Monday, July 18, 2011

I'm Speechless

I gather my things the night before my presentation. I have my bag full of papers, writings, hand-outs and random, really unneeded items but, you never know. I pack for a trip the same way. I need choices. 12 pairs of shoes for 6 outfits is usually sufficient and 6 outfits for 3 days. I figure, if I can fit it in one suitcase, then who cares? Except whoever is handling my bag and can't lift it into the transport vehicle. I just smile, shrug, bat my eyelashes. Doesn't work for women as well. But, they seem to understand and give me that reassuring wink.

So, I have my posters, my books, my plan and directions.

I gather my thoughts and mull them over all night due to the inability to sleep. I think to myself, "That's funny. I'll say that. Will I remember to say that? Will they think its funny? Be yourself. Be genuine. I want to be entertaining too. I'm no comedian. Be yourself."

I arrive at the college and meet my coordinator who has already informed me that we can't get into the space until the time I am supposed to start. That means setting up while everyone is coming in and now waiting for me probably thinking that I am late. "Oh well. Work it out. Don't let em' see you sweat. Be yourself."  I hope what I have set up on the computer and projector works. There is always an uncertainty with technology. I don't need it anyway.

There is a room full of men and woman, mostly woman. They are at round tables staring at me in anticipation. I hope they know I don't sing or dance. I'm just telling my story. As I begin, I look at their faces to see if I can sense their interest in me being there or their enthusiasm for being there on a Saturday. I'm here on a Saturday, too and I am not getting paid for it either (by choice). I am excited to be able to speak to some educators like me. I want to inspire the teacher's of the future.

As i am speaking, I am trying to stay on track, be inspiring and not choke on a dry throat. People are smiling or laughing on cue and knodding in agreement. On target. Inspiring maybe. They are tuned in. Unfortunately, I have noticed someone quite close to me who is what Lady Gaga sings as, Poker Face. No expression, no interaction, nothing. Why is it that I am now focused on her? It doesn't matter how anyone else is reacting, I am completely focused on her. I get nothing from her. "She hates me. She is bored out of her mind. She is wasting her Saturday here listening to a dimwit."  STOP focusing on the negative. Be positive.

I finish the presentations to questions and comments and applause. I am pleased. Still some focus on Poker face. Then, she gets up and comes over to me. Here comes the advice...."don't quit your day job, you could shorten it up a bit, you, you, you. " If I would just shut off my insecurities for a minute, I would find out that she actually enjoyed my presentation and thinks my Flip Side concept is really great. "WHAT? Come on. "
I spent half the presentation worrying about her and she, in fact, enjoyed it. ARg.

Here is the point of writing this. It is not easy getting up in front of people, in front of a judgmental world. There are many perspectives to presenting. Most people these days are so overloaded with entertainment that we expect to be entertained at every moment. So it is a difficult task to get up in front of people and entertain them while trying to teach them something or inspire them.  Presenters have all eyes on them and they see YOU. They see your expressions (or no expressions), they see when you approve or don't approve, they see when you are bored, they see when you are on you are texting and they see when you are enjoying it. It is a balancing act to continually create and recreate a presentation to fit the audience listening.

9 times out of 10, most of the audience doesn't want to be up there, unless it's my husband who is in the audience. He is the 1 out of 10 who does love being up there and he is good at it. He is an awesome and dynamic speaker. I believe that the audience is just as important in a successful presentation. If the speaker is getting feedback from the audience, the speaker will feed off of it. They can gear it up or down depending on the way the audience is reacting.  Shake your head in approval if you agree with what they are saying or if you are inspired by what your doing. It is like when you go watch your children speak or perform. Nobody, almost nobody, just sits there without expression or reaction. We always give them feedback to show our approval for their efforts and abilities. Why not for adults too? That little child is still in there who has some fears of rejection or disappointment. When I am at a presentation, I always give feedback with facial other physical expressions like clapping or just paying attention. I give verbal feedback like asking a relevant question or sharing a story or at the end, if I really enjoyed it. I go out of my way to tell them. I think it is critical for helping a speaker grow.

So, when you are at a performance or presentation, see yourself as an audience member in a different perspective. See your self as the speaker and how it feels to be up there and see yourself from the eyes of the speaker. What do you look like? What vibe are you giving off? Are you giving positive feedback. That is not to say we aren't going to be at a BAD presentation once in a while but try to see something positive in it. They are up there for a reason. They either enjoy being up there or someone is making them to do it and it might not be their thing.  

Something to think about.

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