Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Public Speaking

I am barely comfortable with blogging, but it feels good to write again.  I shared my site with a few friends and got some nice and immediate responses, so thank you!  I also decided to check in with my HR department to make sure my rants and resolutions would not cause conflict with them.  It all checked out, and I’m keeping this public.  

My previous entry about grad school fell short on several important lessons learned.  For one- public speaking.  I never took a class in it, nor debated in high school, so the idea of getting up in front of a crowd to blab about a topic for a certain period of time was a bit nerve wrecking- as many people agree.  Presentations in class were hit and miss- I decided that if I liked the topic and became confident in it then I had a fighting chance.  If I was barely prepared or knew too little about it, then I was screwed.  I know that my cheeks get red no matter how anxious I am, so there is a bit of self-awareness that clouds my time in the hot seat.  It’s kind of a funny family trait, but still annoying. 

One of my first presentations on green roofing was for a Master Gardeners group- the “hugs and cookies” crowd.   Nice, that was a safe audience.  I was merely introducing the concept back in 2001 so most examples were from Europe, and the benefits I went over were barely researched in the US.  Lucky for me, there were some signature projects that had been built in the US, so that brought some familiarity to the topic.  I presented the research I had started, and what my colleagues were studying.  I got great reviews from those in the audience.  It was an energizing topic that kept me energized on stage.  

Public speaking is more than just getting a live audience to throw some slides to.  I’ve been on TV and radio, too.  I surprised my Grandma one day when she was listening to her talk radio one afternoon, and there I was talking with Don Shelby about green roofs in Minneapolis.  Ha!  Boy, that was a weird experience.  Don is a celebrity in the Twin Cities, having anchored the TV news for decades.  At the time they asked me for an interview, I didn’t know that.  I walked into the radio booth, which was painted dark red.  He hung signed photos from celebrities he palled around with over the decades.  The interview was actually decent- he spoke most of the time- and took a lot of commercial breaks.  I got to wear the big earphones and speak into the radio mic.  We faced each other during the Q&A, which was awkward. 

Of course, there are media and audience you can’t always control- the journals and magazines who request an interview.  Yikes, what are they going to print?!  And, what are the public opinions going to be like?  In hindsight, I really which I had to take public speaking, instead I had to wing it.  Fake it till ya make it.  

Over the last decade, I discovered audiences need a deeper understanding of the topic and have had to deal with naysayers.  We are not introducing the concept any more, we are pushing the industry in a much deeper direction in project performance.  I think if a box of Sedum on a roof is all someone is selling in a presentation, the owner is probably getting ripped off.  
If I’m bored talking about something, then certainly the audience is.  I want the presentation to be a little memorable and current.  Got to keep it light, and with an interesting twist.  And, the other key thing is, however vain, is to take off that name tag (especially those horrid lanyard ones).  Presentation photos are bad to begin with, and the name tag will just glare a white square right back.  Haha

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