Saturday, March 9, 2013

Three days of preparing for a presentation

Yeah, I was tasked to do a presentation again. While I did a technical presentation in November, the last time I blogged about the preparation stage was in October 2012. And now I write about the prep stage of my latest speech.
I found out on Monday that I was speaking on Friday's International Women's Day celebration. Within hours of being notified that I was speaking, I had to submit a title and a summary of the presentation. I was thankful that because I couldn't just drop what I was doing on Monday, I was allowed to give the information the following day. 
Whatever I had to do for the week got bumped off to next week. I decided to focus on this more pressing and nerve-wracking task (plus a paper revision assignment, for the times I get tired of preparing for my talk).
I had to decide what I'd do during my 15 minutes onstage. Thank goodness, I had received two of Garr Reynolds' books (Thank you!!) in time to help me out as I brainstormed, story-boarded, and worked on my slide deck's lay-out. 

While working "analog" with sticky notes, a white board, and a permanent marker, the nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty falling from a wall kept playing in my head. It certainly sounded like I finally found a theme for my presentation and its working title.


I had been told, on Monday, to expect a healthy mix of technical and non-technical people in the audience on Friday. That meant, for me, minimizing jargon and maximizing the use of anecdotes and to really talk with the crowd. This wasn't going to be a speech, I decided; rather, it would be a story. I had to find the story's hero, its antagonist,  the conflict, and a resolution.

With the final (sort of) storyboard on hand, I started collecting images and preparing sketches that I could use for my presentation. Inspired by the Zen approach recommended by Garr Reynolds and embodied by Steve Jobs' keynote speeches, I started building my slide deck in slideware.


The nerves were out to get me. While looking for my camera's tripod, I found my last, unopened canister of chocolate. My desk was colorful as it was already (thanks to the story board sticky notes on it) but the multicolored chocolate candy brightened up my desk even more. Perfect stress-buster.

In the afternoon, I decided to watch the presenters who kicked off this year's International Women's Day celebration to see how they approached the public speaking assignment and to see whether my talk the following day would be at par with theirs or would look like child's play. 

After noting their presentation styles, it was time for me to go back to my slide deck and to rehearse. Nancy Duarte, Garr Reynolds, and Carmine Gallo emphasized the importance of preparation and practice. So I practiced (in my head, to master my script)...

And practiced (alone, for time trials)...

... And practiced (with a selected individuals, for their comments).

Hoping that I wouldn't need to use the slides as a crutch come presentation day.