Public Speaking and Professional Development

I have only attended one student affairs related conference (NASPATech – Nov 2011) in my career and so my experience when it comes to regional and national conferences is very limited.   Blog posts by Joe Ginese and Eric Stoller and others about the need to improve the quality of student affairs conferences and the presentations themselves provide me some glimpse of what it would be like if I was to attend them.  If I read the blog posts correctly, one of the intent is to provide suggestions on how to improve the quality of the conferences/presentations leading to a more productive experience for the attendees who took their time out of their busy schedules and spent their institution’s money or their own.

As someone who would like to present at these conferences someday, I am now reconsidering whether I am even qualified to speak at all after reading these blog posts . I started to think if I even have the qualifications and the appropriate presentation style to even consider submitting a proposal. By nature, I struggle when it comes to public speaking. By no means is this blog post a critique or rebuttal of Eric and Joe’s arguments because frankly, as someone who has sat through unproductive presentations myself, I agree with their intent. I do want to explore a perspective related to conferences and presentations – that from of the speakers who may see these speaking opportunities as part of their professional development and opportunities for them to share their research and new ideas. Even in presentations I have attended where the quality of the speakers were not so great, I find myself pulling for them, cheering for them, given how I personally know how hard it is to present. This is specially true when it comes to students and those new to the student affairs profession. I have also come out of those presentations with new knowledge and perspective.

The question then for me and for those reading this is how to reconcile the need to improve the quality of the presentations so as not to waste the time and money of the attendees and at the same time provide the opportunity for those up-and-coming members of our profession to share their research/ideas at the national level where they would have the biggest audience?

I read many blog posts about how we in higher education should embrace new ideas to innovate. In my opinion, many of these new ideas will come from those are just entering our profession, those who have the optimism and energy and those who have yet to encounter the defeats that have led some of us who have been in the field for many years to be cynical. I am the first to admit that while I would like to think of myself as someone who tries to push the envelope when it comes to using technology in student affairs, the reality is that my ideas have been shaped with experience that are probably outdated. The students and members of our profession, new and experienced,  who are not polished at public speaking and making presentations have really good ideas we need to hear.

I realize there are other ways of sharing ideas at a national level such as this blog and other social media. But how do we provide training and opportunities for those who are not as comfortable speaking in public to be able to share their ideas at venues such as national conferences? I honestly don’t have the answers so I’m looking forward to your suggestions.


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4 thoughts on “Public Speaking and Professional Development

  1. joeginese


    I think associations/organizations just need to provide better training, expectations, and guidance for those who are willing and able to present.

    From our conversations at NASPATech and your blog, I know you have the expertise, knowledge, and wisdom to pass on knowledge that would be extremely valuable to many professionals. The point is, we wouldn’t want your message to get lost in the presentation. We’d want to make sure that not only do you have the right stuff but that you know how to do it well enough to make an impact.

    That’s the hard part about presenting. Like anything else, you only get good at it with lots of practice but where are you going to get practice if no one gives you a chance?

    Check out my latest post about presentations: Would love to get your thoughts on some of the ideas I through out there.

  2. Tony Doody

    Joe is right. It takes practice to be a great speaker. I don’t know anyone who was truly a “naturally” born speaker. I believe “natural” speakers have had an upbringing or background that allowed them regular opportunities to test, refine and gain confidence (and that could have been gained from the dinner table). There are so many opportunities to practice and learn at a local level. People could join a local Toastmasters club, present to student organizations, present to a test audience of colleagues, video-tape themselves, present to a faculty member who teaches public speaking, present at a local or regional conference. When I go to a National presentation, my expectation is that the presenters not only be knowledgeable but be rehearsed.

    A study showed that 86% of leaders thought that “Communicating with clarity directly impacted their career and income” YET only 25% of those survey practiced for a “high-stakes” presentation more than 2 hours. That is a serious disconnect.

  3. Steven Harowitz

    I think a great way to start presenting at professional conferences is to present with another professional that does this practice regularly. They can help you navigate the proposal stage and assist in making a phenomenal speech. You have a lot to offer so I hope to see you speak at a conference in the future!

  4. Pingback: Life Happens with Eric M. Nestor - Conference Attendance: Professional Development?

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