My experiences overcoming what life presented
I have attended an awful lot of conferences, camps, seminars and presentations in recent years. Yesterday I was a speaker.
Speaking instead of Listening
Being a presenter brings an entirely new and different perspective on the day. A lot leads up to “the day” and I had a lot of questions in my head.
When I was initially asked to speak at LaunchCamp I was certain that the date was two days away. I got cracking immediately, but the next day I learned that I was confused and wrong. We had a good chuckle over that and another week to prepare. What a relief.
I got my slide deck ready over the weekend before the presentation. Then a friend learned I was preparing a presentation and offered to improve the slide design, clean things up and help me focus in on key points. I welcomed this kind of offer with open arms.
The week leading up to the presentation was busy for everyone. One day went by and then another, while time and progress seemed to be in short supply. I wanted to move forward, but couldn’t because the slide deck was being improved by my friend.
Always Expect the Unexpected
In addition to preparing for the presentation client work continued as much as possible, as did family life. The day before the event was really when I expected the presentation to come together.
Instead, around 11 AM I learned that every single website on my dedicated server had been infected by a malicious script. I was dumb struck. Not only that this had happened, but that it happened on this day at this time.
I immediately put on my systems administrator hat and figured that restoring each account from back up would be tedious at best. Unfortunately, the attack occurred shortly before the nightly backup which made that backup useless. My dedicated server hosting provider has a specific team for security and abuse. I am so grateful that I pay a lot of money for hosting each month. In about an hour it was like this problem had never existed. They identified every aspect of the issue, removed the malicious script from every account and made the necessary changes to ensure this never happens again. I felt like I was touched by an angel.
The Day Of
The next day at the event I was in the audience watching the current speaker. About 20 minutes before my presentation I received an IM with a revised version of my presentation. Another stunner.
Sitting in the audience watching the presenter struggle for what seemed like 15 minutes to get the laptop to display on the screen was uncomfortable on many levels. My heart went out to that presenter.
I don’t go out with my laptop much, so I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen on a lot of levels as it powered up. My WiFi login failed. The laptop shut down for no apparent reason. I thought that the battery was gone. I needed to get online to download the new presentation. I was scheduled to be on in 15 minutes. And then, thinking of the current presenter, I realized that the printed version of my presentation was sitting in the output tray of the printer at the office. Ouch.
With what seemed like a lack of email the option of Dropbox or Google Docs just seemed too complex. I would just use my slides. The laptop booted up and I was able to login properly to the WiFi network.
I walked to my presentation room and connected my laptop to the video cable. This unleashed 10 minutes of struggling with unfamiliar video display controls and PowerPoint settings. I finally asked the audience if there was a doctor in the house. While he came up I realized that my emailed presentation had arrived. Yeah!! A helpful gentleman provided the assistance that I need to get the presenter display (with presenter notes) on the lap top and only the presentation on the screen, instead of the reverse. And someone else figured turning on the projector was a good thing. I thank you both.
I got things rolling with Lindt chocolate for everyone and we were off to the races.
What About Next Time?
- Available tech support, even for the tech savvy, is a substantial win for any presenter. There is enough to think about and technology challenges should be easily eliminated from the speaker’s concerns.
- If possible, it is great to have a clear understanding of your audience’s fluency in the subject matter. Otherwise, as a presenter, I think it makes sense to err on the side of going too deep, rather than too shallow.
- For various reasons the subject of the presentation can wander around a bit during the preparation. One reason may be that the instructions were to “speak on what you are passionate about” or something similar. I wondered if what I would present was “on target”. Thankfully, those in the audience told me that it was.
- I was curious about the duration. Did I have too much information?
- It might be great fun if there is a speaker, shall we say “lounge”. A room for speakers to leave “stuff”. A place to meet other speakers, network, assess the audience and so on. It occurs to me that this also keeps the speakers away from the attendees, which is not ideal. I still think it is a nice perk when available.
- Telling engaging stories is the key to a good presentation. This is the life experience, the rich nectar that never appears in the slides, that the audience really appreciates.
- The fewer slides and the fewer words the better.
- Have a point or a few points that you want people to leave with.
- Be sure to thank the 2-3 friends that review your slide deck. That is the subtle way of saying, having someone proof read it, verify the facts and make it pretty. Thanks to Jeff, Don and Selina.
- Afternoon presenters should be required to hand out chocolates. Even after a lengthy technical delay the audience was smiling, laughing and engaging.
It is a great experience in life any time that you can support a friend, share useful information that will help others and conquer your own fears and hesitations. There were many victories around and during this event. I look forward to the next opportunity to present. I’ll be ready, chocolates in hand. Here is the presentation I gave.
Have you presented? Do you have any tips to share? Questions are welcome as well. You can use the form below.