I just came home from the BIT15 conference in Niagara Falls. It was an amazing experience. I have attended a few conferences in the past few years (although I was on a leave of absence last year) and continue to learn and tweak my practice in the classroom each time. These conferences (almost alone) have transformed me as a teacher more, just by attending, than a lot of my own, individual attempts at growth and change.
I did leave feeling a little frustrated this time and I have to work on some things for myself. I’m not looking for a cheer leading squad, but being cognizant of some areas in which I need to improve. (my colleagues have assured me I’m fine, so I’m not looking for a pat on the back, but rather needing to express the changes I need to make)
I presented this year. I must acknowledge it wasn’t my best “A” game. I went in confidently, but I have to believe we all have those times when we don’t quite hit it out of the park. This time, it was me. My content was fine, my presentation of the content lacked a little this time around. I could tell I was talking too fast, I’ve run this presentation to myself and it fit the parameters. This time, I ran short. I was not so happy about this, and want to make sure that I don’t just start rambling to fill space if it happens again.
I think my nerves set in. Here’s my problem: I can’t control the audience. I mean, I shouldn’t want to, yes, but part of me gets nervous when people start coming in. (or conversely, they put me in a room too large for the amount of people who show up, so just visually, I feel like a failure! haha) I tried to be as blunt as possible in my session title, which included the words, “A Beginner’s Guide”, so I expected few people, but also expected what I would term “newbies”. As people filtered in, I knew they were NOT newbies. This put me off my game. I recognized some people and thought, you already know everything I’m about to say, so my brain goes in overdrive worrying. Short of me saying in my write up, “only come if you don’t know anything” I think I set myself up for failure. Obviously, anyone can come to a presentation. So, I could feel myself speaking at a superhuman speed and not fully explaining the things I wanted, because I thought, oh no, they already know these things!
Which leads me to my next area of improvement – becoming a better overall presenter. Ask myself, “So who cares if an expert walks in?” you just do what you do. I’m not an upper level speaker. Yet. I need to filter out my concerns about the audience and just cover my material. I worried too much about pleasing the audience with my information. As a result, I did feel saddened when people got up and left in the middle of it. I did feel a little bad when no one clapped at the end. (Because all of the sessions I went to, we clapped) I did feel a little worried when no one seemed to be looking at me. (but to be fair, even when I was an audience member I was looking at my devices as well) I need to improve my confidence in just sharing what I brought to the table and you can take or leave what you want. But the trick is, not to lament what is left on that table.
I’m learning. I continue to learn. But the best part is, I still want to! I will likely not be invited back to speak (I don’t know if I was audited or what type of feedback they received) but that’s ok. I will continue to work on my style, my information, my technique and prove myself. I wrote a blog entry almost exactly like this one about 2 years ago, after I presented at a conference and I was clearly out of place and only 4 people came to my session! I’m learning about humble pie. I guess I need to decide if I want to continue to go down this pathway or realize it’s not quite for me. The truth is, I love to talk. I love to teach. That doesn’t necessarily translate into being a great speaker. But I have to believe, if it’s a passion of mine, sooner or later, I will convey my message and someone will take that back to their class and I will have accomplished my mission. To teach.