Nerd Nite!

Hi all. I just want to say how proud I am of myself for having a super successful Nerd Nite talk on Tuesday. I am going to toot my own horn. It was great. People were engaged. People asked thoughtful questions. And, I got applause from answering those questions thoughtfully. I am so pleased.

As I wrote before, I really forced myself to go through a clear, detailed planning process. It paid off. I promise you that the work is worth it. Starting from scratch, even if you’ve done it before, is fully worth it.

I wanted to share my slide deck (pdf). It makes no sense without me talking over it, however, I would be happy to talk you through it. I’m also proud of how beautiful it is. Mega credits to my incomparable Beaty Museum team for the photos, which are available to all through a creative commons license.


If anyone knows how to embed a pdf or google slides directly in wordpress, it would be much appreciated.


Planning Talks

So I am fortunate enough to be invited to speak at Nerd Nite Vancouver again. I am super excited. Different venue from before, newer crowd, and new topic.

I wanted to take the time to show my planning process. In a previous post, I went through my recommended planning strategy, and often friends ask me: do you really do that? Short answer, yes.
Long answer, mostly. Every talk is different and needs different things. Sometimes I can skip steps because I’ve already done the work, or someone else has. But, this time, I’m forcing myself to do every step. 

It’s worth it. The photo is what I’m up to, right now. I’m getting in touch with my audience (two beers in… loud space). I’m drawing my slides out one by one.

And you know what? I feel really creative. 

Audience Size and the Ego

My talk last night went very well, despite an audience of three people. It was a very interesting experience. I have been on the hosting side of small talks, and well, it’s scary. It’s upsetting to know that a person has put so much effort into building and preparing a talk, and no-one shows. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot you can do, save for run around outside and try to force people to come in.

As the presenter, it is an excellent exercise in humility and really figuring out your audience and your goals. Every person in your audience is important – no matter who they are or how many people are there. It is your job as the presenter to make sure that everyone is welcome and gets something out of the talk.

My gauge for audience enjoyment/learning is being observant of the types of questions they ask at the end of the talk. Firstly, do they leave immediately? If they stay, are the questions on topic? Do the questions expand prior knowledge or gaps that you may have left?

When questions are on topic and scaffold from what you already talked about, this showcases that they have been thinking during the talk, and are curious about the topic. Hooray! When you have a small audience, this type of careful reflection on each audience member is very easy to do. You can measure each person’s journey through the talk, and learn about how effective of a presenter you were.

In this talk, I learned:

  • My video was too long
  • Small audiences don’t necessarily want to shout out answers. This makes sense to me.
  • I looked up one fact I knew someone was going to ask me about, and then promptly forgot. It was asked, and I said I didn’t know, and the world did not explode.
  • Props and experiments go over well with people of all ages.
  • My talk was a good length, and I was able to hold attention for the entire time.
  • As engaging as beavers are, there were more questions about mosses and people – go figure!

This was a great, reflective, learning experience for me. Of course I was disappointed in the turnout, but, sometimes you need to be ready for what life throws you. I’ve been able to pick out the positive from a potentially ego-smashing experience. It was humbling in a great way, and was a very effective tool for working on my communication skills.

Talks 2.1: PowerPoint Lost to the Ether

So much for my pep-talking and excitement about my upcoming presentation. My nearly completed PowerPoint for my talk has crashed and is no more. I had one recovery file, which then crashed while saving. So it’s all gone. I only wish I was more computer-literate so I could somehow resuscitate the xml temp files which might as well be written in hieroglyphics… Do. Not. Understand…. So. Angry.

Thankfully, I am not a last-minute person, so I still have a solid week to prepare, so it could be worse. I also followed my own advice and made a paper copy, so I know where I’m going with this. But still. What a loss.

What devastating computer/PowerPoint failures have you experienced?

Talks 2.0: Modifying your Creative Process

I am always surprised by the tedium of editing a PowerPoint presentation – even for someone who primarily uses images and no text or fancy animations. Just saving the darn thing takes minutes! Ten to fifteen minutes that I could be copy-pasting photos. Argh! Each time I watch that circle of saving go round and round, I wonder if it would be easier to use an old presentation.

I could have gone the easy way out and re-used my bog talk, but it would really end up being more challenging to adapt to the audience, even though they are both similar groups of people. Every group has different questions, a slightly different makeup, delivery at a different time of day or year. Let’s not forget that we learn each time we talk to an audience. Writing a new presentation allows us to adapt and grow. After a thorough self-led pep talk, I successfully avoided temptation and started from (almost) scratch. I am not creating in a vacuum though, the previous talk is very useful for photos, information, and remembering what went well or did not go so well.

The talk is still saving. Serenity now! At this point in the creative process, I am always happy that I’ve taken my own advice and outlined my talk prior to putting it together. At the very least, I am not putting together content and presentation materials at the same time.

When you are asked to give a similar/repeat talk, how do you adapt your “regular” presentation creative process? Do you modify from the old, ignore what happened in the past, or something in between?

The talk itself is on wetlands for World Wetlands Day. I’ll be speaking at the Stanley Park Ecology Society – so exciting!