By Kathy Jentz
It was a dark and stormy night. Well, the storms hadn’t started yet when I began my talk. I was speaking to the Anacostia Watershed Society in their historic headquarters in Bladensburg, MD, a former tavern that was a favorite spot of George Washington’s. Anticipating a fun evening with fellow gardeners, I set up my laptop and projector in the upstairs meeting room. Everything started off smoothly, when all of a sudden a tremendous wind blew in and all the windows slammed shut with a bang. The power went out and we were plunged into darkness. I was only a quarter-way through my slide show describing local native plant choices. Now what?
Luckily, my laptop battery was fully charged. I was able to turn the small screen around and invite the group to gather round and see the plant photos while I completed my talk. But what if it hadn’t been charged? Would I have been able to continue on without it?
From that day forward, I promised myself to always be prepared to give any talk with or without audio-visual assistance. That vow has been a lifesaver in the years to come when I found myself in situations that ranged from challenging to sublimely ridiculous. I once was assured that a garden club’s host had a projection screen in her home, only to arrive and find that not only was there no screen, there was also not one blank wall available. I ended up giving the talk projected onto the surface of a large brass serving tray.
If you speak enough, you will have many similar stories to share. I hope I can spare you some of the angst and troubles I have encountered by sharing some of my tips for being prepared for all speaking emergencies:
- Have back-ups. Even if the host assures you they have all the equipment, bring your own laptop and projector along with extra cords. Have your talk saved to a USB-stick in addition to the copy on your hard drive.
- Print out your PowerPoint slide list and notes. Always have one set in your bag that you can refer to should your display fail.
- Use handouts. I personally like to send my handouts via email after my talks as that is more “green” (kills fewer trees) and it gives me an excuse to collect all the attendee’s emails. However I also keep a few printed handouts in my bag just in case there is an audio-visual emergency and the audience needs something to refer to during my talk.
- Use props. I give a talk on garden tool selection and maintenance that is purely me talking and doing show-and-tell. I use the same strategy with my talk on basic flower arranging. There are many times when you are much better off doing a live demonstration rather than using a PowerPoint slide show. Always, have one or two of these talks prepared and ready to go as a substitute talk
Murphy’s Law – anything that can go wrong will go wrong – may have originated in the engineering world but it is just as valid for the garden speaker’s world. Be prepared and you’ll be able to keep Murphy’s Law at bay.
Have I left out any of your favorite speaker preparation tips? Please share them in the comments field below.
Meet the Author
She also edits the IWGS Water Garden Journal and is a columnist and guest blogger for several other publications. Her latest foray is as the social media voice for horticultural nonprofits such as DCGardens.com.