Saturday, April 9, 2011

I think I may have "misunderestimated"

Sorry to anyone who was a fan of President George W. Bush for me borrowing one of his terms.  However, I tried to think how better to express how I felt after giving a presentation last month.  I volunteered to give a presentation on the basics of video for theater at the Nevada State Thespian Convention.  Since I was a Thespian in high school and there was a definite shortage of technical classes, I felt that I could take the opportunity to help out the next generation, as I do moderating ControlBooth

So here's how it goes.  The announcement comes through that they need presenters.  I say, sure, I'll help out.  I've been pretty busy at work and home and don't take a close look at the date when I do so.  I go home and check the calendar to make note of when I'm going to do the presentation and the date seems off.  Usually these sort of conferences happen over a weekend, and I was pretty sure that I signed up for a Saturday.  So, I get on my email to check things out, and it was actually the following week!  Ack!

No problem.  I already have some basic presentations that I use to teach the interns that come to work.  I'll adapt that as a presentation.  So, I feverishly re-edit the PowerPoint (taking out work references), and then start to worry that I won't be able to fill the 55 minute time slot.  That's OK I think, I'll leave time for questions.  The night before, I give the presentation to my very patient and understanding wife (who, over the years still thinks I'm speaking Greek when I start using theatrical terms).  I end up putting her to sleep after an hour or so (no problem on the time limit, now to trim), but it was understandable since it was 3AM.  Now, she's convinced that I speak in acronymic code as well as Greek.

The next morning, I grab a bunch of adapters and cables and throw them in a bag as reference aids and get ready to head out the door.  I think that I might have actually made it to the door before "the feeling" came over me.  Something just wasn't going to go right.  I head back and grab our projector, just in case.  I hop in the car and drive to the other side of town (shoot, that's going to be ten bucks in gas for this thing). 

Surprisingly it takes a relatively short amount of time to get there.  That's cool, I'm supposed to have the room open before my presentation, so I'll go in and set up.  I check in at the information, get my badge, and they lead me to the room.  Well, there's a class that was added just before mine.  Shoot. At least the projector is in the room, I guess I just had nerves and it will all go as planned.  I go and chill out on the steps until about five minutes before the other presentation will finish and then go and head back to the classroom.  As I get there, one of the volunteers goes in and removes the projector!  I ask if they will be brining a different one in for my class (that was one of my requests when signing up since it's difficult to do a video presentation without a projector).  The volunteer looked dumbfounded and said "Why, do you need one?"  I replied that yes, I had requested the projector for my presentation.  He said "Oh, we don't have another one and I need this for my presentation."  Jeez, you should have requested one beforehand then.  I told him that it would be ok, since I was prepared with my own.

Lesson:  if you are going into an unfamiliar setting and a specific piece of gear is essential to your performance, it is up to you to make sure that you are covered.  This is essential, especially if you are going into a volunteer run operation.

I quickly go back to my car to get the projector and get back just as the other class is letting out.  I quickly survey the room to figure out how I'm going to do things.  With luck, there is another AV cart for me to put the projector on.  I set up just as my first victim shows up.  I roughly line up the projector, connect my laptop (forgot to switch to dualview, so now I can't read my notes, time to wing it).  I end up with a total of three students, so at least I won't make a total fool of myself in front of a large group.  Time to begin.

Now as I said, I help to moderate a web forum that has a large number of high school students.  So I didn't tweak my presentation too much as I was under the impression that I would have a somewhat tech saavy group.  Yeah, lesson for next time, short enough presentation that I can ask a few questions before starting to get a feel of what they know.  I try to be engaging and keep eye contact, avoid the monotone voice (mine was the last session before lunch), basically make it entertaining and educational.  OK, I totally failed.  My first student was pretty well entrhalled, if a bit mystified and confused at the topic, but the other two didn't do so well.  All those times in school where you gently close your eyes and pretend to be taking notes, yeah that's quite apparent, especially in a smaller classroom.

As I'm going through the presentation, I try to keep an eye on the clock, knowing how far I exceeded the time limit the night before.  I start skipping through slides and giving less information about each topic.  OK, that seemed to help them from becoming completely comatose.  Now it comes to the last few minutes and I ask if there are questions (cue sound of pin drop).  That's fine since I have one last trick up my sleeve.  I quickly kill the presentation and bring up a video of a performance of Secret Garden that was a good example of how video could be used in theater.  They were completely awake now and I probably could have gone on, if we weren't out of time.  Now I know that my next presentation needs to be more visual of how video is used and less about how to make it work.  I'll keep this presentation so that it can be part two.  After they see what can be accomplished, then I will talk to them about how to do it. 

So, even though I was there to teach, I learned a lot.  I hope that I can do it again in the future, but I'll definitely be better prepared.  In the end, I got a gift card to a coffee house, so it wasn't all that bad. 

See you on the dark side.

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