So You Rocked Your First Professional Presentation… Now What?!

Happy Friday from Reno!

The beautiful fall weather is quickly fading here, but it is much warmer than Boston was, and for that I am grateful. The semester is coming to an end, five weeks left if you’re counting, which means the holidays are hot on our trail!

Miraculously, each month this year has brought more and more epic adventure and awesomeness than the previous, making 2011 quite a doozy. I honestly have no idea where the semester disappeared to but I registered for Spring 2012 classes this morning… must be about that time.

Mid July we submitted a paper topic to present at a national technology conference for NASPA, with the goal of getting practice with presentation writing and shooting to have a presentation accepted in 2012 or 2013. Needless to say, I honestly didn’t think it would get accepted and much to my surprise, I got an email a month later saying we were going to be one of the presentations to be featured throughout the three day conference. What an awesome opportunity to share what we’re doing with technology on our campus!

Once the shock had passed, it was time to gear up and crank out a rocking presentation. There’s no sense doing something if it isn’t going to be done correctly.

  1. Go with the flow – As the worrier of the group, I found plenty of ways to nitpick about things that were beyond my control, so it was nice once we arrived at the conference to just go with it. I was confident that I had done my homework, and who knows better about our tech projects than me? I was the expert and this was my arena so why not relax and take it all in?
  2. Embrace the learning – I’ll admit it, I was slightly disappointed that only seven people showed up for our presentation; however, the positive responses and great questions convinced me that we are doing something amazing at the University of Nevada. It was pretty awesome to be presenting three unique ways in which we were using technology to impact our student’s engagement!
  3. Incorporate changes – There were many great speakers during the conference, and one of them placed a heavy emphasis on the pursuit of community. It’s our job to drive student engagement by utilizing the “cool stuff” to pique their interest. It’s almost not even fair having a job that awesome, but additionally it provides a wonderful opportunity to improve our method of creating agency and buy-in from our students. What better way to impact their time here than to have them involved and active on campus? Create a true sense of community and the rest will take care of itself!
  4. Make the most of the opportunity – I’m sorry but anytime I get flown 2000 miles across the country for work, I’m going to cash in on some sweet vacation time. Having never been to Boston, it seemed like a very appropriate decision. Three days spent in one of the most historical cities in America was freaking awesome, even more so because I’m a Revolutionary War history buff. It was quite the opportunity to both present at a conference AND explore New England.
  5. Icing on the cake – The real crowning moment of the entire adventure was finding out that not only did we kill our presentation but that the same one was accepted to the NASPA National Convention in Phoenix for March 2012!! Talk about exciting! It’s one thing to present at a conference of 170 people, it’s another to present at a conference with over 1000 presentation submissions, and ours was one of only a few selected. Never in a million years did I dream we’d be presenting in Phoenix, and now we’ll be heading down there to again rock the NASPA conference and show the U.S. what is going on in Nevada. It’s just been a year full of ridiculous adventures, and this is another layer in the cake. Going to be awesome!
  6. Baby steps? I think not… – In what seems to be an usual occurrence of events, we have gone from being presentation noobs to presenting at the national convention in one fell swoop. Seems like kind of a big deal. It’s quite overwhelming, really, and I don’t know what we’ve gotten ourselves into, but I know it’s going to be fantastic. Thinking back on my racing experiences, this is not that dissimilar to my shift from a half marathon to a full, or from an Olympic triathlon to a half Iron. I ran 13 miles to get my feet wet and prepare for 26.2, and I’ve spent years racing 30 miles so that I could bump it up to 70.3 and compete with the bad-asses. Our Rhode Island presentation was just the warm up round for the big leagues, and our initiation into a new and exciting realm.

And so October has failed to disappoint or be boring, and in turn resulted in many new experiences, a wonderful break from the Reno Reality, and has setup the last two months of the year to be equally awesome.

What was your first professional breakthrough?

Picture credit 1.


  1. My first professional breakthrough was when I presented a paper at an inter-national convention of about 1200 people. I presented a paper on how to organize and run a regional conference (Seven Steps for Sponsoring Successful Seminars and Symposiums. The presentation was packed with useful OTJ tips on how to organize and run such a conference and had a 40-page handout of checklists (which I still have today).

    I not only won the Outstanding Paper Award out of 5-6 dozen, but it the first-ever Outstanding Paper Award granted by that association. You can bet that this honor is STILL listed on my resume.

    I don’t take credit for it because it wasn’t that terrific; I give glory to God for the grace shown me.

    It sure taught me to get and stay involved in my profession which I did that for 30 years or so. The business connections have been great especially when I needed a job—many people knew my name and some of what I was capable of doing.

    The other advantage was making friends with many people from all over the world and learning much about people, what it means to be on a Board of Directors and all kinds of other lessons.

    So, young man, I urge you to get involved with some local professional association that has national- or international- connections.

    It will pay off many-fold.

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