Six years ago, at the STC Summit 2010 in Dallas, I first dipped my feet into the presenter pool as a progression speaker. I had been incredibly nervous at first, and the waters seemed quite frigid at first, but once I got used to the temperature midway through my second round, I felt quite at home.
In a progression series, each speaker sits at a round table. These speakers cover a wide variety of topics. Participants go to one table, stay until time is called (about 20 minutes) and then to a second table with a different topic. In years past, we had three rounds, but now that overall sessions are 45 minutes, we have time for only two. This approach gives the participant a fantastic opportunity to explore several topics in a short period of time.
Fast forward to the 2016 Summit in Anaheim – with three progressions and one training evaluation session under my belt, I now swim confidently in the pool. I still get that little lurch of nervousness at the beginning, but once I launch into my topic, nothing can stop me except the moderator’s call of “Time’s up!”
Being a speaker in a progression series is a great way to get your feet wet in the speaker pool, for several reasons:
- Progressions offer a small[er] audience. At any given time during the progression, you speak to about 10-12 people (or however many people can crowd around your table). This year’s Summit was quite different in that we had twice or thrice that around our tables. The intimate setting of the progression helps lessen the intimidation. Instead of standing behind a podium, you get to sit at the table with your audience, on the same level. Although you are the leader at your table, you are better able to interact with your audience.
- It is heartening and affirming, when you consider the many options available to Summit participants. At any one time there are many parallel sessions and tables. Since participants can choose which table they can sit at, it is deeply gratifying to know that the folks have chosen to hear what you have to share.
- You get ample practice in honing your presentation. During a progression you will give the same presentation at least twice. No matter how many times you practice beforehand, you find yourself constantly tweaking your presentation, seeing what works best to convey your idea. You also have the opportunity to incorporate audience feedback and respond to questions.
Everyone has something to share. Whether you have been in the field for five months or fifty years, everyone has something valuable to contribute based on their experiences. These different perspectives enrich our learning (and teaching) experience. You can offer to share it with various STC chapters and SIGs either in person or via webinars! To do so, feel free to speak with the community’s President/Manager or Programs lead. You can also register on TechCommSpeakersBureau.org, a speaker forum managed by the STC Carolina and STC Santa Barbara chapters.
Now that I have several progression series (and a lightning talk!) under my belt, I feel much more confident about sharing my knowledge and experience with others. I have not had the opportunity yet to give a full 45-minute presentation, but when I do, I’ll be ready.