First, I wish to apologize for not having provided a blog last month. I had just arrived at the Reno workshop and, as usual, I found myself neck deep in responsibilities and activities that lasted throughout the workshop week.
The workshop did provide the theme for this month’s blog.
I was scheduled to do three sessions throughout the workshop; one as a panel member with two other people, another as a co-presenter and the other as a sole presenter on Saturday morning.
The Saturday morning session proved my most difficult.
I regularly prepare my presentations and the PowerPoint that augment an address no less than two weeks before the actual event. Then I repeatedly run through the material four or five times before a session with the last ‘rehearsal’ taking place usually an hour or two before the scheduled presentation time. Thus it was for my Saturday morning workshop appearance; up at six, a quick breakfast, and then to my computer to check the session file, PowerPoint, and notes, as well as the backup thumbdrive of my session. On went the computer, in went the thumbdrive, quickly I pulled up the file and opened it and then… then my computer crashed. AI quick removal of the thumbdrive took place and then I hastily turned on my mini laptop and stuck in the thumbdrive to check it and to download it to my mini. No files. Not a single file was to be seen, found, explored, cried over at all on the thumbdrive.
Now a new dilemma arose; I had a presentation in less than two hours and all my notes and the program PowerPoint were skittering through the ether of computer lost files and lands unknown. My brain, slow as it is now with age creeping through its gray matter, realized I had but a few options: cry, ( an option that really appeared good at this point), cancel the session, (a poor option for a professional and very discourteous to those who had planned on attending my presentation), or improvise.
Improvisation has been a standard tool in my interpretive ‘tool kit’ for better than four decades. From my earliest programs and activities to , obviously, my most recent endeavors, having an ‘improvisation tool’ tucked away has been a skill I had mentored to me, forced upon me, and accepted by me as an essential skill that every interpreter, no matter the field of expertise, must acquire and maintain. So, here I was, the time clock counting down and I needed to assess the damage I was experiencing with the lack of my electronic support and what skills and materials I had available to me in the hotel room.
First, I had the primary tool, myself. My knowledge of the subject, the preparation I had done for the presentation application, the powerpoint (now dead or lost to the ages), and all the experience I have on the theme. Next I had the workshop booklet with the written material advertising my session. This would ensure I had a foundation which to work from in creating a plan and some viable notes. Lastly, I had a responsibility to provide my audience the best presentation I could, no matter the circumstances.
With panic gripping my internal organs I set
down to begin my task. Now I should explain, on top of the crisis I had with my early morning session I also had the knowledge that I had another session with Dr. Istre immediately after my presentation. This meant I would have to also improvise in that session, blessedly knowing she had that programs visual component tucked safely in her computer, but, I had no notes or images to review beforehand.
A quick program came to mind, notes were written on the mini laptop, a plan devised, and a rehearsed run through conducted the hotel room. I had found the primary ‘tool’ for my presentation: the participants. This would be a session with full audience participation. I gave the session, not my best, I will admit, but, according to the review sheets left by the participants, I had presented a 4+ program that provoked some great comments and suggestions.
So, why do I bring up this bit of my life’s trivia?
With the condition of the economy, the budget cuts found in both national and local agencies, and the proposed further cuts to training and interpretive resources we are going to face in the future, we are in fields that will regularly call upon us to improvise. The standards of support and the resources we now have at hand will be constantly stretched and depleted within the next few years. The formats that we work within will need constant review and , yes, we shall be improvising a great deal, because our audience still deserves the best we have to offer, no matter what our budgets might be or whatever might befall us.
Improvisation still requires accuracy and authenticity. It is not an excuse to just entertain. Our collective missions regularly specify that our sites and agencies are dedicated to conserving, preserving, protecting and providing our themes to the public. It is important that when we find ourselves having to extemporize we still work within the missions we have promised to fulfill.
It will be difficult at times, and it will call upon us to be innovative and dedicated to our fields. NAI may well see more ‘improvisation’ as well. Trainings and workshops may need to change as we see more and more constraints on our membership. It will be a time for us to look at how we can be inventive and still provide quality, ground breaking materials.
It will be a time to improvise.
John C.F. Luzader
Vice President of Programs