new job?

Does it boost your income?

Provide better health insurance?

Increase your retirement package?

Whatever benefits presenting provides, I have a simple request (I've made it before and I'll make it again).

Is it too much to ask when I (or a school district) pay hundreds of dollars in conference fees that someone with a microphone makes me smile.

I'm not asking for Carrot Top quality entertainment here, just a giggle. Or a grin. Or a split-second of happiness.

Anything, but someone standing behind the sacred podium reading a PowerPoint in a monotone voice (I know this comes as a shock, but I can read).

Why do I have to be held captive just so they can improve their job prospects?

The best conference speakers aren't the ones with a ground-breaking message.

The ones you remember are funny.

It might be a joke. Could be a video (YouTube has them for free, you know). Maybe even a self-deprecating story.

There are parts of being a superintendent that continue to be a mystery, but after 8,000 meetings/conferences I think I've discovered the formula for a memorable presentation.

A simple message plus at least one laugh.

Try it. Your audience will like it.