Well, not really my first try, but my first really public speaking. I find it funny and like to bring it up that when I was in school I would NOT speak in front of the class, I would take a failing grade instead of speaking. Now, I am facilitating meetings and talking in front of groups all of the time.

But, this past week was something completely new and I was very excited about it. I had the opportunity to speak for Baldwin-Whitehall School District’s Personal Development day which was focused on technology.  Then the very next day I spoke at a #PittAgile meetup. I was very excited about both and had very little nervousness, which in retrospective may have been one of the problems.

Below is a list of the talks:

The first two talks where for Baldwin-Whitehall School District, the third talk was for the PittAgile community group. I started by preparing for these talks as speeches which I had some experience with over the past year. My “speeches” where limited to 3 minutes during the year; this time I had a full 50 minutes to talk and present to an audience, which is vastly different. I found that starting as a speech was very helping, I just open up and starting typing like I was going to talk. First, I needed to have a short paragraph to be used for a description of my talks, this would be taken from my writing.

I followed typically writing practices with a 1st draft, editing, 2nd draft, and final draft. After I had my words ready, I then started to look for how I can present this information in the form of slides. I searched for images using Flickr, filtering for creative commons. I took my words from the speech document and placed them in the corresponding notes for each slide. There, I had my finished presentation completed and ready. I wish it was that simple, the process is simple, but doing this took time. A lot of time to think and process my thoughts. To edit and research. I like to research what I am going to talk about and also get feedback from others. I did not intend to read the notes, I just want to practice the “speech” so that I could have my content ready and be ready to adapt when in front of the audience.

Following a standard concept for Agile, I wanted to get feedback to learn and adapt. One of my mentors used a technique that I really liked so I used that for collecting feedback.

I handed out PostIts and pens so that I could collect feedback. Before even starting my talk I explained that I wanted to get feedback on my talk and that I wanted to learn. I also told my audience that I am not looking for bashing, to please keep that in mind and help me learn more.

On flip chart paper I made four quadrants as you can see to the left, with the following text.

  1. Good talk
  2. Good but could improve
  3. Not very good
  4. Come talk to my team

I told the audience to write on the PostIts their feedback for me to learn from. Agile is about adapting and a key to adapting is learning to accept feedback from others. So, I asked them to please help me improve by writing their thoughts and place the PostIt on the appropriate section on the flip chart.

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I did this during my first two talks and failed to do this at my final talk;  when really I needed the most feedback. My first two received a lot of good feedback. I heard that I should have provided more hands on work during my talk about Evernote. Also, I learned that I should have requested more time for both of those sessions. Great information and this feedback will help me do better next time.

My final session was my lessons learned on facilitating my first innovation week for my team. This was a difficult one to prepare for, I started the talk with the value of innovation weeks and also some examples of other organizations that have innovation time.

My biggest problem was I didn’t go into enough detail on the concrete examples of how we performed our innovation time and the exact outcomes of our innovation week. This time was very valuable and our team was able to help our projects out a lot. I could have went into more detail about that.

What happened was my time fell short and I went through my material a lot faster than I had expected. The audiences between the talks where different and resulting in different timings that I needed. Where the first two I could have used more time the third I had trouble filling my required time. I ended up adapting though and changing the talk into an open dialog with the audience, since I had a small audience, about 10 people this worked out well. Had I had a larger audience this would have not been possible.

So, for my next talk I will:

  1. Think more about who my audience is
  2. Provide more specific examples that focus on my message
  3. Provide hands on activities if I am talking on software and in a lab
  4. Continue to use the same feedback method discussed above
  5. Continue my approach of starting as a speech