Thank You, HighEdWeb NE

This is the final post in my 10 week narrative about the creation of my keynote talk for the 2016 HighEdWeb New England regional conference,  held at Mount Holyoke College on March 18. You can find an index of all the posts in this series on my #ShareHuman page.

So that went well, all things considered. Not bad for a first time keynote speaker, and I am so glad that it was for a room full of peers and mentors and friends that made me feel very welcome and comfortable right from the moment I arrived at Mount Holyoke College last week.

(Of course, you’ll never go wrong surprising me with a basket full of custom playing cards, fresh coffee, beer, books, and a gift card for my favorite purveyor of local meats—this HEWebNE planning committee did their homework and knew just how to make someone who’s naturally bashful about receiving gifts feel really special.)

And as much as being with all these people at this conference made me want to give my best, especially with so many great presentations before and after my talk, I could also tell that even if I had problems they would be there to support me. I could have failed spectacularly in front of this group, and it would have been hard to deal with, but I know they would have boosted me through it.

But it never came to that. As soon as I was able to start talking (and get a boost of good ol’ Moxie in me to help make up for only four hours of sleep) it all started to flow, and I entered The Presenter Zone… Continue reading →

Mt. Holyoke lecture hall - photo by Sven Aas

Time to Share

I’ve been sharing my process of preparing the keynote talk I’m presenting at the 2016 HighEdWeb New England regional conference on March 18—that’s today! This is the eighth post in the series; you can find an index of all previous posts in this series on my #ShareHuman page.

So this is it – the big day has finally arrived. No more tweaking of my slides, no more digging for photos online to perfectly express an esoteric idea. I’m about to be introduced, and it’s up to me to make a hundred people in a lecture hall care about something that has been churning and growing and evolving in my head for almost six months.

No pressure.

I wish I could say that I wasn’t re-writing and re-thinking just about every slide in my presentation during the 5 hours of solo driving I had to get here. I wish I could say that I wasn’t up past midnight last night finalizing all the details and last minute changes I could think of, and that I didn’t spill coffee on the keyboard of my laptop halfway through that, inducing a brief high-level anxiety attack.

I wish I could say that I didn’t have cartoonish and surreal anxiety dreams last night, that instead I slept for eight hours like an exhausted old man and awoke bright and fresh like a spring flower greeting the sun. I wish I could say that. But I can’t.

Because ultimately I’ve come to accept that this is just how I work, finishing even the longest marathons with a sprint to the finish. Try as I might, I can’t seem to change the way my brain works when creating something new. It seems to have to be forced into a corner or squeezed until it has no choice but to give up the ideas and solutions it held onto.

And the worst part of that is some of those last holdouts in my mind won’t reveal themselves until I actually start talking in front of this crowd of a hundred people whose time and talent and general awesomeness is very important to me. Of course, throwing in a healthy dose of pop culture references doesn’t hurt either. Mine include Harry Houdini, The Monkees, Doctor Who, Julia Child, Daft Punk, David Foster Wallace, David Byrne, Cher, George Burns, Douglas Adams, and Kurt Vonnegut, among others.

I will probably surprise myself just as much as I surprise my audience, and I may lose my train of thought along the way, but all I can hope for is that everyone leaves understanding something a little better than before, and takes away at least one little nugget in their tote bag of ideas that they can start to use in their work and in their lives beyond this conference.

I set the bar really high for myself as a keynote speaker because I know what I’ve wanted from keynote speakers in the past: knowledge, inspiration, and a touch of entertainment. I don’t just want to share my ideas—I want to make you feel something along the way. If you don’t feel differently at the end of my talk than you did at the beginning I’ll be disappointed.

But at this point there’s nothing I can do. The slide deck is locked and loaded, the introductory remarks have been rehearsed, and the butterflies are loose in my belly. There’s only one more thing to do and that’s start talking.

Let’s see what happens…

 

The Panic

I’m sharing my process for preparing the keynote talk I’ll be presenting at the 2016 HighEdWeb New England regional conference on March 18. This is Part Five; you can now find an index of all previous posts in this series on my new #ShareHuman page.

And now is the part of the process when The Panic starts to settle in.

The more I start bringing all the pieces of my presentation together, the more I feel my mind trying to pull it all apart, seeding doubt into every choice I make.

Is that really what I’m trying to say?
Is this too much? Is it not enough? Is it too obscure?
Will anybody even notice? Is it too obvious?
Do I need to support this idea more?
Is this even an idea worth discussing?

The Panic wants me to question everything.

For every little note I’ve made, every scrap of an idea I think I can use, there are four others I don’t get to. There seem to be so many paths I can follow but I’m building the map as I go, and it’s unclear if all those paths intersect or lead to the destination I’m hoping for, or if anyone will even notice the details that stick out to me.

I think this is what I mean, but is that the right way to say it?
Why doesn’t that look right?
Is this font better?
Maybe this font? Or maybe this font?
What am I even doing this for? I’m no expert – who am I kidding?
They’re all going to see right through me…

So I stop.

Take a breath and walk away for a moment.

Deep down, I know that as long as I take my own advice and focus on being Honest, Unafraid, Mindful, Active and Nice with my work, then the work will reflect that and turn out right. And yet The Panic lurks, waiting for me to let my guard down, waiting until I am most vulnerable and doubtful that anything I’m working on makes sense.

Continue reading →

Archaeology

I’m sharing my process for preparing the keynote talk I’ll be presenting at the 2016 HighEdWeb New England regional conference on March 18. This is Part Four; you can now find an index of all previous posts in this series on my new #ShareHuman page.

For a few years, when I was about six through nine years old, I was really interested in being an archaeologist. At the time it probably came from a fascination with dinosaurs I shared with many kids at that age, as well as my general ongoing interest in Science! as a thing I enjoyed learning about. I was also excited by discovery, digging and unearthing pieces of a puzzle, figuring out how the pieces connect and learning the story they tell.

My interest in dinosaurs faded by the time I was ten, replaced by science fiction and space exploration (Lego!) and something in our new “computer lab” called an Apple II (Logo!). But my love for discovery and unearthing the bones of a story have never really gone away.

Which is a good thing, because now I find myself at the stage of putting together my presentation where I have unearthed a whole mess of bones, but I have no idea which ones actually belong to the skeleton I’m trying to assemble and which ones are part of a different beast altogether.  Continue reading →

Making Room for Ideas

I’m sharing my process for preparing the keynote talk I’ll be presenting at the 2016 HighEdWeb New England regional conference on March 18. This is my second entry in the series. You can find Part One here.

There’s something about the first of the month I’ve always found hopeful, so when I get the first day of the month and the first day of the week on the same day, like I did on Monday of this week, it always feels extra special to me. A Double First Day feels like the planets are in alignment (oh, wait – they actually are!) and the universe is telling me that this is a perfect day for starting something.

I chose this Double First Day to start focusing on a new goal: reduce my cognitive load as much as possible and give my mind more room for creative thinking. Because if I’m going to deliver the keynote talk I want to next month, I’m going to need all the creative energy I can get, not to mention all the time I can get to actually put it together.

Continue reading →

A Tote Bag of Ideas

As I wrote last week, I will be giving a keynote presentation at the upcoming HighEdWeb New England regional conference. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity because I know I’ll be able to use the time I’m being given to talk about something that has become very important to me over the past couple of years: sharing.

The working title for my talk right now is “Share Like a Human” and in the spirit of sharing (along with some inspiration from Austin Kleon), I thought I’d share some behind-the-scenes thoughts and processes as I put my talk together.

Starting this week, and over the next seven weeks or so leading up to #hewebNE I’ll be chronicling my progress as much as I can without giving away the actual content of my talk.

Why bother doing this? Well, in a lot of ways I’m doing this for myself as a way to organize my thoughts with purpose, and writing about a process or idea often helps me figure out the details of what that will be. But I also think it may be helpful to others working on presentations or talks of their own to see how another person prepares for it.

I don’t claim to be an expert at giving presentations, and the way I do things may not work for everyone. I build presentations in the way that works for my own needs and habits, using a structure and elements that draw on my past experience and training as a writer and performer. But whether you’re working on a keynote, a conference presentation, a classroom lecture, or just leading a discussion, I think there are elements everyone should consider and plan for.

Continue reading →

The Keynote Speaker

I’m so glad that I can finally talk about this: earlier this week, it was announced that I will be the keynote speaker at the next HighEdWeb New England regional conference in March. Crazy, right? It’s such a cool opportunity, and I’m honored and flattered to have been asked to fill this role.

I’m also pretty nervous about putting together a talk that lives up to expectations of everyone who will be there because I think of all these people as part of my tribe and their time and attention is important to me. Having been to many of these conferences myself in the past, I know that you want to come away at the end of it feeling like what you gained was worth the cost and effort of attending, and as a keynote speaker I think that is doubly important because I’m the only one on the program with a solo slot.

At the same time, I want to make sure I fulfill the needs of the committee that has been volunteering their time to organize and program this conference to be the best it can be. Having had the experience of being a co-chair for a similar event last year, I know how hard it can be to put together a program of presenters that feels balanced and addresses the interests of a variety of specialties from content and social media specialists to web developers and designers. You also want to provide opportunities for first time presenters to add new voices to the conversation, alongside HighEdWeb veterans who are reliably wise and inspiring.

For a conference like this, the keynote can provide thematic glue, set an inspirational tone, and hopefully, provide an additional reason for people to attend. It would not have occurred to me that my peers think of me that way, but it’s hard not to feel a bit of an ego boost when you discover they do:

No pressure, right?

Sure, for a moment it’s wonderfully flattering, but I’m at the point now where the responsibility of this role is sinking in, and I can see how high the expectations are.

But I wouldn’t have committed to this if I didn’t want the challenge, so I’m ready to step up to this “whole ‘nother level” and see what I can bring. Like Sondheim’s Little Red Riding Hood, I feel excited—well, excited and scared.

I’ve actually been committed to this keynote since early November but had to wait until it was announced to be able to really talk about it. So for the past couple of months the whole idea has mostly been in a holding pattern, circling my subconscious. Now that it’s out there, suddenly it’s a lot more real, and I have about eight weeks left to finalize my talk.

I feel ready, I know what I want to talk about, and what I hope people will take away from my presentation. I just need to get it all out of my head. So I’ll follow Little Red Riding Hood’s advice from the end of that same Sondheim song:

Don’t be scared.
Granny is right,
Just be prepared.

I’ve got my notes, and I’ve got the latest update of Keynote software ready with lots of blank slides awaiting my big ideas. Let’s do this…