One thing I know about park and recreation professionals — most of us LOVE to talk. And one of the best things about working in this profession is that we always have a lot of interesting, fun and outstanding things to talk about. Now, there are some pretty specific niches in our field, so everybody will definitely not be interested in the same subject. But if you get the right group together, even the “quiet” person will talk to you forever about how “XYZ product or program” is the best thing ever and has done great things for their program, operations, team, community, etc. At their most excited they might not show much emotion, but you will still be able to feel their commitment as you listen.
With that in mind, a Speed Session is the perfect way for you to turn your passion into a presentation and is a great professional development tool for the novice and experienced speaker alike. Maybe you’ve never presented before, and that’s okay. Speed Sessions are a great way to test the waters and a they are almost too short to mess up. If you take the time to think through, research and submit a session, by the time it gets selected, most of your work is already done. Before the conference you will prepare a few notes, get to your session, introduce yourself, give a little background on the subject and begin your presentation. Before you know it, someone in the back of the room will be holding up a sign saying that you only have three minutes left.
For the novice, keep in mind you will never present in front of an audience that wants you to succeed more than you will at the NRPA Annual Conference. Remember, these are your peers and they specifically chose your session because they believe something in your presentation will help them be better at their job. Since they walked in with that expectation, they will try their best to walk out with that expectation having been met.
For the experienced presenter, 20 minutes will definitely fly by. You’ll be challenged to get to the point in a way you might not be used to. I know all of your stories are great (at least mine are 😉), but they are called Speed Sessions for a reason. Pick the one the helps the audience get to know you or is the most relevant to the subject matter and keep it moving.
It’s pretty cool when you are done and people express a genuine appreciation of your efforts, say that you helped them and they can’t wait to get back and try some of your ideas. A few might even hang around to get more information. That pat on the back, follow up phone call and email after the conference or even the “Hey, how you been?” or “Guess what I did?” at the next conference is nice validation. And don’t be surprised when you find yourself getting an idea, question or suggestion from someone in the group that might actually help you improve the program or idea you came to present on.
In closing, realize this – if you are an average reader in terms of speed and just read straight through this blog, it probably took you about four minutes. Allowing a couple of minutes for Q&A, if you were to read this twice, that would equate to about half of your presentation time. Not nearly as long or as bad as it might seem. So go ahead, give it a shot and submit a Speed Session idea!
Ben Johnson, CPRP, is the Assistant Director of Recreation for Louisville Parks and Recreation.