Tuesday, February 4, 2014

for my first no-safety-net presentation

I can't say I haven't been warned.

Last year, after my presentation at the International Rice Festival, I was told that there is a possibility that I'd do this type of presentations more often. A few months later, I found myself on a plane en route to Hong Kong to attend the Asia Society HK's food program entitled "In a Grain of Rice: Food and Culture for South and Southeast Asia". I was one of the speakers during the morning session on January 12.

I was very excited because talking about science to a non-technical audience is one of the most challenging assignments for me... it's the most enjoyable too. I dream that someday I'd be able to speak with the confidence of Al Gore and the charisma of Steve Jobs. But since I need a long time to prepare and a great graphics team to be at that caliber and I just didn't have that time or the team, I settled with not fumbling over what I was supposed to say AND a slide deck with beautiful pictures.

(Photo by Chill)

Yeah, if I thought the Eastwood talk was tough, I spoke too soon: for the Asia Society HK event, I was the only speaker from IRRI and there were only two of us in the team (Chill Sapiandante and I were to take care of the IRRI exhibit in the afternoon session).... and there won't be any familiar faces in the crowd the way Matty, Val, Nikos, Gerard, and a few others (including my sister, Anna) just popped in at the Eastwood event to show their support for the IRRI team then. Aside from the presentation, I also had to prepare myself for any media coverage (interviews and such) and out-of-this-world questions. Thank goodness for the media skills training last year! Andy and Dan would've been proud!

I digress (yet again). 

Though I was alone for the first time in an event like this, I felt very much supported: before Chill and I flew out, I've already had several rounds of discussions with the communications and partnerships teams to come up with a plot and to get the slide deck approved by no less than Bruce Tolentino, the IRRI deputy director general who always proves to be a great study in public speaking. Tony Lambino, who heads the communications group, also lent me his copy of Nancy Duarte's Slide:ology to help me prepare. I couldn't believe I got my hands on that book! That, my electronic version of Duarte's Resonate, and my copy of the Presentation Zen series (yes, the same ones Garr Reynolds sent to me) were my main references. I really appreciate everyone's help!

At the end of the morning session, I think I a good run. The audience got engaged and interested, based on the type and number of questions I fielded. There were lots of follow-up discussions with Chill and me during the afternoon session too, when members of the audience dropped by the IRRI exhibit.