Warm Hearth, Trial By Fire

We have been learning about and exercising various small aspects of communication all class long.  Every little thing is set to add up on another to gain confidence and add to our abilities.  Most of them are not specific instructions about ‘always this’ or ‘never that’, but rather pieces of a larger puzzle that fit together as a larger presentation.  This was that presentation.  We have spent time together working on talking and being comfortable as speakers and audience members as a group.  A group of people who have come to find some mutual respect and admiration for each other and their respective research fields.  But now we face strangers, strangers of all types, people we have never met, people who are later on in life, who will ask any question they please.  They weren’t that late in life but we did go up in front of strangers.

Each of us had an introduction, likely a key thing to remember and serve as a distraction.  We all had to be prepared, without memorizing, but with some trial runs.  We went to a retirement community and plied all of our accumulated skills to get our audience to hear and to care about the crazy, complicated things that we research right next door to them.  It went well.  You could see afterwards just how different things were from our first introductory ramblings in the beginning of the semester.  Granted, we were in a much different setting than our first recording, but we still had the same subject.  We had to break something out of the specific vernacular we have to prove that we have mastered on the way to break throughs in our research fields, down to a level that anyone could pick up.  We did not cause any riots but we got their attention.  Afterwards we got to think about it.  No advisors, no grant board reviews, just peers and ourselves going through the actual footage of our talks.  It was very useful.  Most of the time after a talk, I get feedback that I can’t really trust.  “Oh yeah. You did great,” or “you didn’t look nervous at all.”  There are way too many variables involved to get something relevant from someone I know, much less an honest review.  Without having any consequences to how the talk went, and reviewing it with people familiar with the same exercises I had just gone through, gave me a much more useful level of feedback.

Having a willing audience that was mine to loose was great.  I have had others but I don’t know how I could have broken the ice with them because of the value they might expect from me.  It wasn’t really a trial by fire but it was a definite step up from the in-class exercises that we went through before.

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