Sharing Human at HighEdWeb 2016

I’m travelling for professional conferences this year more than ever before, and participating in them more deeply than I ever thought I could. It’s not something I set out to do, especially after mostly laying low for 2015 and not attending much (well, there was that one thing). But I’m making up for that time away in 2016, with at twice the activity on my schedule in 2016, especially when it comes to events related to the HighEdWeb Association.

First off, I recognize that it’s a privilege to even be able to attend a professional conference at all, let alone to have the costs of such an excursion covered by my employer. I’m grateful for that support every single time, and for the same reason I am more than happy to trade off every other year and let someone else from our team attend. I have seen and felt the effects that a great conference of new ideas and perspectives can have on the work we do. The sense of community and support that comes from meeting and socializing with colleagues and peers from around the country has changed me and improved my work immeasurably, and I am so grateful to be part of it.

But this year I’m returning to HighEdWeb for 2016 and I’m excited to be on the schedule with both a pre-conference workshop and a conference presentation, and I can’t wait to share them both with my higher ed peers:

Human At Work(shop)

This pre-conference workshop is an expanded, hands-on version of the “Best of Conference” talk I gave at HighEdWeb 2014, focused on diving deeper into the details that I could only mention in passing in that original 45 min. presentation. I will share some of the specific steps and resources that have evolved in my own productivity toolbox over the past two years, but most of the time will be devoted to leading participants through a series of steps to finding their own best ways of getting things done. If you’re planning to attend HighEdWeb this October, this workshop will be a great opportunity to work on your own specific trouble areas, whether that’s email overload, task management, or just finding better work/life balance, and you’ll leave with a new perspective on how to organize your work and make room for all the amazing new ideas you’ll be hearing about during the main conference in the days that follow. I hope you’ll consider signing up for what should be a very productive afternoon together before the main conference begins.

Share Human: The Value of Sharing Beyond Authenticity

I’m also excited to be presenting a version of the talk I gave back in March as the HighEdWeb New England regional conference keynote. I don’t have a lot more to say about this talk here that I haven’t already explored in my posts leading up to that event, but I am looking forward to getting another chance to share a message that is personal and different and important to me. The challenge this time will be delivering my ideas in 15-20 minutes less time than I did for the keynote, a constraint I’m actually grateful for to help me hone the message of my talk even further. That means even if you saw my HighEdWeb NE keynote, you’ll probably see some changes in this version, but hopefully you’ll still feel the same feels as before.

Of course, those are just two things I happen to be presenting, but the entire schedule for this year’s HighEdWeb is seriously full of some amazing presentations. I already know I’m going to have to make some tough choices about what to see myself while I’m there.

But at this point, I wouldn’t expect anything less from HighEdWeb. The level of participation at this conference continually amazes, and so does the commitment of all volunteer organizers and committee members making it happen. I really hope you’ll get the chance to attend and participate in this great coming-together of passionate, like-minded communication professionals. Think about it if you must, but don’t wait too long (you only have until July 31 to get early-bird discounts). If you’re on the fence, maybe this video will help you make up your mind?

If you are going to be attending this conference and would like to meet up, please feel free to reach out on Twitter and let me know. After all the anxiety of my presentations is over, I know I’m going to need large doses of Memphis barbeque and beer, and I can’t think of anything that goes better with a great meal than a great conversation. See you there!

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 Slide Deck Tango

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 Six; you can now find an index of all previous posts in this series on my new #ShareHuman page.

Giving a talk in the modern era means 99% of the time also preparing a visual presentation to go along with it. So it should be no surprise that, with only a couple weeks left before this conference, my focus has turned to getting my ideas out into a slide deck to support my thoughts. And this, for me, is really where I get the most stressed and the most intensely absorbed in the process, because these slides are really the final container for everything I’ve worked on. They are the structure and storyboard for the ideas and examples I want to share in my talk, and for anyone who isn’t able to attend my presentation, they may be the only way they get to experience this.

There is a lot I could say about putting together a slide deck, probably enough for another entire blog. I was originally titling this post as “How to Build a Deck” but the small part of me that pays attention to SEO thought that might end up disappointing people looking for details on how to build some kind of wooden platform off the back of their home.

The one thing I will share here that could apply to building slide decks or backyard decks is this: don’t take shortcuts. If you take shortcuts to save time—like say, taking something somebody else made and slapping your stuff on top of it—you may get a deck that meets your needs but it will also be obvious to everyone that you were lazy.

If you think of nothing else when creating a slide deck, remember that the software is just a tool you are using to convey an idea. They should not contain or repeat the idea itself, only reinforce it, enhance it, and make it stick. Seth Godin already wrote about this pretty wonderfully and I recommend reading that (you can also get a PDF version here). Continue reading →

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 →

Inspiration Takes Perspiration

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 Three; if you prefer chronological order, start with Part One and Part Two.

If you ever find yourself in need of a social conversation starter, here’s one of my favorite questions to ask:

Where do ideas come from?

That question has been on my mind this week as I thought about the developing my talk for HighEdWeb NE, because it gets to what I struggle with most when creating a presentation: how to focus in on exactly what it is I want to share that I feel is unique to me.

The way I see it, whenever I’m given the opportunity to speak to an audience—and even more so if I’m being invited specifically to inspire others—I need figure out exactly what key insight or point of view it is I think I have to share about a topic. I can’t just coast in and deliver the repackaged ideas of others; I want to make sure that when I leave people at the end with a tote bag of ideas, I know that those ideas and perspectives are my own.

So where do those ideas come from? I think they come from scraps and slivers of the ideas and voices of others that we absorb everyday, often without us even being conscious of it. In fact, I doubt real insight or direction can ever be traced completely to a single source or experience.

Continue reading →