The Best Laid Plans…

I am finally home after a long two and half weeks of travel, training in Indianapolis, a two day preworkshop at Bent’s Old Fort NHS in La Junta, Colorado for NAI , the NAI annual workshop, a few days traveling with close friends and time in Denver for my wife’s cancer treatment and Thanksgiving. Needless to say, I am a bit worn down and tired.

That is all personal matters, not expressed to get sympathy but to to illustrate how busy the lives of all interpreters seem to be in this age.

The NAI National Workshop provided exceptional experiences, presentations, networking, reestablishment of old friendships, and opportunities for new. That was to be expected. But, the workshop also presented to me a very needed learning experience as well.

After spending some many hours in preparing two Powerpoint presentations I found myself in positions where the following took place:

  1. One of the key presenters for the preworkshop was unable to attend as was one of the other support persons. Complicating this was the fact that the vans for the trip were an hour and half late from the car rental facility, thus placing us in the traffic jam the earlier assigned time would have had us avoid. The vans were also not filled with gasoline forcing us to make an unscheduled stop and for the drivers to dip into their own pockets for payment ( this will be worked out by the NAI office, but was an unexpected expenditure for the drivers) and thus we arrived nearly two hours late for the workshop start. The return trip, carefully planned, was interrupted by unexpected traffic at one of the highway construction sites getting everyone back too late for the opening event at the History Colorado Museum.
  2. I gave the worst session I have done in over twenty years. After arriving to the room I was to utilize for my presentation, with two laptops in my back pack and twenty five minutes early, I found the projector did not communicate with my laptops nor the one I borrowed from a participant and that the Powerpoint program I first loaded was the wrong one.. Assistance was sent for and soon Mr. Caputo arrived with a replacement projector. By this time we were into the presentation time by fifteen minutes. In inserting my thumb drive I found all of the graphics of the powerpoint were gone. I understand this may have been due to the computer and the program having been generated on two different systems or programs. Abandoning all hope I went back to ‘old school’ and gave a terrible presentation utilizing dry erase markers on a flip chart. Between my befuddled brain and my atrocious hand writing I struggled on for the next hour and a half hoping and praying that I was somehow conveying my theme and message.
    To all who suffered through this disaster, I thank you for your support and apologize for the poor quality of the presentation.
  3. The second issue was when I was presenting with a panel on Saturday. Watching the first part of the presentation I realized that my 45 minute Powerpoint section would not fit into the 30 minute time slot that I now had for my session segment. Once again I abandoned the electronic format and went to the flip chart and markers.

In the beginning of all our careers we are taught to be aware of our audiences’ needs and reactions and I could tell by mine that I was boring the socks off of them and that I had not met their professional needs..

Now I could go on and on in placing blame on the situations, the time crunches, poor material support, &c., &c., &c., however, the blame is solely mine.

In each I should have been better prepared and ready to offer the most professional presentation my audience deserved. Whether in time management, being able to step up and fill slots left open by emergency situations, poor electronic communications between program mediums, or just odd circumstances dancing into our lives, our primary obligation is to the audience. They should not be made t suffer for any errors that occur.

When I teach and train staffs I always attempt to point out that that moment may be the only opportunity that a member, or members, of an audience might have at that site, event, program, or training and that it is important to remember that we must give them the most professional, accurate, and honest program we can each and every time. The audience should never be left needing an apology or an explanation. To me, it is one of the most important aspects of our jobs ( along with safety, comfort, and the ability to have professional feed back).

So, though the annual workshop was in my own ‘backyard’, I truly feel I did some of my worst programs in the past twenty years.

Not looking for sympathy, what did do was to reassess each of the situations and examine how I might improve my presentations and part in each of the programs I conducted and participated within.

It is that self critique and self examination that I think is critical to each and everyone of us and is the best tool to aid us in improving and providing better and more professional events and programs. WE need to be our worse critics and not rely only on the words and surveys of others. As my father regularly states, “If it ain’t broke…improve it!” Resting on our laurels and believing we have excuses, or reasons, for disappointing performances without deep examination does not improve our fields or ourselves. We have others to whom we are responsible and who trust us to be our best.

As to the issues I faced at the recent workshop, well, there are some immediate aspects I am going to change for my audiences:

  1. Be ready for emergency needs when a key instructor can not make an event.
  2. Plan for any travel to start a half an hour before you think is adequate and get the most recent reports on road work and construction as well as having an alternate route in mind.
  3. Be on site in any session room a half an hour ahead of time to work out any issues, insuring that I have my presentations laid out for powerpoint and dry erase/flip chart presentations with the appropriate markers in place.
  4. When on a panel, I will have a full powerpoint and an abbreviated powerpoint presentation ready for whatever time constraints might occur
  5. And lastly, I am going to acquire anti-gremlin charms to keep the little buggers from disrupting my life.

Jto all, I shall do better in the future.

John C.F. Luzader
Vice President of Programs

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4 responses

  1. Well I certainly felt like I learned a thing or two, despite all the disruptions. And I agree with your father…but I have a habit of being my own harshest critic. I will tell you that it was easily the single most challenging and difficult week of my life, and without the support of you (and a few others of our mutual circle) I would not have learned or grown as much as I feel I did, and for that I thank you.

  2. I would bump up each time cushion another 1/2 hour. Other suggestions: things always go wrong. Have back up systems to all back up systems. Do not make tight agendas in case of emergencies. Have all tools and systems well organized and well packed.

    My old producer worked for Frank Zappa. Frank had several rules for his staff 2 of which apply here. 1) Dont panic under pressure 2) Dont make the same mistake twice.

    I grade out every talk I do and note what went well and what did not.

    I played as a traveling musician for 10 years and it was great prep for interpretation and circumstances like you just went through. In the end, always say a little prayer before starting or take a few minutes to be quiet and breathe deeply. Then speak from the heart using whatever tools that make it there with you. Without any, still speak from the heart and breathe occasionally.

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