I admit it, I feel vulnerable putting this out there. But if you can't share what you learn . . .
For the presentation, I had a lot of PowerPoint 'slides' to go through to tell a story in a pretty tight timeframe. What I decided is that the way to keep me on task was to pre-time the slides so they would automatically go forward as I read the script. I also thought this would be helpful because I wasn't exactly sure of the room set-up, and that I might want to walk around a bit and not have to keep going back and forth to the computer - setting a timer would do it for me. Well, you likely know where this is going. I practiced the presentation in an empty office, but, man, it is so different when you get in front of an actual group of people. In the moment of presentation, I added or subtracted things in to what I had planned to say and ran late - or early - even I though I thought I had left the right amount of time. Some of my slides either went forward without me, or sat there in an awkward pause. I was too chicken to go back and forth and so, ya, I sounded rushed and short-changed some stories and was a little draggy in other areas. Oops. And so, the lesson learned here is (ta-da):
Rule 1 Do not use timed slides.
And this brings me to that script I wrote out. Looking up at a group of people and then down to a bunch of sentences is confusing, and I lost my place a couple of times. I usually don't write out everything like I did for this presentation, but I wanted to make sure I got all the facts right. What ended up happening is that I felt like I was reading something and not engaging my audience. Or, worse, I was not sure what I was talking about. I don't think I have to memorize a script or anything but I will go back to having just cue cards - I do know my stuff! - and on these, I will:
Rule 2 Write word prompts for presentation notes.
The third thing is an oversight, and I have had a number of people gently tell me the struggled to hear my voice at this event. So strange, for I think I have a deep voice that carries. I guess it is the urge to 'go small' when I have the spotlight. Is this self-protective, I wonder, for if they can't hear me, they can't criticize? I need to get over that if because people came to see me and it is near disrespectful of their time to not speak up so they can hear. Therefore:
Rule 3 Ask the audience if they can hear me, and use a microphone if it is available.
The final piece of advice, though, was my ah-ha moment, and it could very well make all the difference. As a museum and archives professional, I now think I tend to 'hide' behind the written word. I find writing comforting, for gives me time to edit and research and control the environment in which I pass along my message. But know what? It's passive. And that kind of communication truly is not enough anymore - I have to / need to / want to engage people directly, and hear what they have to say about what I put out there. I was actively seeking interaction when I volunteered to do this presentation. However, it takes a plan to get information across, a methodology, learning goals and adapted educational techniques. Now this may sound odd, especially as my grad studies was designed for collections managers AND educational specialists, but it was the first time I realized just how necessary it is for me to apply strategies when I, personally, share a story in this context. Ya, it's not just 'cool stuff' because I happen to like it. And so the last rule of presenting is for me:
Rule 4 Know why I want to pass this information along.
I need to be prepared to answer the 'so what?' when I present, and therefore I will be taking an instructional skills workshop in early June to help me gain an understanding around learning and teaching methodologies. I will get a toolbox of tips, and will be up and in front of an audience repeatedly - and be videoed! - to test my effectiveness. This type of experience terrifies me, but is the only way to improve, and I can't tell you how excited I am for this opportunity.