Becoming the Presenter

Have you ever sat through a continuing ed course and thought, “when will this end?”  I’ve been there many times!

Sometimes it’s the presenter, sometimes it’s the content and sometimes it’s just the day.  Some days I just can’t sit for any length of time in a seat and listen to anyone talk!

A little over a year ago, I made the leap and became the presenter.  For the first time, I stood up in front of a group of people and had the opportunity to present what I know about dysphagia.  What an eye-opening experience!!

Presenting is not the free-trip around the world I thought it would be.  The “everyone will be amazed by what I say and love me for it” experience one hopes it will be.  Presenting is actually, well, work.

Some days, I think, I’m going on one more trip, then I’m done.  Then I think, no, I really enjoy doing this.  When I have my days that I think I don’t want to do this anymore, I make my list of pros and cons.  I wanted to share as many people often ask me about presenting and what it’s like.

Pros:

1.  I do get to travel.  It’s not always to glamorous locations like Hawaii, but I do get to see parts of the world I’ve never seen.
2.  I get to rack up my points on my Delta account.
3.  I have met some very kind and some great professionals out there.  Sometimes I have the great opportunity of giving them functional information they can use.  Sometimes, I give them therapy ideas that they maybe never considered.
4.  I have conquered my fear of public speaking.  Yes, I was once petrified of speaking in front of people!  I typically have a crowd of around 24-30 and I really feel comfortable standing in front of them speaking.
5.  I stay current in the research.  We all know that not everyone has the opportunity (or the desire) to research what’s new and great in dysphagia, and let’s face it, there’s not always a lot of new and great to research.  Reading new research also gives me inspiration to update my blog.

Cons:
1.  Travelling.  I don’t always get to choose my flights so sometimes, they are at 8:00 in the morning.  Given an hour and a half drive from home, that makes for a pretty early morning.  Also, I usually leave the last night I speak.  That typically means speaking until 4, going straight to the airport and then catching my flight home, which sometimes allows for dinner, sometimes not.  I tend to get home around 10:30-11:30 at night, then have my hour and a half drive home, given everything runs on time………
2.  Sometimes people don’t like my session.  I haven’t discovered anything new and great.  I haven’t created a new therapy technique.  I’m not a major researcher.  Some people already know everything there is to know about dysphagia.  I like to read the comments after the session, but some of them are not kind.  (I’ve had to learn to not care about those and focus on the good comments).
3.  I don’t have all the answers.  Some people really want to know disease specific information regarding dysphagia.  Truth is……..each patient presents in a different manner.  I can see 2 patients with CVA who have 2 different presentations of dysphagia.  Sometimes, one of those CVA patients may not have any problems.  The reason I don’t cover disease specific is because that could be a whole week worth of lectures!
4.  I have to leave my family and job for several days at a time.
5.  I have NO time anywhere I travel.  My timeline usually includes leaving the day before my first session, meaning I have to say goodbye to my kids and husband, drive to the airport, fly to the first city on the agenda, find the rental cars, drive to the hotel, unpack and make sure I’m ready for the next 3 days.  (Last trip, I completely forgot that I got a new iPad with a lightening connector and my VGA connector was for a 30 pin, meaning:  my iPad could not connect to the projector!)  I wake at 5:00 the first morning, get ready, pack up, check out, set up the room, speak, pack my presentation materials, and head to the next city.  Sometimes the drive between cities is several hours.  I have the same schedule for the next 2 days.  The last day/session it’s back to the airport to head home.

Some of my other considerations:

I have worked really hard on this presentation.  It took me months to put it together and then some major renovations to make the course what it is now.  It’s not perfect.  I realize that.  I don’t know everything.  I would be lying to say that I know everything.  I’m trying to help with the materials that can help a clinician work with any patient with dysphagia regardless of the diagnosis.

I will never regret my decision to take on the speaking gig.  I’ve enjoyed it.  Will I continue?  Well, I’m booked through June so definitely through then.  We’ll see where the road takes me from there.

My advise if you want to present:

Start with a topic now.  Start making some slides, you may even consider doing a talk without the slides.  While it’s really nice to have a presentation with some visual, sometimes the slides become a distraction.  To cover an entire day, you’ll definitely need a lot of information to provide.

Look into your options.  CEU providers are often looking for presenters with new and exciting topics to offer!

Never say never.  You never know where your life and career will take you!  Don’t hold yourself back!

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