Saturday, May 14, 2016

Some things get better, some things never change

“Huh, journal club?” I remember thinking.

“What in the world is a journal club?”

I bemusedly considered the similarity between the words “journal club” and “babysitters’ club” – I vaguely recalled that might have been a book series I had never read not intended to read.

Fast forward a little bit to me thinking, “Oh, public speaking? That’s totally fine!” And no, that wasn’t sarcasm – I genuinely have never really minded public speaking, although I don’t necessarily reallyyy like it. “How hard could this be?”

It was not the public speaking that was difficult, nope, it was finding time to prepare. In my defense, I got stuck with my presentation day, and the week I did my presentation was absolutely jammed with assignments. Going into it I knew I wasn’t prepared well enough, but alas, what could I do? I had put as much time as I could into making my slides flow with the points I wanted to hit, I added an animation here and there, and I practiced… once.

Oh my Jesus, I thought, this is not going to end well. But it didn’t end terribly, and in the end, I was really pleasantly surprised by how fairly I felt I had been graded. However, I wanted a second chance. I needed a second chance. I wanted to prove I could do it better. I eagerly awaited the final assignment, the research proposal, and when it came around, I discovered that – some things change, others don’t.

I had expected to have more time to work on the presentation, but even though I objectively did have more time, somehow it got lost (in the research, I’m 98% sure) and I ended up feeling the same sense of foreboding and “I wish I had more time to prepare.” Luckily, I practiced more than just once, which truly paid off, but I think there was a much bigger factor leading to my improved presentation performance – I realized how to make presentation slides.

Although my questionable allocation of time may not have changed much – I still spent way too much time deciding on how to lay out figures and pictures and too little practicing – my preparation was drastically better because I realized you need to figure out what you’re saying first.

I know – surprise!!!

You’d think it’s common sense, but I find that what is common about common sense is how commonly we entirely forget it exists.

Now, this might not work for everyone, but writing down what you’re saying before making your slides is the ultimate time-saver and the best way to prepare. Your slides are there to supplement what you’re saying, not to guide your speech. You’re presenting an idea with the help of slides – not presenting slides with the help of an idea. Having first written out a speech and made slides to supplement it, I was able to go into my presentation feeling confident in what I was going to say and not feeling like I relied on the slides to guide me. When I realized just how much this strategy had helped me, I almost wanted to look at my slides and go “Who’s the boss now????”

But PowerPoint is still intimidating and the understanding of how its themes work still evades me, so maybe I’ll hold off on antagonizing Microsoft Office for a little while longer. 

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