Saturday, October 1, 2016

When Things Don't Go Quite The Way You Hoped

Don't you hate it when programs don't go quite as well as you envisioned?

I recently had the opportunity to expand my repertoire and help plan and present a program on early literacy and storytime. The local school system was hosting an early education "summit" for area preschool and daycare workers to provide the opportunity for continuing education credits. They asked the library to send someone to present a session, and the task fell to my manager and I offered to help. Developmentally-appropriate educational practices is something I'm passionate about, and I'm always glad for opportunities for professional development.

We had less than two weeks to pull it together, and we both already had full schedules, but we managed. We started with a Power Point from a similar presentation someone else had done a few years ago, and re-purposed it to fit what we were asked to cover with some major revisions and reformatting to make it more aesthetically pleasing, and pulled several books and other materials for show-and-tell. I envisioned presenting it to a group of dedicated preschool teachers interested in hearing the pearls of wisdom we would present and benefiting from our experience and the ways the library could help them, asking questions and being engaged.

It didn't quite go that way. First, I didn't deliver quite as stellar a performance as I would like. I wasn't terrible, but I definitely could've been better. Luckily my boss is a better and more experienced presenter & public speaker! I kept forgetting the examples I meant to show or demonstrate, and accidentally did some of the slides she was supposed to do.  <<Oops!>> I also realized as we were doing it that the material was too repetitive and it needed to be streamlined and organized differently, with more audience participation built in.

But, the really frustrating part is that instead of an audience that was engaged and making an effort to get something out of the presentation, we ended up with an audience that seemed largely disinterested. It seemed most of them were just there because they had to get the CEU's, and really didn't care to learn anything. There were two little groups that kept talking and I was tempted to give my storytime spiel about "...listening ears, eyes up front, and catch a bubble."

The worst was 2 girls blatantly *put their heads down on the table and went to sleep!!* I know my part got a little dull and dry in the middle for a bit, but geesh, it wasn't *that* bad! (We did move on to something very interactive that required EVERYONE to stand up and participate.) There were at least a handful that behaved professionally and were really there to learn, engaging and asking questions, and thanking us at the end.

Would I ever do a similar presentation again? Yes, and I hope I get another opportunity. For one, just to prove to myself I can do it better. What would I do differently? 

  • Hopefully have more notice and thus time to plan and prepare properly!!!
  • Pick a more specific focus and purpose
  • Design our own Power Point from scratch rather than try to recycle someone else's that doesn't quite fit our topic or style, with fewer slides
  • Streamline it more and better organize so there is not as much overlap & repetition
  • Incorporate more interaction with the audience
  • Have time to really commit the presentation to memory, so I don't forget to demonstrate, show examples, and do interactive elements when I intend to.
  • Don't bring so much stuff.
  • Decide in advance how to handle talking/sleeping/otherwise distracting attendees.
  • If at all possible, don't have it first thing in the morning (this was out of our control).
  • TRY to be more relaxed

It mostly boils to having enough time to properly prepare. I think I did the best I could considering how little time we had to put it together, it was too early in the morning, and that the last time I presented to a group of adults was 25 years ago for my thesis defense! But at least a few people did seem to appreciate it and get something out of it, and I got some valuable practice and experience.

So, if it were you, how would you handle people talking or sleeping through your presentation??

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