Saturday, May 31, 2008

Perspectives and perceptions

Today I presented a paper at a conference. It was a really short paper - only 10 minutes - so it wasn't a big deal but it was really interesting to get feedback later.

When I stood up to make my way to the podium I inhaled and ended up with a coughing fit. Great way to impress the audience from the beginning. It took a few minutes to recover, then I started. The technology wasn't with me. Every time I moved, the powerpoint skipped a few slides and I had to stop and backtrack. I'm used to technology failing me so I just rabbited on for a while about nothing in particular so there wasn't an uncomfortable silence, then continued with my presentation. I lost my place with my notes, got sidetracked with a remark about how much I enjoyed reading a particular article when I was preparing the presentation and finally finished about 20 seconds over time. I mentioned most of the salient points but I don't recall any eye-to-eye contact with the audience and I got tongue-tied a few times when particular words just failed me and I had to reword the sentence for it to make sense. To me it was terrible - not quite a disaster, but definitely not a polished professional performance.

During lunch and after the conference finished I had a number of people come up to me and congratulate me on a professional presentation. They thought it was informative, interesting and well-paced. They loved that I was relaxed enough to add a personal comment and that I didn't get at all fazed by the technology glitch.

Isn't it amazing how different people see the same thing in different ways? I would have loved for the proceedings to have been recorded so I could review it myself - see what the audience saw. I think that would be a good thing for a lot of things we do in our lives. Obviously our own perception of ourselves and our actions is often very different to the way others see us. If we could see the other perspective as well, we might develop a more balanced view of ourselves.

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