Recently I gave my very first panel talk at Empire State Comic Con in Albany, NY on the topic Art in Games. This was a major accomplishment for me as I have been working on this topic for quite a bit of time. Originally, I had wanted this presentation to be much shorter and for it to be presented at TEDxAlbany. Unfortunately for me, the TEDx event was never organized last year so I had to wait for another opportunity.
In time, the ESCC social media accounts announced a call for local presenters and panelist to be a part of “Fan Friday”, the first day of the Con that would feature smaller and local guests. So I though, “Well, the worst that they can say is ‘No’, right? Send it in and see what happens!” As it turns out, my panel topic was accepted and I was able to present, “The Arts Reborn: How Geek Culture is Inspiring a New Generation of Artists”!
Fast-forward to after the talk, and I can in all honesty say that I am pleased with my performance. I knew I was making some errors in my speech as it was happening, but as I strive to be a professional speaker I knew I had to keep pushing on.
Fortunately, a friend of mine was able to record my presentation. Not just for my Youtube channel (which is in dire need of content besides just the podcast audio) but also for self assessment. Reflecting back on what I remember and watching the video, I know of a few definite points that I can improve upon not only if I were to give this presentation again, but for future presentations as well should they be approved.
If you want to get better, be honest with yourself. While it is nice to be praised for a job well done, it is also beneficial to learn from what was done wrong. Own your mistakes and learn from them.
Yes! Do More of That!
Here are a few things that went right:
Reacting to the audience: Constantly gauging the audience to see how they react to certain things is important to public speaking. There were times where some audience members were giving some non-verbal cues and reactions to what was being said and I was able to immediately and appropriately react to them. This shows that I am paying attention to the audience, specific audience members, and that I am adjusting my presentation on the fly based on this feedback.
Not a Single Ah/Umm: Something that most people may or may not pay attention to, but as I try to grow as a speaker this is definitely something that I do! I did, however, have a few false starts or speak the wrong word, but I was able to self correct and move on immediately so that I did not disrupt the flow too severely.
The Powerpoint Worked the First Time: Praise be to Sejenus, there were no technical difficulties. I kept the MS Powerpoint animations and transitions basic, I used my own laptop, and my handheld presentation clicker has barebones basic functions on it. Keeping it simple definitely has its perks!
Vocal Variety and Non-Verbal Communication: Having variation in your vocal inflections and moving about the stage provides more than just “theater” for your audience. It adds to the overall experience of the presentation and adds emotional context to what is being spoken. Being able to freely move about the stage creates a moving target for the audience’s attention which in turns keeps them alert and focused on what you are saying.
Well, That Didn’t Work
Let’s be honest: not everything was perfect. Here are a few things I need to work on:
Looking At the Screen Too Long: There were far too many times I had to read from my Laptop screen that was outside the camera’s view. Most of these instances were brief, however there were several that went on for a noticeable amount of time.
To fix this, I will need to do two things:
- I was wearing my glasses on top of my head partly for style and partly for my own stubbornness that I do not need them to see far distances. Clearly, if my view of the screen is limited to the size of my laptop I should wear the damn glasses correctly.
- If my laptop is to be used as my monitor, then I should have it placed more centrally located on the stage. This will allow me to get a more direct view of the screen AND it will be closer to me.
False Starts: A “False Start” is when I have to repeat the first few words of a sentence or phrase. This is caused by nerves (which you can not do much about) or not fully forming the thought or sentence in your head before speaking it.
Inadvertent D**k Joke: Apparently, a few friends that supported me for this presentation noted after I had concluded that when I referenced the “Johnson File” and held my hand at a particular height, their minds that are stuck in the gutter immediately went to a slang definition of “Johnson”. This comedic oversight was exacerbated when I made the “smacking” motion with my hand. If I am to do this presentation again, I will hold my hand higher and refer to it as the “Anderson” or “Smith” file.
Skipped half of the “Education” Slide: I am an idiot. I have no idea if people noticed or how much they noticed during the live presentation, but I completely skipped half the content on the “Education” slide. To remedy this, see the approach listed under “Looking at the Screen Too Long” above.
While I stand by my first assertion that I am pleased with my performance, there is plenty that happened that night that I am not pleased with. What was not shown in the video was that the panel was poorly attended, and even had a few con-goers leave about mid way though. However, there were factors that were not entirely my fault:
- It was a Friday night at a mid-sized Con. Friday nights are notoriously low attendance and I was the last to go on. Most people had already started to make their way to the exits by the time my panel went on, and the few that were still milling about were either attending the “Geek Speed Dating” event or had already attended a few Panels and were wandering the main floor.
- I am a relatively unknown content creator that was flying solo. Keeping my ego in check, I have to acknowledge that I am not a huge name in the local scene let alone in the Geek community. I am working on it, but it is what it is. Also, I was the only presenter, meaning that most other panel discussions are able to draw an attendance from the fan base of multiple individuals. I am sorely lacking in both aspects.
Sticking with the mentality of using this as a learning experience, here are some final thoughts of optimism:
- Yo, my panel talk was ACCEPTED! That is HUGE for me! Sure, it was not a raging success, but DUDE! IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED!
- The few people who attended the talk really enjoyed it! Even some friends that were not “gamers” and were there mainly to support me stated that they thought the content was super interesting.
- The rep from the Con who schedules the speakers and presenters enjoyed the content! That can only be a good thing!
- I spoke very well and came off as a professional. While I doubt I will be getting another solo presentation soon, I was able to conduct myself professionally and knowledgeable. Perhaps I may not get a solo presentation, but I hope that I may be invited to join a larger panel.
- Thanks to my friend to recorded the presentation, I have it uploaded to YouTube, as seen at the top of this blog post. I now have on record how I am able to speak in front of a crowd. Therefore, I will be able to use that video as a portfolio of sorts to represent my public speaking skills despite not having many opportunities to demonstrate them publicly.
Thank You Again!
With the utmost sincerity, I am truly grateful for all of those who have taken a chance with me, who have come on my podcast as a guest despite having little to no listenership, and those who have shared and interacted with my social media posts. I thank you all, and I hope I have the opportunity to become more involved in the local community, and perhaps beyond!