I Survived Giving a Lightning Talk at the Summit!

Unlike some of the presenters in the two lightning talks at the Summit, I am a lightweight. My “speaking engagements” have been small-group situations: I hosted a breakfast roundtable at the AMWA conference in October, I conducted a workshop at Spectrum, I was going to host a progression at the Summit, and I coordinated a workshop for the Summit. So the idea of getting in front of a group of my peers and making a real presentation with a Powerpoint that was not controlled by me was VERY intimidating. Preparing the slides was a challenge…how many words can you put on the slide that will only display for 15 seconds? And who was my audience? Just about anyone…the other topics were all over the map, so anyone could be in the session. (Little did I know, that it would also be standing room only!) And how do I practice my presentation? Did I mention I am a lightweight? In my few times teaching, training, and making presentations at work, I am the one who is writing every little thing I am going to say down on paper…exactly what they tell you NOT to do.

Every quiet moment at the conference, I was in my hotel room practicing, cutting text, practicing, reading a book on presentations I bought in the bookstore in my fear (The Naked Presenter: Delivering Powerful Presentations With or Without Slides by Garr Reynolds). Oh, and did I mention I was practicing? (The book is actually pretty good and had little to do with nudity, especially if you are thinking it has something to do with imagining the audience naked…I did NOT.) And though its Zen theme did help me calm down a bit, I was that person sending in my presentation the night before the session.

As further preparation, since I had never seen a lightning talk before (yes, you’re right that I was crazy to sign up for one), I went to the first session of lightning talks on Monday, waiting for the chaos and fun of watching the speakers mess up this impossible task. They did NOT. They were really polished, actually, exactly not what I was expecting. I don’t mind making a fool of myself when everyone else is in a similarly impossible situation and also making fools of themselves. Polished and well-thought-out presentations by experienced speakers was NOT what I signed on for! The funniest part was when one presenter dropped her laptop…I was expecting much more, ie, much worse.

Two days later, I was sitting at the front of the room with the other speakers, which made me feel better…then worse when I looked back at the big room filling up! But this session had much more in store for attendees…the presentations used more humor, and poor Paul Mueller gave a ninja talk…a presentation that was created for him by Rhyne Armstrong. There was the chaos I had been told to expect! Alas, my topic and I blended in to the other sessions…at times funny, at times perhaps a bit too serious, not quite as embarrassing as I imagined. Maybe they will even let me do it again someday….

Kelly Schrank

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