Today I was the speaker for the Florence Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. I arrived early and met Walt their computer whiz. Although I brought my laptop and projector, all I actually needed was my flash drive with the program saved to it. The Fellowship had everything else. So I was able to set up my books and greet folks as they came in, which I always prefer to do instead of running around in circles trying to finish setting up as folks come in.
My program would be about my new book––Around Florence. I had a copy of the book, my script, and water bottle sitting on my chair. That was all I needed to have in hand for the program. At the podium was the magical wireless mouse, which I simply needed to click to get to the next picture. I was so ready.
The only problem with speaking at a Sunday morning service such as this is that the speaker is last on the program. It didn’t bother me, since I’ve done so many presentations. But if I had been new at this, I would’ve been a nervous wreck. They also don’t like their speakers to run over time. I had been told I had a maximum of 20 minutes, so that’s what I planned for. And Ruth, my neighbor and UU program chairperson who had invited me to come, had her 3-minutes-left sign on the seat next to her.
Thanks to Ruth’s introduction and Walt’s equipment set up, I was able to start right in when I was called upon. There were many familiar faces, which I always love to see. The audience was attentive, and I felt comfortable enough to inject my sense of humor from time to time. There were no glitches and I finished right under 20 minutes. Ruth didn’t even raise her 3-minute sign. The program went flawlessly, and I felt really good about it. Afterwards, I chatted with lots of interested folks and sold five books.
I needed a 20-minute PowerPoint program for Sunday morning, August 24, and I needed a 30-minute one for next Wednesday, August 27. As of Friday morning, August 22, I only had the 40-minute program with 71 photos that I had presented at the library a few weeks ago.
So I popped up the script on my computer and made a copy and went through and cut and cut until I had it at 50 photo descriptions. The cuts were distributed throughout the script, so no main sections were eliminated. That way, the program had the same basic feel. I did a little rewriting of script and then timed it. It was close to 30 minutes, so I tweaked until it was just under 30 minutes. This would be the program for the Kiwanis meeting next Wednesday.
Then I copied that program and continued the cutting process. I cut a few more photo descriptions throughout and all the ones from the last two chapters except for the next to last photo. I had this new program at 30 photos and had to totally rewrite the ending. Then I timed it and tweaked it over and over, until I got it just under 20 minutes.
Now that the scripts were done, I needed to work with the photos. I popped up the 40-minute PowerPoint on the laptop, so that I could create two programs to match my 30-minute and 20-minute scripts.
Of course, there was the usual 15-minutes or so of semi-panic when I had to relearn how to work with PowerPoint. I couldn’t figure out how to copy the program. So what I ended up doing was to open the 40-minute program with 71 photos along with a new blank program. I then moved the 50 photos that I wanted to keep. It was tedious dragging one photo at a time. I had to do the process a few times before I figured out why it worked sometimes and not others and exactly what I needed to do to make it work right each time. Then I established a routine.
After I got the 30-minute program done, I took a break and fixed dinner. After dinner, I took the 40-minute program again and started another blank program and moved 30 photos for this one. Because I knew what I was doing from the get-go, I was done in 20 minutes. Easy when you know what you’re doing.
Then I hooked up the projector and hoped everything would work. The last time I used it was the aborted program in Junction City. This time, everything worked just fine. I practiced the 20-minute program with laptop and projector hooked up just like I would do it, and it was about 22 minutes long.
The next morning, I went through the script and tweaked the text in a few places. Then ran through it two more times. I got it so it was just under 20 minutes. I was ready.
I felt really good about how the program went today and was reminded that UU was where I gave my very first program about my first book––Crossings. It was in January 2011 and the book was at the publisher’s being laid out. It hadn’t even been sent to the printer yet. So I had no actual book to hold up and no books to sell.
I had notes to speak from then and no script. With notes, I meander. And I was a nervous wreck after waiting so long. I rambled on, but it didn’t seem long before Ruth’s late husband Bruce––who was program chairman then––was holding up his hand showing five minutes, and then four, three, two, one, and then he stood up. I just kind of ended by saying that my time was up.
Fast forward 3 ½ years to today. Since January 2011, I’ve done approximately 50 presentations, mostly PowerPoint, with variations of three different programs. That’s a whole lot of practice. I’ve learned to use a script, with which I become very familiar. That gives me confidence, which banishes my nervousness. I get a few butterflies, but I now actually enjoy doing presentations.
So with today’s program, once again at UU, I’ve come full circle. And I’m pleased to report that it was quite a polished performance. I think it may have surprised some who haven’t seen me since 2011. Well, my message to them is, “I’ve come a long way, baby!”