February 14, 2011

On presenting, anxiety, and moving forward

February 14, 2011 - Categories: speaking

I have four presentations on my calendar, spread over the next two months. They’re all on topics I’ve written about: two talks on networking, one talk on presentation tips, and one talk on Emacs. I should prepare the presentations over the next two weeks.

I catch myself procrastinating. And if I’m going to procrastinate by tidying or writing, I might as well turn my reflections to why I’m procrastinating, so I can figure it out and fix it.

The advantage of having a blog is that I can review what I felt and thought before. For example, in one of my earliest blog posts about public speaking, I wrote that I wanted to become a professional speaker. This was why:

I love sharing ideas with people. I love bringing my enthusiasm and my passion to a hall and infecting as many people as I can. I love learning about presentation techniques and fascinating ideas. I love getting people to think. Besides, speaking is a great way to get to meet other fascinating people. I’ve made friends and learned about opportunities at post-conference dinners.

Reading that, I feel something dormant stirring. There’s something about sharing my passion and being inspired by other people.

There are more posts in my archive. I wrote about reaching people in the back row. I wrote about dealing with stage fright by turning presentations into conversations. I wrote about keeping things fresh and shared the feedback I’d gotten from presentations.

I can also see myself changing. In October 2009, after an occasion that really showed me the contrast between face-to-face presentations and the reach of online ones, I started thinking about how and when to decline invitations to speak. In March 2010, preparing for another presentation, I found myself reflecting on what I was missing from face-to-face presentations.

Maybe I can find a new equilibrium. I think it’s a combination of factors, and I’m going to think about them for a bit because it’s useful to understand a challenge before you use its force against it, turn it flat on its back, and tickle it into submission.


Higher costs lead to higher standards. With the shift of many presentations to virtual channels, the rise of blogs, Slideshare, and recorded presentations as alternative ways of sharing information, tighter travel restrictions at work, and a flourishing life at home, I’m much less inclined to travel to conferences myself. The relative opportunity cost has increased. I project my higher standards onto other participants, and become more anxious about delivering enough value to justify the time and expense.

As I get better at writing and occasionally illustrating my thoughts, I become more impatient with presentations. Presentations take more time to prepare and more time to deliver. They are not as searchable or as linkable as text. Their main benefits are that they are more engaging than plain text or static illustrations, and they can reach a different audience – people who prefer listening to reading, for example.

Unlike blog posts or stand-alone slide decks, presentations have deadlines, expectations, and potentially mixed reception. I can postpone writing about something, but I can’t back out of a commitment to speak. I promise something with the abstract and I’m not sure if I can deliver. If I write a blog post that offers little value to people, they can simply move on. If I give a presentation that people are too polite to walk out of, I not only take an hour of their life but make them miss the opportunity to hear a better speaker.

Then there are changing comparisons. In a world filled with TED and Ignite and all sorts of great talks available through Youtube, beautiful slides on Slideshare, and whatnot, it’s hard to put together something without feeling like a nattering newbie.


And now that I’ve got that all written down, I can see that it doesn’t make sense. The thing that trumps all of that hasn’t changed: I’m moved to speak and connect with other people because I want to help them make a change in their life and because I’m curious about what I can learn from them too.

I tell myself sometimes that I come up with presentations because other people ask me to, or because I want to learn about something myself. But even the things I already know–have struggled with, have come to understand, still continue to explore– those are already worth sharing.

I’ll experiment with a few changes. I’m going to try speaking with minimal or no slides, which will force me to be more vivid and memorable in speech. I may choose some topics to focus on, and see if invitations and speaking opportunities can align with those. I might illustrate if inspiration strikes, but not by default.

For my upcoming presentations, I just need to dig deeper and find the core message I have to share. With that, all the rest of the words and images will flow.


Writing about all of that seems to be working. I could hardly get to sleep last night thanks to all the presentation ideas running through my head…

More about getting 27″ washers and dryers down 26″ hallways

February 14, 2011 - Categories: life

Flora writes:

found your blog googling ’27″ washer dryer 26″ hallway’ and am in
awe of your story about disassembling and reassembling your LG washer
and dryer. We’re currently dealing with a similar situation. I won’t
bore you with the details but basically, we decided to buy a Samsung
laundry pair because, in the store, both machines measured 26 3/4
inches and our staircase is 26 3/4 inches at most. We tried getting
them delivered and met some very rude and condescending delivery
people who were not cooperative at all. They wouldn’t even try getting
the machines through the first door which was 27 1/4 inches wide. They
took the machines back and now we’re faced with the decision to get
them redelivered or returning them and beating our dirty clothes on
rocks (or something). I was wondering if you could tell me a bit more
about your experiences with disassembling your machines. Was it really
difficult? Do you know if there are professional technicians who would
do that kind of work for people like me? Did you find the service
manuals really helpful? I imagine that this isn’t the first time this
has happened to people so I wish there was more of a support system
out there for those of us with horizontally challenged hallways and
stairways.

From Appliance adventures

Oh dear. Yes, that is a challenge. As you can imagine, disassembling a machine and squeezing it down a narrow hallway will void your warranty and rough up the hallway, so it can be a tough decision to make. We decided to go for it because we had the budget for an experiment like that and we preferred to take the risk instead of spending time and money on either coin laundry or plumbing renovations, but your mileage may vary. This is not professional advice, so always exercise your judgment.

When we were thinking of doing this, we didn’t know any appliance repairers, but you might want to call around. Surely there must be people who are happy to do this for a fee. =) If you need to do it yourself:

Look for the service manuals for the washer and dryer you want to get or you want to buy. This may take some digging around because there are plenty of sites that will charge you a fee for the service manual, but you may be able to get it for free. If you don’t find the one for your exact model, you might find one for a similar model. Make sure you get a service manual that shows disassembly, not just a user’s manual that describes how to operate the machine. Also make sure you have a pair of work gloves with good grip, lots of things you can label and put screws into, and all the tools you’ll need, such as screwdrivers, clamps, and wrenches.

Take care when lifting the machines. A dolly can be very helpful. Lift it with another person. Gloves can help, too. You may need to take it out of the box in order to get it through the door. If so, look at your doors and corridors for anything that might get in the way, and remove them if possible. (We scratched the front of our washing machine with the door closer we’d forgotten to remove.) Think about the more scratchable sides when planning how to carry the machines in, and make sure that the path to your intermediate disassembly area is clear.

Confirm the machine turns on before you disassemble it. If your machine is dead on arrival, you want to know before you void the warranty.

Follow the instructions for disassembling. Read and understand all the instructions before you start. Make sure the machine is unplugged. Take lots of pictures. Label all the containers you use for storing screws. Label any wires you unplug. We used plastic containers for screws and masking tape for wires, writing down positions with a black marker. Wear the gloves whenever possible. There can be lots of sharp edges inside a machine, where they don’t expect anyone but trained technicians to poke around. You can bring parts down separately. This also makes it easier to move the machine down.

You may need to squeeze the chassis in order to get it through your narrow hallways. Remove trim that might get in the way. Consider taking out drywall. Expect that the paint will be scraped, and that the machine will also get a bit scratched. If it’s no longer square once it gets to the laundry room, hammer or nudge it into being square again.

Reverse the instructions in order to assemble the machine again. Hook everything up. Plug in the machine and see if it starts up. If it doesn’t, you may have an expensive paperweight. Sorry.

Run a small load or run through the test cycle in order to confirm that things work. Look for signs of leaks or missed connections, and be ready to turn the machine off just in case.

From Appliance adventures

W- says that it really helped that he disassembled the broken washing machine in order to get it out of the laundry room. The service manuals I found online were fantastic, too, with clear, step-by-step instructions and diagrams. Sometimes it was hard to find the part they were referring to because we didn’t know what it looked like, but going back and forth between close-up diagrams and the exploded parts list solved the problem.

Plan for this taking at least a weekend, and keep kids and pets away.

The good news is that if you successfully manage to get your laundry pair through your hallway and down your stairs, laundry becomes a whole new experience. We laugh about the laundry adventure whenever we do a load, and I still can’t get over how quiet the new machines are compared to the ones we had before. Is it weird that laundry is one of my favourite parts of the weekend?

Good luck!

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2011-02-14 Mon 08:28