I gave a bad presentation yesterday. It wasn’t bad because I had poor content or delivery. It was a bad presentation because I didn’t sufficiently account for the needs and understandings of my audience. Let me explain…
I’m in Anaheim, California for the annual conference of the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA), which is the primary association for educational leadership faculty members at large research institutions. In other words, UCEA is the organization for professors that prepare school principals and superintendents. I currently serve as UCEA’s Associate Director for Communications. I’ve been helping UCEA transition from a very static, fairly unhelpful web site to a more robust online presence. This past year we transitioned UCEA to Squarespace and now I am helping them take advantage of its interactive tools and other social media such as Twitter and podcasting.
Yesterday morning I was scheduled to give a presentation to UCEA’s Executive Committee (EC). The EC is the governing body for the larger organization and is made up of 10 faculty from a number of different postsecondary institutions. You can see my presentation below. I shared various statistics and information about the UCEA web site, Twitter channel, and BlogTalkRadio podcast series.
The members of the EC were fine until I got to the recommendations. Then I lost them (at least that’s when I think I lost them). The problem was that I’ve been working with Dr. Michelle Young, UCEA’s Executive Director, and she gets what we’re trying to do. But the EC hasn’t heard from me in a while and to them I might as well have been speaking in tongues. As a group, their level of technology understanding was much lower than Michelle’s, perhaps because I’ve been answering her questions as we’ve gone along.
It was my fault. I know that I need to tailor my presentations to the level of my audience. I’ve done that well in the past – including with the EC – but I forgot my audience this time. The end result was a dissatisfying experience for both them and me. Although some of them said to me later that I did a good job, I know they were being polite.
So now I have to remedy the situation. For some that will mean individual follow-up conversations just to clarify or touch base. For others a series of explanatory e-mail updates will suffice. And I’ll need to roll up my sleeves with a few and start walking them through the same questions and answers that Michelle and I already have navigated. In the end it will be fine, but now I’ve created more work for myself – work I could have avoided if I’d done what I should have yesterday.
I gave a bad presentation yesterday. Lesson learned. Reminder received. Time to adjust, compensate, and move forward…
Been there, done that.
Take a look at this piece about “Tappers vs. Listeners”. It’s a nice way to remember this phenomenon that we often find ourselves in.
I think your overstepping your audience speaks to my concern about moving CASTLE and other of our/my work onto the UCEA site and more broadly under the UCEA umbrella. No offense, but I am as good myself at promoting stuff on the web as UCEA is, so I am very reluctant to put my work in UCEA’s hands, because, outside of your work Scott, they have not shown themselves capable (EC, Michelle, C.R., etc.) of validating online work. You are certainly capable yourself, Scott, but you are not officially UCEA, the EC is, and by your own admission here Scott you and the EC are in very different places.
But, I appreciate the admission and the hard work of moving a group like UCEA forward. It’s not easy, but it actually makes me feel better to know that I am not the only one that stumbles from time to time.
Great honest post! There is always another presentation to give, another class to teach, another game to coach. The great lesson is to try an avoid making the same mistake twice.
I have found that explaining technology and how to use it is difficult enough to a nonusers or low tech users. However, when you start to explain how technology can change and transform or integrate an existing process, system, or organization and the audience may not be hands-on familiar with the technology, there can be that disconnect. I have found less content (detail) generates more excitement for the possibilities and that positive energy can build on itself.
I find it strange that UCEA is not buying into the idea that the site really needs fixed just for usability sake (let’s not go into interactivity and collaboration). The Job Search Handbook is a great example. If future UCEA members (i.e., current doctoral students seeking jobs)cannot find basic resources, or worse yet do not even know they exist, what good is the resource? Having a robust site not only signals that UCEA is ready and willing to work with a new breed of professors, but that it is responsive to the needs of its current members.
BTW – I really respect how you reflect on each presentation. I wish more presenters looked at conference presentations through that lens.