Lights in my eyes. Don’t say UM. Can they hear me OK? Is the sound on the computer working like it did in the equipment check? Stop worrying and start talking. You’re on.
I said there were lights in my eyes… This picture is not from my presentation, of course. It is from the closing ceremonies, but it is the same stage, and similar lights. The podium is off to the right side of the picture—but it helps set the stage, so to speak. And we were called up to the stage, all of the presenters, and given an award during this ceremony. You will see it a little further down.
As you can tell from my blog posts, I have a very conversational style. This helps me in presentations by letting me imagine that I am just talking to a few friends. I don’t freak out about all those half-seen shadows behind the lights or the disembodied voices that ask questions. I don’t even do that time-honored trick of imagining my audience naked. (eww) I just talk to my friends. I make the assumption in my mind that we are all on the same team, and they are here because they want to hear what I have to say. That makes it easier to be relaxed, which in turn makes it less likely you will freeze up or forget things.
I still get nervous. I still get those blank moments, losing my place, wondering what I am supposed to say next, or if I am forgetting something. But I don’t have very many, because I practiced. Lots. And it helped. Most of the times when I got a blank moment, I was able not to say um. Instead, I put a thoughtful look on my face and remained silent for a moment. It let me get back on track while looking like I was pondering something deep instead of running frantically in my mind through the possibilities of what to say next.
It wasn’t perfect. I realized afterward that there were some areas where I meant to say more or got a little off track on my planned sequence. That happens. Life isn’t perfect. But it was pretty good. I communicated just about everything I had really wanted to, and in a way people seemed to like. At least no one got up and walked out to find a better talk. There was a good give and take with the audience. I did ask them to try to hold questions until the end so we could get through it all, and there were a few in between—but overall that worked well. Practice may not make perfect, but it came close enough.
The bulk of my presentation was about managing the project development with so very much information to keep track of, but part of it was solving technical problems. An important thing I had for my audience was a couple of valuable tips and tricks that they could use right away. That is what was mentioned most when people came up to me over the next few days to tell me how much they enjoyed my talk. And that was very gratifying—not only that quite a few people did so, but that they had concrete takeaways to thank me for. I really helped them, and it doesn’t get much better than that.
One takeaway was the method of making scrolling graphics. You can’t display a graphic larger than the screen area without it scaling down in size, and for many reasons that was not acceptable in this course. Since this is not a Lectora how-to, I will simply say that I had to stop, back up, and think about what I needed to do. I thought about what things did scroll, and that led me to the solution of putting the images inside scrolling text boxes. There is a lot more to it than that, but it is an illustration of a key concept, which is at the base of the other really good tip I shared. Simplify. That good old KISS principle. Keep it simple. It is so easy to get down in the weeds trying to come up with a really cool, complicated solution, and get all tangled up.
Just stop, go back to the beginning, and think in broader, simpler terms. It did the trick with the scrolling images, and it solved another difficult problem. We have a restart button as a standard button on our courses. It starts the page over, from beginning the narration again to setting all of the page elements to the beginning state. On a simpler page this is done in a group of actions, but it was a nightmare here. With over a hundred interrelated actions and so many objects, audio and so on, trying to hide everything that was shown and show initial graphics and start the right audio over – without knowing when the user might press the button –was just a huge tangle.
I was so frustrated trying to do it the ‘right’ way, getting problem after problem. Why couldn’t I just make it as clean and simple as the program does automatically when you go to the next page and come back…
…and the epiphany hit. I can. Go there and come back.
I finally realized that the simple way to restart the page was to just restart it. I made an empty page in the lesson with one action – return to previous page on show. For the restart, I simply had one action to go to that page, and it boomerangs right back, all clean and new again. KISS.
So think about what you will give your audience with your presentation. Give them your best. Your best preparation, your best commitment to the moment when speaking, your best help to do their jobs better, or make their lives better. Make them glad they spent that time with you.