Adventures in Garden Speaking
Murphy’s Law and all that…
It was a dark and stormy night. Well, the storms hadn’t started yet when I began my talk for the Anacostia Watershed Society at their historic headquarters in Bladensburg, MD — a former tavern that was a favorite socializing spot of George Washington’s. I set up my laptop and projector in the upstairs meeting room and everything started off smoothly, when all of a sudden, a tremendous wind blew in and all the windows slammed shut with a bang. We were plunged into darkness and I was only a quarter-way through my slide show describing local native plant choices. Luckily, my laptop battery was fully charged and I was able to turn the screen around so the small crowd could gather round to see the plant photos while I completed my talk. But what if it hadn’t been charged? Would I have been able to continue on without it?
From that day forward, I promised myself to always be prepared to give any talk with or without audio-visual (A-V) assistance. That vow has been a lifesaver when I have found myself in situations that ranged from challenging to sublimely ridiculous. For instance, I once was assured that a garden club’s host had a projection screen in her home, only to arrive and find that not only was there no screen, there was also not one blank wall available. I ended up giving the talk while projecting onto the surface of a large Turkish brass serving tray!
If you speak enough, you will have many similar stories to share. Here are some of my tips for being prepared for all speaking emergencies:
• Have back-ups. Even if the host says they have all the equipment, bring your own laptop and projector along with extra cords and save your file to a USB drive.
• Print out your PowerPoint slides and notes. Always have one set in your bag that you can refer to should your A-V display fail.
• Use props. I give a talk on garden tool selection and maintenance that is purely me talking and doing show-and-tell; the same with my talk on basic flower arranging. There are many times when you are much better off doing a live demonstration rather than using a PowerPoint slide-show. Always have one or two of these talks prepared and ready to go as a substitute just in case you arrive at your venue and Murphy’s Law has prevailed.
By the way, I’m part of a speakers’ bureau called GreatGardenSpeakers.com. Our goal is to make it easier for garden clubs, botanical gardens, and other groups to find the kind of high-quality speakers they are looking for. If you know about groups that are looking to book quality garden speakers, please let them know about it.
About the Author:
Kathy Jentz is editor/publisher of Washington Gardener magazine (http://washingtongardener.blogspot.com)/. Washington Gardener magazine is the gardening publication published specifically for the local metro area — zones 6–7 — Washington DC and its suburbs.