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Reflections on ICE2013

Posted on: December 14, 2013

 

A week ago today, I returned from a short trip to Manila to deliver a keynote for the inaugural International Congress on eLearning (ICE 2013).

I left Singapore on Thursday morning and returned early in the morning on Saturday. I did not realize it then, but I was utterly spent when I returned.

Despite doing this pro bono and using my own personal leave, I think I put in more effort than some speakers would. Just speaking is easy, but that does not change anything.

As I did with other talks, I put in the effort to listen and interact with polls and a backchannel. I used, created, and shared open resources and I made the session as interactive as I could.

But doing all that took its toll despite Manila being just 3.5h away by air and in the same time zone. I did not give my body and mind the time and space to relax right after a packed semester.

Nonetheless, I took in what I could over a short period. It was an opportunity to work with different people and to experience a different way of doing things. Even traffic was like a two-dimensional roller coaster.

Like the drivers constantly changing lanes, maybe I tend to do more than I have to.

It is difficult enough to have to prepare for a talk. The more effortless it seems, the more work happens in the background. By the way, doing one for free is a lot of work. Doing one with payment brings in more administrative work.

What is involved? For the talk alone, there is the negotiating and selecting of content, the synopsis writing (while you are juggling ten other things I might add), providing your vita or bio, preparing new content (or if you are smarter, rehashing old content), selecting tools and media, rehearsing and testing on your own, rehearsing and testing on site, etc.

If you are travelling abroad, that introduces even more stresses that can be summed up with a few phrases. Air travel. Different cultural expectations. Responding to the unexpected.

But I have found a few things that help.

  1. Travel light. There is less to weigh you down in airports, planes, ground transport, presentation venues, etc. There is also less to forget or accidentally leave behind.
  2. Do your research on as much as possible. People, cultural expectations, accommodation, food, taxes, time zones, weather, currency, mobile Internet.
  3. Speaking of mobile Internet, get a local 3G/LTE prepaid SIM. This is typically cheaper than a roaming fee and helps organizers call a local number. Once armed with it, you can get information at your fingertips and have a backup should conference wifi fail on you
  4. Script the talk. I used to memorize entire talks or important parts. When I have little time to commit to memory, I have my script in my iPad mini or on A5-sized printouts.
  5. Schmooze. The minimum: Make small talk, shake hands, exchange cards. Better: Get to know people, connect, and make an impact even before getting up on stage.

Would I do something like this again? Certainly. But not as often as I did this year. I took more than my fair share to help folks who asked for favours and to see if I could manage. I could, but not at the expense of my well-being.

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