“Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.” (~Rogers)
About 3 weeks ago, I was asked to give an Ignite presentation at the ASCD Leaders To Leaders conference held in Virginia this past week. I had heard of Ignite presentations, but I spent time Googling more details on the format. Ignite presentations are short, fast-paced talks on topics the speaker is passionate about. The speaker chooses 20 slides, which advance automatically every 15 seconds to create a 5 minute presentation. There are Ignite talks ranging from those on Legos to Muppetology; and from rollerskating to raising kids. The topics are as varied as the presenters and the theme makes it all fun. So, was I up for the challenge?
Between the time I was asked and the date of the presentation – I had an awfully full calendar… teaching teachers, hosting visitors, and vacationing in Alaska. I would have very little time to prepare before leaving for Virginia. Could I do this? Um. Maybe. I sat down with the nearest paper to write down my ideas – a pizza box. By the time I was done, I had enough ideas that I felt I could work with, so…..
I wrote back to ASCD and told them I’d be happy to give it a shot, and told them my topic would be “Making Meaning as an Educational Leader.” Gulp.
Now came the preparation. Finding great copyright-free images to use in presentations can be tricky – so I decided I would use all my own. I have nearly 20,000 photos in my iPhoto library, and figured there would be plenty to choose from. I needed to start thinking metaphorically, so my images would match my ideas. A path can represent a journey, a bird’s-eye view can represent a bigger perspective, a blurry image can represent how we need to focus on what is important. Choosing the images was a lot of fun, and the hardest part was narrowing down the number of slides to 20!
Once I combined my slides, with my pizza-box notes, I had to create a script. I was committed to memorizing my speech, so my script had to sound like my speaking voice, not my writing voice. Each slide had to have enough text to fill 15 seconds, but leave enough room for me to mess up. I also could not script too little for each slide, because I tend to talk too fast when I present (I get very nervous!!).
Once I had down my timing, I recorded my slideshow and speech on my computer, and then put it in my iPod. I listened to myself say that speech over and over and over again, until I could say it from memory myself.
With only hours to go, I felt I was prepared and ready.
Until I woke up that morning. Hellooooo, Anxiety!
Ever since I was young, my nerves have always tried to get the better of me. My heart pounds, my hands shake, my breath leaves me. I try to relax; deep breathing, music, exercise, distraction, eating…. I still have not found what calms me down to the point I feel under control. So, over the years I have come to accept the anxiety as part of who I am and try to use it to my benefit. When I am anxious, I am louder (a good thing for presentations!). When I am anxious, I am more animated (again, a good thing!). When I am anxious, I talk faster – my audience has to stay engaged to keep up! When I am anxious, I am bound and determined to prove to myself that good or bad, I can do this.
My friend Meg at ASCD told me that for every presenter, there are three performances – the one you planned, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave. She is absolutely right. My planned speech, which I practiced dozens and dozens of times, was blown off course at times. The speech I gave was filled with more excitement than any of my run-throughs. Finally, the speech I wish I gave would have had me talking a bit slower, so you could hear just how funny I am. HEE!
I imagine this won’t be my last Ignite speech. I would like to try one for Open House, and perhaps for some of my teacher professional development sessions. I’d love for my students to give it a shot, too! Perhaps I could make one to convince my teenagers to do more chores around the house. The possibilities are endless.
Anyways, here goes – enjoy it a few times, it’s only 5 minutes!