PresentationDo my Best


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Don Tweed

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My wife, bless her soul, has volunteerd yours truly to give a presentation on the Titanic to her charges at work.
She is an Admin. Asst. at an assisted living home. My audience will range from 70 to 90 years of age and I so want to keep them captive!
I am going to present the story in two parts, the disaster and aftermath. I have two one hour slots exactly one week apart. This was the activities directors' idea!
I am going to try and give them hands on and plenty of literature items to keep their interest, but any tips, hints or help from you guys, well, help!
I think I will start with "There was peace,and the world had an even tenor to its ways." And go from there.
All input gladly accepted.
Fingers Crossed, Don
 

Ernie Luck

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Don,

Some of these folk may have been young children (very young) when Titanic foundered. It would be interesting to hear from them their views or thoughts.
 
Jun 11, 2000
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Don,
Would you have access to any projection equipment? One doesn't immediately associate assisted living homes with hi-tech stuff, it's true, but maybe you could borrow (business friend?) an overhead projector or, better still, a laptop and projector. A pale wall will do for the screen.

In my experience, an hour is a short time if you've got more than enough material, but can be rather a long time if you haven't. You're absolutely right to want to give them plenty of hands on stuff, but it's so much easier if you have the electronics. It's quite easy to put together an illustrated talk with a laptop and projector, and there's a load of stuff on the Net you could incorporate - much of it out of copyright (though these laws are complex, so you have to be careful). Shouldn't be much of a problem in an assisted living home, though....

If I were you, I'd ensure that the hardest of hearing, seeing etc. are nearest to you, though I'm sure your wife would see to that anyway.

In varied audiences, one problem I find the presenter has to manage - in trying to get that vital audience input - is that there will be one or two who have a great deal to reminisce about and, if you're not careful, can squeeze the others out / bore them to tears.

I think your wife has had a great idea, and if I can help any further (preferably after you've tried to bully some projection equipment somehow) just let me know.
Monica
 
Sep 26, 1999
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I think your audience would love to hear some of the music of that time period. Oh You Beautiful Doll, Alexanders Rag Time Band, Glow Worm, etc. Make your audience think they are back to 1912.
 

Jim Kalafus

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Don- Have you experience in public speaking and/ or giving presentations? I dont want to ramble on if you have, but....

I think the best piece of advice I can give is have your 'act' down cold before you approach the lecturn. Even if it means slowly driving those closest to you insane with endless run throughs, spend at least a week working on things like pace, delivery and, of course, content. The fewer index cards full of lecture notes you carry with you, the more relaxed and spontaneous you will seem. Ask your captive audience~ friends, family, coworkers~ to be brutally honest because, if something doesn't work, it's better to discover that during the planning stages rather than before the audience.

Try to have more material on hand than you plan on using. Sometimes the most carefully paced speech can run fast, leaving you with a lot of time to fill just at the point where an audience might be becoming edgy. So, have one or two interesting but not crucial anecdotes rehearsed that can be added if needed. I was once allotted a half hour in which to speak and found myself running short of rehearsed material after less than 15 minutes~ it's a cold and lonely feeling
happy.gif


If, as Ms. Hall suggested, you incorporate slides and the like into your presentation, make sure that your assistant is well rehearsed. NOTHING throws one's timing off like visual aids gone awry, so a run through on the morning of your presentation to make sure that your images are all present and in the proper order, and that the person running the projector is at least passingly familiar with your cues is a must.

Having spoken, extensively, to people in assisted living, I can tell you that "round table" style presentations go over better than do college lecture style ones. The assisted living audience ALWAYS appreciates the more personal feel of the Round Table, it makes it easier for people to choose seats to accomodate impairments in sight and hearing, and if you've not spoken in public before it all but eliminates the OH GOD I'M SPEAKING IN FRONT OF A ROOMFUL OF PEOPLE panic attack that such a setting sometimes induces.

>is that there will be one or two who have a great deal to reminisce about and, if you're not careful, can squeeze the others out / bore them to tears.

So true! That is where knowing your material inside and out can be your best tool. When someone "gets the bit in their mouth and runs with it" the best advice I can give is to maintain a look of interest, listen to what the person is saying, wait for a break in the flow of verbiage, and then VERY quickly find some way of relating the tangent to your subject~ say something to the effect of "that is an excellent point" while smiling, and then use what that person has said to get your speech back on track. He or she will feel complimented that you were able to use what was said. It takes a bit of finesse to be able to do this without seeming as if you are cutting the person off....make sure that the pause in the person's monologue has lasted at least three seconds before you commence speaking....

This may sound a bit....direct....but offer an intermission of sorts at the half hour point, if not sooner. There are a number of factors that can make sitting down for an hour difficult for those "of a certain age" and rather than have people walk out because they have to, or not attend at all because of the uncertainty of having to remains seated for a long time, break your set down into smaller segments and give the audience a chance to stretch their legs if they need to. Let it be known, in advance, that there will be an intermission.

Carry a pen and note pad with you~ one never knows to whom your audience members may have been related or may have known! Some amazing, and verifiable, things have surfaced during post-speech Q&A sessions.
 
Jun 11, 2000
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Between us, Jim, you and I run the risk of reducing poor Don to a heap!
happy.gif


However, I'm unable to resist augmenting your excellent points.

..and then VERY quickly find some way of relating the tangent to your subject~ say something to the effect of "that is an excellent point" while smiling, and then use what that person has said to get your speech back on track.
This is something lecturers get good at, out of necessity i.e. turning a wrong answer into a useful one, so as not to depress the respondent. That won't be a problem for you, as they'll be asking any questions, not you, but the principle Jim outlines is a very good one if you get a chatterbox (and you will...).

The 'round table' approach + a break is an excellent one, and it needn't preclude any projection material. If you project anything behind you, you will be able to see what it is on the OHP or laptop without turning round, and won't need an assistant. You only need an assistant if you're projecting slides at quite a distance from the front of a lecture-style presentation.

Jim is absolutely right when he says the fewer prompt cards you have the better. At all costs, avoid reading. It bores audiences, and anyway you are simply bound to lose your place, and then have to scrabbble around trying to get back on track. And these people will prefer a chat-type event in any case; there's no career at stake! Following on from that, have a think about exactly what might interest them most. The drama of the sinking can be captivating, of course, but they may be most interested in the Edwardian way of life, to which their parents may have belonged. I'd trawl the Gilded Age and Life on Board threads for fascinating stuff - which is why I suggested having some sort of projection for illustrations. And a problem with handing round stuff for them to look at is, unless they each have a copy, most of them cannot see what you are referring to, and while they pass things on they stop listening to you and miss stuff.

Darren's suggestion of music is good too. There is a site - Google "Perfessor Bill Edwards" - a lovely American who very generously puts piano music from that era on Midi. And he can play up a storm....

And, as Jim says, you might have been given an hour, but allow for Q & A afterwards - the longer it lasts, the more successful you will have been.

Above all, relax. You will be speaking to an audience who are very pleased you are there. One of my greatest hits was talking to some elderly people about modern mass-production manufacturing methods when I was in industry. They were fascinated, and roared with laughter at various anecdotes about things going wrong as it confirmed them in their belief that things were done better when they were young. There aren't many laughs in the Titanic sinking story, but there are plenty in corsets and naughty children.
 
Sep 26, 1999
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Another idea is to do what all the exhibits have done, give out tickets with passengers names and go over some of their biographies and then when you are concluded with your presentation, let them know if his/her passenger survived the sinking.
 

Jim Kalafus

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>And a problem with handing round stuff for them to look at is, unless they each have a copy, most of them cannot see what you are referring to, and while they pass things on they stop listening to you and miss stuff.

If you have a general idea of the size of your audience, and access to a copy center that charges on a sliding scale, you might consider making a hand-out of your most interesting images, with captions, in the style of the "information packets" social studies teachers used to distribute. Passing the images around, as Ms. Hall said, does create a bit of a distraction and, frequently, one gets a person who-for whatever reason- decides not to continue passing the photos, bringing the whole train to a halt. I've done it, and it is well received.

Water: Have at least a bottle on hand for yourself. To be frank, assisted living centers can be kept a bit on the warm side, and at-the-podium dry mouth is a factor. Also, arrange to have the staff place a pitcher of water and some cups in the room for the benefit of the audience.

Dress: Casual dressy works best, I find. I tend to wear a blazer, button down shirt without a tie, slacks and dress shoes. Audiences, particularly of retirement age, see that as a sign of making an effort. Aim for professional looking but not stodgy or overdressed. I've conversed, for years, with 'my audience' out in Texas and a common theme amongst those in assisted living is the symbolic disrespect of people who 'dress down' while working with them on a professional basis who would not consider 'dressing down' to do the same job elsewhere. This is an audience raised during a time when the symbolic value of one's outfit was more pronounced than it is now, and the jeans-and-t shirt look sometimes offends.
 

Don Tweed

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Thank you all for your input!
Very helpful indeed. My audience will range from 12 to 15 people so I will employ the round table idea. I am going to make programs for the folks to follow along, including pictures and titles for each page. On the front of each program I will duplicate a boarding pass so each person can be a passenger/crew member, very good idea!
Thanks Darren. Thanks Jim for the hints on proper dress, water and a break. I like the idea of the music to fit the period. And thanks Monica for the audience input idea. That's how this all got started! I forget the name, but one of the residents was chatting with my wife and for some reason mentioned that her and her husband were friends with the grandson of Ida and Isidor Straus! She said his nickname was "Buzzy". The name just came to me!, Herbert Scheftel. So I will spend a little time on the heroics of Titanics' most famous couple just for her. If I find anymore folks who have a connection in some way, shape or form I will pass it on to you all.
My presentation is not till mid May so I have plenty of time to get my act together!
And of course I will tell you all how i did.
I will heed all warnings and advice and just maybe your humble narrator will have smooth sailing and not sink! Pun intended!!!
- Don
 
Sep 26, 1999
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Don from what I have read there are many direct descendants of Isidor and Ida Straus and that the money in that family has been watered down so to speak. One granddaughter lives here in North Carolina.
 

Don Tweed

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Well this is the weekend of my discontent!
Seriously, I think i'm ready.
My daughter is going to greet each guest and hand out boarding passes and welcome them aboard.
I tried to select certain crew and passengers that had interesting stories from Thomas Hart and Samuel Hemming to Leah Aks and Rosa Abbott.
Found a couple of old LP's at an estate sale with music from the time period and will play them as people are entering and afterward during the time they are looking over my "treasures".
Since it is a two part presentation I will let these folks borrow books,games, puzzles, videos, documents, whatever they like to use during the week between my presentations.
I have a 25 page booklet that each guest will be allowed to keep. It is basically a pictorial and not a program with which they have to follow along. The cover is from Titanic: An Illustrated History. No plagerism intended Don and Ken!
Anyway, I will do my best and give the folks the facts, and some myths, and let them weigh the evidence for themselves.
My esteemed friends, I will try to do the great lady justice and use a lot of what I have learned from all of you to drive the message home.
I will let you all know if I sank or swam!!!
Best Regards, Don
 

Don Tweed

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What a strange day.
I wake up this morning to do some final research before the presentation and find Lillian Asplund has passed away. I share her birthday of Oct. 21st. All this on the day of my first Titanic lecture. May she rest in peace.
It went very well. I had about 20 guests. I opened with the news about Ms. Asplund and how I share her birthday and this being my first lecture and I was a little overwhelmed. They were all very attentive and had lots of questions. And of course Ms. Asplund was one of the passengers I used on the boarding passes my daughter handed out to my guests.
As I was speaking on the loading of the boats and how they were not filled to capacity, some of them got upset with that fact. I gave them the reasons why and that seemed to calm them.
One elderly gentleman, as I was talking on the Californian, barked out; " They should have shot that SOB!", referring to Cptn. Lord. I assured him that there are two sides to each story and it is up to each person to form their own opinion. "Shoot him, that's my opinion.", he countered. It got a good laugh.
I went over my time limit by about 45 minutes, but they just kept asking questions!
When I finished they applauded and went over to the two tables full of all my "treasures" and spent another half hour looking over everything.
They borrowed books and movies and a couple of the jigsaw puzzles. I go back in two weeks to present the second half of the tale and they seemed upset they had to wait that long!
I bid them all farewell and as I left about 8 of the residents were in the teevee room just starting to watch A Night to Remember on VHS.
It really made me feel good. They were a joy.
Take care, Don
 

Jim Kalafus

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Congratulations on a job well done! Sounds as if you are going to have great advance publicity when you return to do part 2. On a strictly personal note, I've always enjoyed speaking to, and with, the audience before whom you spoke today- feedback (positive and negative)is always immediate and sincere, and when you 'reach' that particular crowd- as you discovered- time limits mean very little. Glad that it made you feel good, and glad, too, that it made your audience happy. Good luck with part 2.
 
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If you went over by 45 minutes due to questions, Don, you obviously went down a storm. I bet you were one of the best speakers they've had, and they'll be back for the second half, + those who missed the first bit.

A word of 'warning'; it may get around....
I had to describe how mass-manufactured fruit pies, beer, cars, condoms, mint humbugs etc., were made, to many elderly audiences, after my initial unsuspecting success with my mum's Tuesday group. It was always received with disbelieving hilarity, but much enjoyment, and it did me a lot of good too. My account of how a horrendous fog of pollution descended on Hammersmith when there was a electrical power-cut with 500 fruit pies trapped in a 30 metre conveyor-belt gas oven in 1979 went down particularly well. All perfectly true.

My husband, in his 20s, dozed off on the night shift whilst in charge of an automated factory making heavy duty electrical cables. He awoke to find the entire building wreathed in wire and, indeed, only awoke because he dreamed he was being strangled... that one went down quite well with my pensioners too.
"Idiot!" they said. "And you married him?"
Do such debacles happen these days, I wonder?
 

Kyrila Scully

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Don, great job! I'd say by going over 45 minutes you were a hit, and wouldn't be surprise now if you don't get other invitations from the children of these first 20 audience members to talk at their functions. That's exactly how I got started, and I've done programs in schools, churches, libraries, historic society meetings, etc. This is why I've been so careful about collecting the right things to add to the story, such as toiletry reproductions, jewelry reproductions, china and crystal, a lifebelt prop from the movie, etc. Of course I have the ephemera such as newspapers, postcards, reports and the like as well.

I once tried to get a friend to video tape the show. Perhaps you'll have better luck than I.

Kyrila
 

Don Tweed

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Second half was more personable. I had 14 people that began asking me questions the moment I walked in the door. These dear folks took me in.
I continued on with the Carpathia steaming for New York. A bit about William Alden Smith, my bro'. The hearings, the Californian, the outcry and outpouring of hearts.
We then watched on VCR the Nat Geo tape and they wanted more, so we watched Titanica.
I even wheeled a couple of them back to their rooms. It was great. I think i'm being set-up for other stints as well.
Poor, poor, pitiful me!
- Don
 
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