What to Expect as a First-Time Speaker at the NRPA Annual Conference

By Lauren Belle | Posted on November 7, 2017

Lauren Belle Blog

I had the privilege of being a first-time speaker at 2017 NRPA Annual Conference in New Orleans. My colleague and I presented on “How to Grow the Next Generation of STEAM Innovators.” STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) is something that we are regularly immersed in, so we are knowledgeable on the subject. If you are considering presenting at the NRPA conference, be sure it is something you are interested in and is in your knowledge area. You are going to clock some serious hours on your presentation, and you don’t want to get bored half-way through! Don’t get me wrong, the results and experience are totally worth it, but be sure you are prepared.

Even if you are an expert in a field, its always worth it to put a little time into research. We spent a few months compiling and reading all the articles we could on STEAM. It was a nice lead up to attending the actual conference. In addition to getting the appropriate travel approvals and making our travel plans, we got to dream up how to present STEAM to an audience that would choose to come and listen to us. It could be construed as a lot of pressure, but we saw it as an opportunity to spread our passion for STEAM to other park and rec organizations. During your presentation, you are the expert, and even if you mess up or forget some of the stuff you were going to say during the presentation, no one in the audience knows. You are sharing your knowledge and experiences with other people who are interested.

I think that’s probably the biggest takeaway I got from presenting. I don’t really remember the pre-presentation nerves (don’t worry everyone gets them) or how I chose to present the material that day, but I do remember the discussions that took place during our Q&A session. I remember knowing that what my colleague and I had so thoroughly researched was reaching people in a totally new and unique way. It was so cool to have people recognize me on the street or in the convention center in New Orleans and tell me all about their STEAM journey or what their plans were for bringing STEAM back to their organization. Engaging with people post-presentation was absolutely my favorite part. The opportunity to make that kind of impact is an exceptional draw to anyone who seeks to share their passion in parks and rec.

NRPA does a great job making sure you are comfortable throughout the process. As a first-time speaker for NRPA, I didn’t know what to expect. Its guidelines for presenting were very helpful, and I really appreciated having room hosts to break the ice with the audience. All in all, I would absolutely recommend presenting to anyone who is or might be interested. It’s a truly rewarding experience and seeing the multitude of ways people respond to your hard work defies description.

What are you most interested in or passionate about? Share it with the world and submit your session ideas for the 2018 NRPA Annual Conference today!

Lauren Belle is the Office Supervisor of Facility Operations at MNCPPC – Department of Parks and Recreation.


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