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Observations From A First Time Presenter (Or What I’ll Do Better Next Time)

Sunday, October 16, 2016 3:42
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This year, I vowed to challenge myself as a writer; I’d embark on the Great Challenge Writing Adventure and Growth Experience of 2016.

And so, jumping into the spirit of things, I sent in a proposal to present a session at an SCBWI conference. I patted my back; I’d “put myself out there.” When I received an email accepting my proposal, I nearly fell out of my chair.

Excuse me? Challenges are supposed to come in baby steps! I expected to send in a proposal three times at least before being accepted. This was a big, ol’ giant step, and I must tell you, I was not psychologically prepared to be a presenter this soon on the Great Challenge etc. etc. But I said yes because a. what’s a challenge if you don’t accept it? And b. the fee was pretty sweet.

I survived the session but not without a few blips. I need to do a better job. And I hope you’ll do a great job presenting at a conference, learning from my mistakes:

1. When I practiced my presentation, I went over the time allotment by 15 minutes. Huh, I thought, that’s just me, learning the material. I’ll come in on time when I’m completely familiar with everything.

Huh. I did not come in on time. I had to zip through the last ten minutes in about three minutes. You know what might have been extremely helpful? Another practice or two beforehand, setting priorities, getting my time organized. And speaking of organization…

2. I like to do giveaways. I frequently host writing workshops and I always have a giveaway or two. But I also always have a sign-in sheet that I use for the giveaway. Midway through my session, I realized I had no sign-in sheet and therefore, no way to handle the giveaway. Aaaaccck!

I did have my SCBWI business cards that I planned to give to each participant and so during an activity, I passed out the cards and participants wrote their names on the back of the cards. It worked out, but it took up more time than I’d have liked; time I didn’t have to spare. I’ll be better prepared for my next giveaway at a session.

3. And because I like plenty of good takeaway information, I packed my presentation with as much takeaway as I could. Unfortunately, all that information didn’t give much time for questions.

Questions are good; questions help us learn. And even when people have the opportunity to find a presenter and ask questions throughout the conference, they rarely do. And so I would have served the attendees better with a little less takeaway and a little more time for explanation.

And so my first presentation ended in a whirlwind but there was a lovely moment, too. As I hurriedly gathered all my stuff, a woman caught up with me, thanking me. “You gave me permission to write what I love,” she said.

Now I have the challenge for my next presentation: for every writer in the room to feel the same way.

~Cathy C. Hall

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