Last night I had the strangest nightmare. It was wintertime, with blustery snow outside and frigid temperatures. I had arrived a bit early for a presentation I was going to give at a national conference. I ducked into a nearby restroom to shed my winter coat. When I did, I realized that I also had on a bulky jacket. Taking that off, I found that underneath I was wearing a thick wool sweater. I pulled that over my head and found another layer, and so on and so on and so on.
Waking in a sweat, I tried to figure out what I could learn from this presenting nightmare (pick out my clothes the night before? arrive even earlier than I think is necessary? take a winter vacation?)
In my personal nightmares, and in those that other presenters have shared with me, I have found 3 common themes.
1. Being unprepared
2. Arriving late
3. Encountering a difficult participant or group
The good news is that all three of these nightmare types can be addressed through detailed planning.
1. Being unprepared. If you are having this type of nightmare, it is probably because you are unprepared! I schedule at least 10 hours of preparation time for every hour of new material I am presenting. With familiar material, I average about 3 hours of prep for every hour in front of a group. If you put in similar time, those nightmares should decrease or disappear altogether.
2. Arriving late. When I was a teenager, my mother told me that if I had an important interview or appointment, I should leave enough time to have a flat tire on the way, fix it, and still arrive with minutes to spare. Of course, her exaggeration was a bit overboard, but I usually plan to arrive at the presentation site 1 hour and 15 minutes in advance of my start time. This allows plenty of time in case of travel delays, and allows me to set up and maxi-mingle before I start.
3. Encountering a difficult participant or group. Difficult participants can run the gamut from passive to hostile, off-task to inappropriate. Whatever the behavior, there are dozens of strategies for proactively avoiding these or effectively reacting to them. Take the time to learn these strategies and then create a cheat sheet to clip to your notes. Eventually these strategies will become second nature to your and the nightmares will go away.
For more ideas, check out my latest book, “Caffeinated Learning: How to Design and Conduct Rich, Robust Professional Training.”
For even more ideas...
Anne Beninghof is passionate about teaching and learning.
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