Presenting/Public Speaking

After attending Word Camp #WCV12  a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking lots about the talks that I attended and all the great information that I learned. There were lots of points shared that validated what I already knew from my reading and my own use of social media. But, there was one thing that I’ve been thinking about lots. Part of it stems from a good conversation that I had with my colleague and good friend, Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega. Raul is known as Hummingbird604. He is also a Political Scientist and is what I refer to as a power user of social media. He blogs, tweets, teaches, and shares his love of Vancouver with the masses via his blog.

Raul also explained after Word Camp that he had consulted with a keynote couch, who gave him tips on presentation skills and public speaking. We were recapping the events and chatted about his presentation and others. After our chat I thought more about this and  realized that the talks that I liked best really were the ones that offered a dynamic presentation style. It’s not just the information, but also the way the information is shared. I have now heard Raul present on at least four occasions and this last talk was great, but I did notice that the talk was seamless. Whatever the keynote suggested–it worked. Again, his other presentations were strong. He’s a natural public speaker.

As an academic, I live in the world of public speaking–I am an educator. I am constantly “on” and giving presentations in classes, in the community, at conferences, and to the media. It is very important to feel comfortable speaking in front of people. But, you also have to be able to distill information in ways that is understandable to the group that you’re speaking to. And, this point is at times forgotten by some as they ruminate in the tiniest details or computer code and lose the audience. You have to gear your talk to your audience and make the presentation dynamic.

If you have not presented lots, practice, practice, and practice. Practice in  front of a mirror or at home. Practice in front of friends, so that the real presentation goes as smoothly as possible. And, when you practice in front of friends–try to get someone who is unfamiliar with your topic. This will allow you to see how you’re pitching your talk. Do they understand the information?

Then, once you’re giving your talk–breath. I like to walk around, but it’s important to not pace too much. Smile and if you feel you cannot look directly into eyes–look at the eyebrows! If you are prone to blushing or breaking out in hives, then wear a higher collared shirt. Eventually you won’t have a physical reaction and you’ll enjoy giving your presentation. If you can, have a friend attend the talk so that you can get feedback from someone who knows you.

When I first started attending conferences back in 1991, I had my presentation triple spaced and included notes to self that read: take a breath, smile, look around. I only had to do this a few times, but, I swear it helped. Now, I put together my skeleton bullet points or Slide Rocket presentation the night before typically. If it’s an academic presentation, it could be the same day, but I have the research completed well before the conference! I do think that public speaking skills is a tangible transferable skill. And, a skill that we all should have. Now, if all the presenters would remember this–is a completely different story!

Fri Fun Facts: Organizing Writing Time

At Word Camp Victoria 2012 ( #wcv12 ) @Miss604 (Rebecca Bolwitt) shared how she manages her time blogging. And, as a a teacher/instructor/professor it made me think not only of my time management, but also my students’ time management with writing. This post is dedicated to organizing writing and thinking time. And, like so many of my posts the targeted reader is students or others who work with students. I look forward to your input.

Bolwitt gave some great advice. She blogs typically in the morning for a few hours and during this time she will compose 3-5 posts. Now, for students I would like them to think about earmarking time for thinking about writing. Yes, it’s part of the process. Thinking about what you want to say and what sort of research you want to engage in for the assignment. Is the paper an investigative piece or argumentative? What does the assignment requirements explain? You need to organize what the requirements are with what you want to do with the assignment.

If you merely think about writing as the actual writing, then you will not have enough time to “marinate” with your topic. I have found that placing “Janni Writing or Thinking Time” in my calendar necessary to successfully work on writing projects. Some of your ideas will undoubtedly hit you when you’re commuting in to campus or perhaps in another class. It is important to jot down these ideas, as you might not remember them later. Likewise, it’s also good to chat with classmates or your professor about the assignment.

Then, set time aside to begin your writing in earnest. You might start with pulling together facts and quotes and what you hope to find. Whatever method you use–make sure that you attempt to organize your thoughts. But, you must set realistic goals with your writing time and set time aside to get your writing completed. Bolwitt noted that the morning is a good time for her to write. When is your most productive time of day?

One Take Away from #WCV12

This will be the first of a few blog posts about Word Camp Victoria 2012 ( #wcv12 ). This was my second Word Camp in Victoria and I have to say that I definitely enjoyed this camp more than the last one. And, no, it’s not because #UVIC was a site sponsor! I got more out of the sessions and part of this is that I chose more wisely and frankly that I have fiddled more with Word Press. Yes, Word Camp is a Word Press Blogging conference, er camp for users or those who are interested in the platform.

This post is going to speak to Craig Spence’s presentation, “Why WordPress works so well as a Dynamic Creative Writing Environment.” Spence is a writer and the way he interacts with the Word Press platform is informed by his writing philosophy. I liked that he shared the Cosmic Chicken, his speculative writing series that allows readers to add to the story. And, did I mention that he was such an honest, humble presenter? He hooked me in and made me want to listen to his presentation. Sure, I live tweeted too, but I also have about a page of notes from his presentation.

What really struck me is that he views his writing on line as similar to his offline writing and this is something that I am trying to explain to my students, who are completing blogging assignments. I’ve said that their 1000 word post is like a paper in terms of coherency and organization, but the platform allows them to add images and video and make the post theirs via their analysis and the look of the blog. They have more opportunity for creativity and Spence’s talk reminded me of this point.