Sunday, April 22, 2018

NCECA Pittsburgh Day 2: Blinc 20:20 with pictures of cats and cups

Thursday, my second full day at NCECA in Pittsburgh, was also the day of my second presentation, in Blinc 20:20, but I have to rewind to the previous day to give a full account of my experience with this presentation.

First Amendment Bulbs at Yakima Maker Space

On Wednesday morning I had a scheduled appointment in the Presenter Prep Room room to make sure the images in my Powerpoint were in order and played correctly. I was required to send in the Powerpoint about a month earlier, but I think this meeting was an opportunity to make small changes if needed. We were supposed to sign up online a few weeks before our scheduled meeting.

Resist Bulbs at Yakima Maker Space

On Thursday morning, about an hour before my meeting (because I worry), I checked in to the conference. I was a bit worried because the day before on the plane I had gotten an email from NCECA telling me my membership was cancelled. I found this email to surprising given that I never pay my membership in years I don't go to the conference and because part what I understood to be the agreement with NCECA is that in return for doing my presentation they would pay/waive my conference registration and membership. 

donated cups at the NCECA scholarship cup show and sale

When I went to check in, I told the woman I was presenting so she handed me a badge, stuck a presenter's ribbon on it and removed the membership book that comes with the bag. (The bag has a bunch of ads for shows and vendors, a booklet with information about the conference and presenters, and a smaller booklet with maps and a schedule.) I argued with the woman that I was a member, since NCECA was supposed to pay my membership. She gave me a booklet so I'd leave her alone, but it seemed odd. Later, the women leading the other Topical Networking session in the same room as me were surprised that I had managed to get a presenter ribbon, since they hadn't gotten that when they checked in. I assume the paid presenters for the fancier talks are treated differently.

Donated cup (by Katie Bosely) at the NCECA scholarship cup show and sale.

Anyway, after checking in, I looked in the booklet for a listing for the Presenter Prep room, since I hadn't found it the day before in the NCECA app or in my email. When I couldn't find it, I went over to information. The student volunteer there didn't know anything about it, so she asked the older, more experienced volunteer who also didn't know anything about the room. Unfortunately the student really wanted to help and resisted my attempts to thank her for trying and just go look for it myself. After she looked in the booklet under vendors, exhibitions, maps, the schedule, and ads (I am not exaggerating), I finally extricated myself and just wandered around the convention center until I found it. The location was fairly central and easy to find if you were coming in from the official hotel, but I was staying in a different hotel and had come in from a direction.

donated cup (I didn't see a name) at the NCECA scholarship cup show and sale

Today, about a month after the conference, I was looking through my NCECA paperwork again and found the location of the Presenter Prep Room on the 2nd or 3rd page of one of my contracts under the 6th of 9 bullet points. I couldn't find the location in the email I had gotten from NCECA in Feb/March with the link to the sign-up tool, but I hadn't looked in the original contract. I should have read the contract more carefully, but it doesn't seem entirely unreasonable to include it in the email or let the info booth people know. When I found the location on Thursday morning, I made sure to mention it to the info booth student.

I found the room number today!

The powerpoint I needed to discuss in the Presenter Prep Room was basically just slides and the titles and contact information NCECA requested, so I didn't have any changes to make. I got to the room early, spoke with the man who was in charge of our presentations, discussed my Powerpoint with him, and was done. He adjusted the timing so that the images would advance on their own (I learned a new thing in Powerpoint) and then he asked me if everything looked good. 

video of the Blinc 20:20 presentations from NCECA (mine is third)

As I may have mentioned in my last post, my anxiety was cranked up to the highest level and my confidence (and patience) were fairly low. I told him that the Powerpoint was what I intended to present, but that all the images looked terrible and I didn't like any of my work anymore. He was nice about it and told me I'd do fine, which I appreciated. I asked if there was anything else I needed to go, thanked him, then headed out. Sounds like the dullest story every, right?

If I had brought a kitten to Pittsburgh I would have been more patient.

But that afternoon, after my Topical Networking presentation, I got an e-mail from NCECA scolding me for not going to my required Presenter Prep appointment. This email included the location of the Presenter Prep Room--they probably thought I couldn't find it. On a regular day, like today, I might read this very short e-mail, realize that a mistake was made and it wasn't mine, and reply accordingly. Today, in fact, I went back to see how rude that email was and discovered that it is about two lines long and not particularly rude. And, to forgive myself a little for my subsequent overreaction, my reply e-mail simply stated that I went to that meeting and included the name of the man with whom I had met. 

donated cups at the NCECA scholarship cup show and sale

My overreaction, luckily, happened mostly in private. I started a second email--one I didn't send--revealing my real feelings at the time: I couldn't figure out if I was mad that they screwed up or mad that I probably didn't check-in correctly. I figured not checking in meant being put on a permanent blacklist of people banned from presenting at NCECA, meant I'd lost my opportunity to present this year, and probably everyone hates me. Through my anxiety I was able to see that I shouldn't send this email, so deleted it and went back to the hotel to complain to my friend Nina.

work by Brian Giniewski at a gallery in Pittsburgh

That evening I got a reply from NCECA stating "Sorry for bothering you. We yelled at [the man I met with] for not moving it over to the 'done pile.'" I'm not sure why they needed to yell at the guy, but obviously everything was fine. I can see now that I was being ridiculous, but I'm at home in the company of an adorable kitten, so a lot of things look better today.

This kitten is learning to edit blog posts; "add a picture of this kitten right here"

With all the minor but consistent communication issues that seem to be a defining feature of the NCECA organization and/or conference, it shouldn't have been a surprise that the technology didn't initially work as promised on Thursday morning. The Blinc 20:20 format is meant to be a series of short, fast presentations by a variety of speakers. When we applied the format wasn't entirely clear, but after we applied NCECA emailed asking if we wanted to present in the "Pecha Kucha" format or if we needed more time. I said I could do whatever, and never did get a response back, but apparently that meant I was doing the 20 slides each for 20 seconds format. In the meeting the day before my images were each put on a 20 second timer.

Glaze running and pooling over a textured bowl by Lindsay Scypta
Also in the meeting the day before I was told that I would have a presenter's view of my images and the audience would see just the slide itself. Had I included notes in the presenter view, I would be able to see them. Presenter view in Powerpoint is great, but it usually doesn't work on the PCs I use at school, so I'm out of the habit of using it. I was happy to learn that I would be able to see the upcoming slide so I didn't have to just remember what was coming next. Seeing the current and upcoming slide in front of me made the presentation easier and more comfortable than I had anticipated before I got to Pittsburgh.

donated cup at the NCECA scholarship cup show and sale

Based on all we now know about NCECA, I'm sure we all can guess what comes next. The presenters mostly arrived early and were ready to go. We were the first event in the room that morning, so we had time to chat and discuss the plans. We were shown where the presenter view would be (on a large monitor in the seating area in front of the raised speaker's stage). The presenters were seated in order of who would be presenting first, second, etc. I think we all assumed that the tech folks in the back were checking the tech at the same time as others were checking in with an preparing the speakers.

donated cup at the NCECA scholarship cup show and sale

But, of course, when the first speaker went up to talk, she discovered that the presenter view screen wasn't working at all. It was just a blank screen, for seven long minutes. The first presenter pointed this out, but the show was rolling and her time was ticking, so she gave her presentation while looking awkwardly at the main screen that was off the stage, on the other side of the room, and almost level with her position. It was clearly awkward, but she did fine. The rest of us fretted a bit about how awkward it would be for us. Everyone was patient with her, knowing she had some tech issues, but their patience might wear thin.

donated cups at the NCECA scholarship cup show and sale

After the first speaker finished, the NCECA folks stopped the program and fixed the tech before bringing the next speaker up. I was happy to be the third speaker since I knew the tech was fixed, didn't have to go on right after it was fixed, and also I didn't have to wait nervously through as many presentations. My friend Nina took some video of my presentation, but I'm not sure I can bring myself to watch myself speak (shh, don't tell her). NCECA also recorded the presentations and put them up on their YouTube Channel. In the NCECA video (embedded above), the view is just the slides, not the speakers themselves.

donated cups at the NCECA scholarship cup show and sale
My presentation was fine. Not many people talked to me right afterwards, which was a bit of a disappointment, but several people stopped me throughout the rest of the day to thank me for leading my Topical Presentation or to mention this one. The one woman who sought me out right after the Blinc 20:20 wanted to scold me for going to an Indivisible meeting. I mentioned, at the start of my presentation, that I had tried to get involved in a number of ways and that was one I mentioned. I didn't mention that I hadn't continued to go after the first meeting (scheduling conflicts).
donated cup at the NCECA scholarship cup show and sale

The woman who didn't want me attending Indivisible meetings explained that I should be supporting existing activist groups led by women of color and that all the new groups started after 45 undermined the existing POC-led groups. Sigh. I didn't anticipate that as the salient feature of my presentation. The speaker immediately after me talked about race and the erasure of indigenous culture, which may have colored how my presentation was interpreted.

donated cup at the NCECA scholarship cup show and sals
The talks went really really fast. I knew a 7 minute presentation would be fast, since I had practiced it, but it felt much, much faster live in front of an audience. The name for the event, Blinc was apropos; it really did feel like a blink and it was over. The other presenters were mostly good, in fact only one really annoyed me at the time, but my annoy-o-meter was set a little higher than usual during the conference, so I may have enjoyed it another time. There were several talks that focused on processes. I particularly liked the work of the fifth speaker, Sarah Gross.

donated cup at the NCECA scholarship cup show and sale
I was surprised at how differently all the speakers approached the presentation. I had images of my work, a general idea of what I wanted to say and no notes. Some of the presenters had cards with notes of what to say. One speaker had every word written out, had looked up how many words can be said in 20 seconds, and had edited her talk down to precisely fit, word for word, in the time frame.

donated cup at the NCECA scholarship cup show and sale

I was also surprised that one of the speakers hadn't gone to the Presenters Prep room meeting the day before and wanted to make changes that morning. That presenter either didn't know about, or had arranged to work outside of the 20 second per slide format. The presentation seemed to go fine, but it was surprising to me, given how much I had worried about following the rules and sticking to the exact requirements.

donated cup at the NCECA scholarship cup show and sale

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