Last week, at three different presentations, I co-presented with another mom, Aaron’s Corrie (the young woman who provides community aide support to our family), a team leader in Inclusive Education and the Director of Professional Practice with the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association. I call this sharing the podium.
Over the past decade of public speaking as a Mom to various audiences, I’ve figured out that while having Sue present is great (and easy for me), using a collaborative presentation model is often more powerful.
Collaborative presenting means that I co-present with a clinician, or professional in the field. (If I’m lucky, I sometimes get to present with another parent or patient). This makes for a more well-rounded experience because it models collaboration – between parents and parents or parents and professionals. (Note: that is only if we get the opportunity to actually prepare the presentation together. That’s really key.)
Collaborative presenting add credibility to my words. I’m a layperson often speaking to a room full of highly educated and credentialed individuals. My B.A. in English doesn’t go very far in that crowd. Having one of the audience’s colleagues co-present with me helps to give me credibility, too.
It also helps my co-presenter reflect on their own practice, and how they’ve made a difference in a family or patient’s life and what their own philosophies are about patient centred care (in health) or collaboration with parents (in education). My co-presenter last Friday to the Pharmacy students told two fabulous stories about patient centred care from when he was in pharmacy practice. One involved always helping patients lost in the hospital corridors, and the other was about understanding a patient perspective. I think having a mentor talk about his own experiences (including the challenges and rewards) delivering patient centred care is crucial. It helped make it real for the students.
Having a co-presenter also makes me a better presenter. This ensures I don’t become complacent and just talk from a canned script. I have to work with my colleague to tailor words, and that’s a good thing. I can run speaking notes past them, and incorporate their suggestions. It is my Quality Assurance check (plus, everybody needs an editor or a fresh set of eyes on any kind of content). It keeps me on my toes. My co-presenter can also help me understand the audience more. And that makes me a better speaker.
Sharing the podium ensures that neither of us are dangling when we are asked questions, and we can help bail each other out if the questions get hard. I’ve only actually been heckled once, by a Geneticist, but thankfully I was presenting with another mom, and didn’t feel quite so alone up on the stage. (We both chose to not engage him and let the heckler heckle and say his peace – and then the audience handled him. I’ve learned that in situations like that, silence is golden).
My first question when I get asked to speak by a health professional is: do you want to present with me? If not, if they just want me, that’s OK too – but I work hard and meet with them to get an understanding of the audience, and what they want the key take-aways to be. I also ask: ‘what would you say if you were up there with me’ and use their wisdom to craft my words.
I’ve learned a lot over the past few years, standing on that stage and talking to an audience. My main lesson is that public speaking is about your audience; it isn’t about you. So I do whatever I can to supplement the message I’m trying to get across – and that can include sharing the limelight too.