Walking by Inner Vision Blog.
The Evergreen Journal #36
Public Speaking About
Arts and Education
After Sight Loss.
I was a guest speaker at four western Pennsylvania locations in September.
Each appearance was at a county center for the Keystone Blind Association – Here.
_New Castle,Lawrence County
_Beaver Falls,Beaver County
_Meadville, Crawford County
All are in western Pennsylvania.
Jeanne Hink, Assistive Technology Specialist for Keystone Blind Association invited me to share my experiences with sudden sight loss, rehabilitation and recovery as a professional visual artist and author.
I am a retired college professor of fine arts and humanities at Geneva College, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. I taught courses in Humanities, English Literature, and Fine Art. Public speaking at national conferences was an integral part of my life.
Today, I am sharing some tips for how I do public speaking engagements on using technologies for the blind to assist in my art and writing projects.
First, I Prepare a Presentation
I use a Milestone 311
because I cannot see typed or hand-written notes on paper.
This device serves as my coach as I am speaking to the audience. I always tell the audience how I am doing the lecture and show them the device. I say, “This device will be my memory and keep me from taking you down a rabbit hole to a place we don’t want to go.” They always laugh at this point.
It also relaxes me to know that I have revealed to them that I am not speaking only from memory but that I have a plan in place for this Presentation. They always show a lot of interest.
After my talk, they always want to know more about Milestone 311. At that point, I will walk them through how it works. I have just given them a lesson in using technology for people with sight loss, and it is a very natural and fun way of learning something new.
Before I go out to speak, I create an outline of what I want to cover in my talk. I do this on my computer well before the date scheduled for the Presentation. Therefore, I need time to evaluate what I want to focus on. First, I need to know the sequence. Then, I will discuss each aspect of it.
Step one – is to develop my outline so I know what I want to do and say when standing before my audience.
NEXT – I will transfer that information on my computer to a device that I can hold in my hand when I am presenting. Because I use a Milestone 311 device, I can put my outline on any of the five folders in Milestone 311. I have one folder labeled “Speeches,” so I will use that one. Inside that folder, I will have all the files in order to lead me through the presentation from beginning to end.
Line by line, I can speak about the Milestone. Each line I want to share is on a file. One thought goes on one file. Since I can put the files into the sequence, I can tap a button on the Milestone, which will speak that line into my ear. I am wearing an ear plug connected to the device in the palm of my hand. Now, I am in control of the speaking engagement and my audience can enjoy what I have prepared for them.
View the Milestone 311 User Guide Here.
How I Present to an Audience~
I can efficiently work through the various thoughts I recorded for this Presentation. It takes time and practice so that the Presentation can go seamlessly. I practice at home, and my cat, Ivy, likes to sit in the kitchen while I am speaking to my invisible audience. I will practice the talk numerous times over a few days to feel comfortable and anticipate where we will go as I show and tell.
Practicing a lot helps because I cannot see a page of notes and scan them to know what is coming next. This is when my excellent memory kicks in. After practicing a few times, my memory will check ahead as I speak to the group, and I won’t have to have those uncomfortable pauses while I try to get to my next point.
The Day of the Presentation
I never go over my speech on the day I am to deliver it to an audience. I have practiced in advance to ensure the material is in my mind. Now, on the day of the Presentation, I am confident, and my brain is fresh. I am careful not to overload my mind so that when I stand to deliver the message, it will be solid and new for me and my audience.
For my presentation, I also have two different CC TV magnification systems on display. I discuss each of them and give examples for how I use them every day in my studio and office.
When I am working on art, I use the Acrobat Ultra HD.
For my office, I use the Merlin Elite Pro Closed Circuit TV
I demonstrate how I use both of these technologies and when I have completed the talk, the audience can come up and use the equipment and ask questions they have about it.
How I Review the Presentation
After a day or two to think about what I presented, I will listen to my notes on the Milestone. When I go over them later, I’ll recognize a couple of places where I need to add something or extract something that was not as necessary as I thought when creating the talk. At the time, I can see where I need to move one thought into a different place so that it will have clarity and be cohesive.
I also think about how the audience reacted to each aspect of my Presentation. Attention to the reactions gives me insight into something I can add or delete for clarity. It’s imperative to be aware of the audience so that my Presentation will be relevant and helpful.
Be very careful about information overload. Keep it as simple as possible, but give the necessary information. Allow time for questions and discussion with the group. Be prepared for good questions.
I always leave my audience with a handout.
I give them contact information so they can reach me at any time. In addition, people will have my FB page, website, blog, and e-mail.
Please give it to them after you speak. There is nothing worse than giving a handout too early because the audience will be busy reading that handout and not paying attention to the speaker. The flyer is to help them, not to cause them to be distracted. That is my best advice on how to give information after you finish the talk.
There are always memorable moments with the audience. At the last location, as I was setting up my display I had one of those amazing personal moments. It was with a lady who was blind and in a wheelchair. She said she heard I liked crafts and she was so excited that I was the speaker that day. She reached into her handbag and pulled out two items she knit and she reached out to give them to me.
“Here,” she said. “I made this pumpkin for you! And, here is an apple I made for you, too.” She place the two perfectly knitted sculptural items in my hands and she was beaming with pride at her hand-knit items. They are absolutely beautiful and I told her, “I will always treasure these. I love them!”
This last program was so motivating for everyone who attended, including me. It was so obvious that the director had done so much work in spreading the word that I was coming. People came through the door smiling and excited and glad to be there. For each of the presentations, the audience was warm and welcoming.
My overall theme for the presentations is a quote by Zig Ziglar.
“Every great challenge is an opportunity to learn, grow and improve.”
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