My naked presentation… Success! Failure! I don’t know!

I wrote in my last post that I think the worst position one could find oneself these days is as a bad presenter at a tech-conference.  Not only is every form of capturing-device capturing your every move – video, photo, audio, keyboard, I think I saw a sketch artist in the back corner – but the audience is, WHILE YOU’RE TALKING, blogging, tweeting, IMing, Facebooking their opinions of you.  The jury is still out [I refuse to look at the related Twitter pages out of fear of seeing “Wht is this chick tlking abt?!?  And who is she?!?  FAIL!”], but I think I may have fulfilled this role this past weekend.

Sometimes I have great ideas.  Sometimes I have very very stupid ideas.  On Thursday, I got a mass email from the organizers of Social Dev Camp, the conference I attended last weekend that was very much out of my realm and weird and foreign but fun, productive and engaging nonetheless.  The email listed upcoming events that they thought conference attendees would be interested in.  And damn it, they were right.

This caught my eye:

Aug 21-22 – BarCamp Chicago
BARcamp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from participants.  Cost: Free (Participation, or Food/Drink to Share)

My Thursday afternoon thoughts: This Saturday and Sunday!  Hmm, I already have various plans, but maybe I can make it work since it’s a freeflowing-drop in-informal type of event.  I had such a good time at SocDevCamp, it’ll probably be worth it.  It’s free.  Ok, I’ll go, at least for part, sit quietly in the back, soak up some new knowledge, maybe meet some new people.  Yea!

My Thursday afternoon thoughts, an hour later, after poking about on the site a bit: Anyone can present?!?!?  Maybe I should… no.  I’ve never been to one of these, you should always attend an event first before being a speaker at said event.   And all the other presentations are way-techy.  SEO?  Drupal?  Zconf?  Eek.  So not my area. What would I even talk about?  And it’s so… so open, so informal.  I mean that’s great, and that’s part of what’s so intriguing, but I like order and the known and things happening like they’re supposed to happen.  This set-up screams the opposite of that.

My Thursday afternoon thoughts, an hour later: But SocialDevCamp, which attracted a bunch of the same type of people who’ll probably be at BarCamp and had some similar unconference workshops, was a very positive experience.  I met people I would never normally meet.  I learned.  And this would be a HUGE personal challenge.  It’s only a day away.  I normally only do things where I’m in the spotlight when I have months to prepare.  And I’ve never given a presentation without notes, pages and pages of copious notes.  I could use notes, but all of the quality speakers I’ve seen in the past few weeks have gone note-less and conversational, which was so effective and engaging.  I should try going naked, just me and the audience, no paper between us.  And the quality-speakers all used slides really effectively, I have yet to master slide creation.  I always put too much on them, too many words to read, too many pictures to look at.  And  I say what’s on the slides, which defeats the purpose of the slides; they should complement your words, not reiterate them.  This is a chance for me to try going note-less and to try to create good visuals.   I’d get sixty-minutes.  I can work on pacing.  I usually only get five-ten minutes.  I can not be a motor-mouth and just speak normally.  Oh god, one of the only slots I could do, the 1PM Saturday slot, is open.  Crap.  Do it.  “How to Be an Accidental Entrepreneur & Non Traditional Ways to Meet Others by Saya Hillman.”  Done.  Crap.

5:45PM Thursday: Have to go downtown to present at Innovate.Create.Repeat., a networking event for entrepreneurs and artists.

7:45PM Thursday: Wait!  That’s the five-minute buzzer?  I have two more slides to go through.  Oh well.  I used notes.  And people couldn’t read some of the text.  Oh well.

9PM Thursday:  I’ve got to get home to start creating my slides for BarCamp.

Midnight Thursday:  Fifteen slides done, I’m so tired.  To bed.

Friday morning: Can’t work on my slides till afternoon.  But not to panic.  I’ll have a good seven hours before the Mingler guests show up at 8:30.  I’ll finish the slides, go to the gym tomorrow around 9AM, get to BarCamp early so I can check out the space, watch a few of the presentations, set up my laptop.

8:15PM Friday: Crap.  I have about ten more slides I have to create.  And I still have to practice sans notes.  Crap.  And time myself, I have no idea how long this is.

2AM Friday night/Saturday morning: The last of the Mingler guests leave, I clean up, set my alarm for 6AM, and fall into bed.

8AM Saturday: Back from the gym.   I may not be able to get to BarCamp as early as I’d like, but I can do this.

10:45AM Saturday: Finished!  Ugh.  That took longer than I thought it would.  Only one run-through??!?  And not a smooth one at that.  Hmmm.  Maybe this wasn’t the best idea.  I gotta go.  What’s the address?  Transfer from the Brown line to the Red line, walk a mile.  Oy, it’s hot, I don’t wanna be all sweaty.  I’ll be ok, I’m leaving enough time so I won’t have to run in the heat.

11:50AM Saturday: What the?!?!  215 E. Ohio is a restaurant.  This can’t be right.  Did I write the address down incorrectly??!  Try 210 E. Ohio.  That didn’t work.  Oh man, I’m sweating.  And I missed some of the talks I wanted to see.  Argh!  Where is this thing??!!?

Noon Saturday: Fine Argo Tea, I’ll buy a $4 iced tea so I can get a password to use your “free wifi with purchase” so I can get online and look up the address.  Why can’t I log in?  Lower-case s, 4, 3, capital D…. I tried that!  Again and again and again.  Argh!  Maybe that guy will let me use his laptop really quickly.  Oh thank you kind sir, you’re my savior.  Oh my god, I’m an idiot.  215 W. Ohio, not E. Ohio.  Two mile walk, with my laptop, in 90 degree weather, and a herniated disk-related limp.  Great.

12:25PM Saturday: Paper towel and deep-breath yourself in the bathroom.  Sit in the back of the talk already going on and hope your sweat-drenched shirt dries in the next thirty minutes.  Oh no, there’s so much light in this room, my slides are going to be impossible to see.  That white sheet?  That’s where I’ll be projecting my slides??  Oh god, the panel up there is so tech-related.  Oh god, the audience members are asking such tech-questions.  What the hell am I doing here?  I’m going to be talking about how I ran a marathon, took improv class, and what I look for in a boyfriend, and will actually utter the words “Shoot for the stars.”  These people don’t want to hear that.  They want active hub, API, firewall, and IPX/SPX.  If any of them stay for my talk that is, they’ll probably all go to whatever other presentation is going on simultaneously.  All that work for what?  Maybe I should sneak out and go home.

1PMSaturday: There’s people here, that’s good.  About thirty?  No formal introduction of me I guess.   I’ll just start talking and they’ll be quiet.  Man that sucks you can’t really see my slides.  Don’t get distracted or discouraged by people walking in and out, that happened in the last presentation, that’s how this structure works.  “Hey guys, my name is Saya…”

2PMSaturday: Finished!  And I didn’t die.

Though I had six heart attacks and spent a couple of days waffling between completely self-inflicted nervousness, stress, and loathing, I’m glad I did BarCamp.  Here’s why:

  • Though perhaps the topic wasn’t what this crowd would normally get stoked about, they seemed relatively interested.  There were a few laughs.  Good eye-contact every time I scanned the room.  And the few people that did leave came back quickly, making me think/hope they just had a potty-break or the like.  No mass exodus with no return like I witnessed at a recent presentation.
  • I talked for forty-five minutes with no notes.  And remembered almost everything I wanted to cover.  Can now cross off number 66 on my Life To Do List.
  • If the light situation would’ve been ideal, I would’ve been very happy with my slides.  They complemented what I was saying, they  offered nice visual examples, they helped people understand what I was talking about, they weren’t overstimulating.
  • People asked questions and made comments during and after.  Granted one of them was, “So do you want your boyfriend to perpetually smell like campfire or just occasionally?” but it showed me people were listening, and my response got a chuckle.  If I had been the absolute worst, people would’ve had nothing to contribute [as happened at the aforementioned people walking out presentation – moderator asked a few times if anyone had questions, no one did.  People rushed to get out.  Awkward.]
  • People came up after to introduce themselves and chat about various things.  Activities they thought I’d be interested in, how I found where I live, and oh my god!, a chemical engineer who offered to make a custom cologne that smells like campfire [that’s number one on my list of Boyfriend Criteria].
  • I went up to one of the event organizers and made an apologetic statement about perhaps my material not being appropriate for the forum and that I hoped it didn’t come across as self-promoting.  He assured me that there were a lot of entrepreneurial types in attendance whom he thought enjoyed themselves.  He said it was good and thanked me for participating.
  • Various audience members have signed up for my e-newsletter and for the Minglers.  And they’re all male which is great for the Minglers, since I can’t keep up with the number of females who keep signing up, and like to try to keep the gender ratio balanced.
  • I came home to some new people following me on Twitter [you’re going to be disappointed guys, I’ve been on Twitter for about a year now, and have only tweeted four times] and to some nice emails, with phrases such as “I think what you’re doing with Mac and Cheese Productions is really cool” and “Cool talk at BarCamp.”
  • I continued the Solo Life.
  • The history of BarCamp is really interesting.  I had never heard of it before three days ago.  Awesome concept that I plan to share with my network.  More people should know about this!
  • I did something out of my comfort zone.
  • I learned new things.
  • Met some really cool people who I see keeping in touch with.

[If you’d like to be kept abreast of Campfire Cologne, or if you have a scent you’d like to see created, check this out.  Created by one of the guys who approached me post BarCamp.]