I’m just finishing up my second week back at work since coming home from a fantastic week at ICS in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
I don’t know if you have ever been away from school for a week with a solid focus on best practice…but it’s really hard to get back in to the swing of things at everyday work. Call it jet-lag or call it something else. It’s jarring to the senses.
From getting off the plane this conference was the model of organization and support. Being part of the leadership team I had had many months of communication before the conference dates and everything was smooth sailing once in Addis Ababa. Kudos to John Iglar and team.
We spent roughly two days together planning and prepping before the attendees arrived for the main conference.
I want to talk about the major challenging aspect for me in these two days. As a Learning2 leader, you must conduct two 3-hour workshops, a mini-keynote called a Learning2 Talk, and a condensed 1 hour session of the 3 hour workshop. You are kept busy!
It was the preparation of the Learning2 Talk that changed my approach to public speaking. I never thought I would come away from a conference with any advancement in my public speaking abilities! I usually create slides to prompt me and get on with it. I never structure anything too much. It has worked in the past…*cough* TEDx *cough*
So firstly, you are required to run through your Learning2 talk before the organizing committee; the very lovely people that are Simon May, Madeleine Broookes, and Kim Cofino. I was my usual casual and rambling self with a little bit of dry humor thrown in for good measure. Feedback was mostly positive but a few notes to structure more and to, perhaps, tone down some commentary that might offend certain teachers(!) I agreed and went away to structure some more.
The next day we ran through a sound check of our Learning2 talk in the main hall with about 6 people there. I bombed. It was brutal. I searched for the words, and the delivery of the talk was all over the place. Simon noted that I had lost the humor from the previous day amongst other things. Kim and Madeleine said not to worry as it’s hard to get a vibe from an empty hall. It would be fine the next day. I had lost something in my half baked structuring of my presentation. I was caught in the middle of casual presentation and scripted monologue.
I had a pretty restless day and night. I came away from that second rehearsal adamant that I would know the structure of what I was going to say on each of my slides. I stayed up way too late reading through a script of sorts and I kept adding things I thought were either humorous or funny or somewhat informational. The presentation ended up being way more structured than I had ever done before.
The following morning I was the last of 4 presenters. To say I was confident of what I was going to say would be a lie. I had experienced this previously speaking at TEDx when I knew I knew what I was talking about but my brain just couldn’t get going until up on the stage. I began to trust myself and keep calm.
I got up on to the stage and it all melded together well. I remember talking about something on stage and thinking to myself at the same time “Yeah, this is good, this is going well”. The jokes were right, and the content was pretty solid (not world changing). Nothing high brow but relative enough for the audience that was there. I had a lot of people come to me during the conference to say how much they enjoyed it. Which was nice.
My formula for any presentation from now on will follow these guidelines*:
- Plan to a point; but plan for your own voice to be heard above the script.
- Integrate feedback in my preparation for my presentation.
- Involve humor but assess the crowd for type of humor that will work.
- Pay attention to wording. Amend, revise, and sound the sentences out.
- It’s okay to be nervous. Use it. Invite it in. It sparks some reactions that may work for you.
- Be yourself; don’t change once you get up in front of a group of people.
Here’s my talk: