Recently I presented my talk to six colleagues, who graciously took forty minutes out of their day to help me practice. I started by managing expectations. My first attempt at presenting without notes, the previous night to my husband, didn’t go particularly smoothly. I did, however, maintain my larger organizational structure, which is rooted in stories that illustrate the learning strategies I aim to communicate. The presentation to colleagues flowed better, and it was lovely to get thoughtful feedback. They helped me identify areas where I need to add transitions, add content, or otherwise clarify my message. I especially enjoyed their enthusiasm around my message; the phrase “lasting learning” was well received.

This experience reminds me of preparations for my first formal presentation in graduate school, to a departmental audience that would be largely other students but also quick witted faculty. My major professor graciously suggested that we should do a practice run together, first, and I was shocked at how poorly I explained a paper that I thought I understood. He gently suggested I write out a script. The idea was not that I would follow the script during the talk, but the process of making it would allow me to articulate my thoughts and get the correct phrases in mind. The actual talk ended up going quite well, thanks to my additional preparation and the guidance from my major professor.

For this TEDx talk I have already spent many hours working on a script, and now I am transitioning away from it. Given the time limitation, however, I feel more pressure to clearly and efficiently communicate my ideas, and I don’t yet have the talk down where the length is reliable. Some of the feedback from my colleagues helped me realize I had lost key pieces while working from memory.

There is also the question of PowerPoint slides: to include or not to include with the talk? Of the colleagues I asked, about half thought the slides would be a welcome addition and the other half suggested going without. I am currently working on a set of slides, not because I am certain I will use them, but because I will better be able to decide once I have a set prepared. If I don’t use them, the process of picking out images to capture my key points will help me as I continue to refine the talk, and my ability to give it without a script.

The exciting part of this process has been immersing myself in my topic, how learning works. This is a topic I am passionate about because of its relevance to our lives, and not just lives as students and educators but as humans, who continue to learn and grow through our lives. Spending time thinking more deeply about this topic, which has interested me for years, is personally rewarding and I am looking forward to sharing it.