“As you lecture, you keep watching the faces…”

September and October have been very busy months; apologies for not posting as often as I should have.  The last six weeks were spent (as many of you know) between Berlin, London and Brighton.  As soon as I got back I had a lot of work to catch up on, as well as document and report on my various trips.  The most urgent project I had to attend to was my lecture to the Friends of Ludlow Museum as part of their autumn lecture series.

I’m more than happy to have a chat.  I enjoy group discussions and seminar-style debates.  Formal talks in front of a group make me a little nervous, however, and I was not looking forward to it.

I was asked to suggest a title for my talk a few months back and I thought that an ongoing project could be a vaguely interesting topic.  At the time I was in the thick of designing the display I was putting together for the new Shrewsbury Museum.  When looking at the aims and themes I was exploring for the exhibition, I saw a potential presentation skulking around between the words.  Eventually, I managed to extract a tangible idea and sent my title to the organiser:

Spirits of the Victorian Age: 19th Century Natural History Collections

Having returned from a very hectic month and a half, I turned my attention to writing the talk.  I have presented talks before but never more than about 15 minutes in length.  This time I had to fill an hour.  Luckily, once I started breaking the subject area down to the aims (Background, What, How and Who) my presentation almost wrote itself.  Each area naturally had its own sections that were rich with information and the opportunity for interesting images.  A friend had recently recommended the online tool, Prezi , as a way to mindmap.  It is much better suited to building up a presentation: it is dynamic, easy to use, intuitive, almost limitless in its flexibility and, unlike PowerPoint, it looks fresh, different and fantastic.

My approach was to use Prezi to present everything I needed to show.  By learning the best way to utilise the tool, ideas came to me and the process itself played a part in shaping my presentation (I hope for the better).  Once I had all the themes, aims and quotes on my virtual workspace, I added various images (most of which I had taken myself) to brighten it up.  It was soon apparent that Prezi had very limits in terms of presenting images and text in a dynamic way.  The easiest way is to show you what I mean.  Until i figure out how to embed a Prezi into WordPress, you’ll have to click here.  When it opens, just click on the right-facing triangle to move along to each ‘slide’.  Click on ‘More’ for fullscreen and autoplay options.  Bear in mind that I was stopping on each ‘slide’ for some time, explaining the points in more detail.  Therefore, some of what you’ll see isn’t particularly informative, and if you click through quickly you might get dizzy (I took my time as I went through the presentation).  Also, you can use your mouse to drag the workspace anywhere you like, and the scroll wheel to zoom in and out. If you click on an image of a group of images, you will zoom down to that level.  I hope this gives you a taste of how Prezi can be used effectively and an idea of my presentation.

I was very nervous when the time came, but I was confident about my visuals and because of the way I had designed my talk, I was sure that it would be difficult to forget anything.  I managed the whole talk without any cue-cards (a first for me) and my pacing was good.  Admittedly, I’m not sure the group enjoyed it as much as I think others may have (not everyone is fascinated by curious Victorian habits and natural history), although they were very kind afterwards.  Their questions were less kind and I found myself facing some tough cookies.  It was a good experience and I hope I feel more ready to tackle such a thing again in the future.

Here are some pictures of the objects I’m using in the display (remember to hover over the images to see the description).

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