Yesterday, I Wasn’t My Best

First of all, I’m fully aware I have one of, if not the, best job in the world.  Most days I acknowledge this fact and work passionately to fulfill our goal to build and foster community. But occasionally, like all of us, I have a day or moment when I don’t give my best.

As part of Discovery Education’s Summer Institute, we host a unique event for principals. What a great group of enthusiastic leaders who are give up 3 days of their summer to further their learning. Yesterday I gave a presentation I had done once before called “No More Boring Presentations”. While I don’t think it was boring, I also don’t think it was very good. It certainly wasn’t my best. The first time I gave it, it was for a different audience. Instead of taking the time to rework the content for a different audience, I tried to adapt on the fly. I ended up with a disjointed session with hopefully a few takeaways but a largely unsatisfying experience. In short, I sucked.

People are too kind. This image was created during my session and I’m guessing many walked away with an idea or two that was useful. Still, this wasn’t my best.

As someone who presents a lot, I’m most often happy and pleased with my presentations. I always reflect and make tweaks but in this particular case, it required more than a few tweaks. As soon as the presentation was over, I asked a colleague who was sitting in on the session, to provide me with honest feedback. Generally, we’re not very good at finding and using critical friends to help us improve our craft. I asked him to share a few ideas of how to improve my session. He told me a number of things that could be better. He asked questions about what I was trying to accomplish, about how the ideas flowed and what my goals were. After our discussion, it was clear I needed to make some big changes. Without going into specifics here are a few things I need to change:

  • Make it more applicable to the specific audience.  Sometimes this is difficult in my job because I don’t always know the audience and in many cases, it is a very general group. In this case, they were all principals. I should have taken time to gear things to that specific group
  • Provide clear expectations. Duh. This is basic teaching. When I’m presenting on something I’ve done a few times, this becomes obvious and intuitive and isn’t always necessary to be made explicit.  If I do a good job, participants will be able to determine the outcomes. In this case, I needed to be explicit as much for me as the participants.

I’m not going to use the word failure here because it’s getting cliche. But I will say yesterday was a good reminder that acknowledging your missteps and reflecting on them is healthy. In addition, while individual reflection is essential, finding those who can provide feedback and new perspectives is invaluable.