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This weeks third session (slides) was extremely valuable though I wish we had more time in the breakouts sessions, but that is for another box to type into. The mini-TRIZ (direct slide link) worked well as an “anti” approach to deconstruct, and have to admit, in an online session this week, I saw a number of elements I would design against.

I want to make this positive, and its likely someone in MyFEST was there. I too would want criticism, even negative, rather than not knowing how people left the session. This was a panel discussion the kind where you bring in some external “big names” to generate something.

Leave participants out in the cold waiting room. It’s valuable to have time before for people to enter, get settled. meet. This one I was early, but got stuck in the blank “waiting for host to start” screen, which also dominated my computer, not allowing me to do other things. There may have been technical issues, waiting for the featured guests to get settled, but the audience was left in a sterile waiting room.

I almost want to get early to our sessions (not always possible when its my 7am and Nate’s 6am). And the having music is a great idea, not only for mood, but I saw it long ago done in an EDUCAUSE sessions as it lets people know their audio is working, preventing the chats of “I dont hear anything” “is the audio working”. Music for the pre-show is very welcoming, even if its not my cup of music.

Do not welcome the audience or ask them to do anything. There was no invitation for the audience to say hello, or do a weather forecast, or anything to make their presence.  It launched right into the facilitator talking about their program. To me this says, “its more about the organizer than the audience”. Overall the chat was really quiet, and I abhor that. I had no idea who was really in the audience (and it was webinar mode, so I could not see participants or even how many there were).

Read presenter bios.  I hate being read to, put links to their bios in screen, or in chat, and provide a human intro, or let the presenters intro themselves. Speakers giving their own bios or those of others, sets the stage that its more about them. I always go back to a classic post (now only in the internet archive) by Kathy Sierra — Presentations Skills Considered Harmful

Or rather, the problem is thinking that what matters in your presentation is you. Because unless you’re a paid performer – musician, comedian, motivational speaker – you are not the reason they came to the conference. They are sitting in your session because of someone that matters far more to them than you: themselves. They are there for their own experiences, and “watching you present” is not one of those experiences.

My path to coping with heart-stopping stage-fright is to focus NOT on what I do but on what they experience. And since I’m a software developer, I’ll think of the audience as my users.

And if they’re my users, then this presentation is a user experience.

And if it’s a user experience, then what am I?

Ah… now we’re at the place where stage fright starts to dissolve.

Because if the presentation is a user experience, than I am just a UI.

That’s it.

I am a UI.

Nothing more.

And what’s a key attribute of a good UI?

It disappears. 

It does not draw attention to itself.

It enables the user experience, but is not itself the experience.

And the moment I remember this is the moment I exhale and my pulse slows. Because I am not important. What is important is the experience they have. My job is to provide a context in which something happens for them.

She adamantly refused to have her bio given before a keynote. I saw it in person (twice, Kathy was an amazing speaker) and also in a conference I was partly organizing — a story for later how I got her to keynote through an exchange of twitter DMs.

This is profound to me- the presentation / session experience should not be about the presenter.

The session once it started was good- each panelist had 5 minutes to speak (no slides) about their take on the topic. Eventually there was given and take between them, and a bit more of audience chat, a handful of people.

Don’t leave anything else to do after.  It just ended. There was no invite to contribute, followup, summarize. End of show. Curtain close.

TRIZ in real life.