Most people seem to have a fear of speaking in public and much more so when it’s infront of a large group of people. However, over the years, I’ve gotten lots of experience in public speaking. When I worked at Mcwane Science Center in Birmingham, Alabama I was part of the Education Department and my official title was Outreach Presenter. Presenter. This meant a big part of my job would be presenting… For a little over a year and a half, I gave educational presentations to the general public on a wide range of topics including, but not limited to: the states of matter, “exotic” animals, rat basketball (yes, actual rats playing basketball), the science of magic, chemical reactions, sea creatures, turtles, and geology. Sometimes I was presenting to small groups of museum visitors and other times I was presenting infront of large summer camp groups or in public libraries. I continued earning public speaking experience during my time at the University of Alabama, and practiced an incredible amount of formal public speaking during my time as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in Leeds, England. As an ambassadorial scholar, I gave talks in Rotary Clubs all over Yorkshire, and even had the chance to speak in Dublin, Ireland. Needless, to say, I’ve had my share of public speaking experiences, and I’d like to say I am comfortable speaking infront of a crowd. That is, when I am speaking in English…
Recently, I’ve had to practice some of my Spanish presentation skills as my co-worker Chris and I have travelled around Colombia presenting information about the 2012 CLIL Symposium, but our presentations have been limited to information about the event itself, and haven’t extended themselves into other academic areas of conversation. However, 2 weeks ago, my boss told me to send a proposal to speak at the II Encuentro de Bilingüismo: el uso de los medios y las nuevas tecnologías en la enseñanza-aprendizaje de las lenguas extranjeras (The 2nd Bilingualism Conference: The Use of Resources and New Technologies in the Teaching and Learning of Foreign Languages) hosted by el Ministerio de Educación Nacional de Colombia (Colombian National Education Ministry). A bit nervous about the possibility of having to give a real academic and formal presentation in Spanish, I went ahead and submitted a proposal about a project I did last semester with one of my Content-based English classes using blogs. After a few days, I heard I was accepted to present and it was confirmed that the presentation had to be given in 100% Spanish. I won’t deny it–I was a more than a bit nervous.
All of my previous public speaking experience seemed to be of no help in calming my nerves. For me, this seemed like a totally new arena of public speaking that was “all Greek to me.” Everyone assured me that my Spanish was amazing and that I had nothing to worry about, but that was really no consolation. In the days leading up to my presentation, I reviewed my PowerPoint a million times keeping in mind, as I tell my students, not to read off the PowerPoint slides themselves. I also checked and re-checked my presentation for grammatical or spelling errors, hoping to at least avert that type of embarassment.
When the day rolled around to present, I was so nervous I couldn’t eat. It was a shame, too, because the hotel I was staying at (Hotel Sheraton in Bogotá) hosts a delicious breakfast buffet that was included in my hotel costs. Oh well. When I arrived at the conference area, I was informed there had been some alterations to the schedule of events for that day. As I looked over the new schedule, I small wave of relief came over me as I saw I had been moved from 9am to 11:20am and from the main conference room to a smaller sub-room (as if presenting in Spanish weren’t nerve-racking enough, presenting in Spanish in a 200+ capicity room was producing a nervousness overload). When it came time to actually give my presentation–“Blogging: blogs en una clase de inglés basado en CLIL”– I calmed down (which tends to happen anytime I speak–any nerves vanish once I actually start talking). The presentation went well–everyone told me I did a great job and that the information I presented was interesting and informative. The MC of the event thanked me for my honesty, saying most people just talk about the impressive elements of their projects and forget to mention the glitches, setbacks, and failures as I had done in my presentation.
my presentation slides
It was definitely a learning experience, and a very good one. Being a university English professor in Colombia I don’t doubt that at some point in the future I will, again, present at a conference and if the presentation has to be done in Spanish I will be much more confident and hopefully be able to stomach breakfast pre-presentation giving 😉
While the main purpose of my trip to Bogotá was to give my presentation and attend the conference, my flight back to Barrranquilla wasn’t until Saturday afternoon, meaning I had Friday evening and Saturday morning to visit friends and “family” of mine in Bogotá. And, it just so happened that the weekend I was in Bogotá was the weekend of Amor y Amistad (love and friendship). This is a holiday very much like Valentine’s Day in the United States, but focuses on and celebrates not just romantic love, but friendships as well. Taking advantage of this, I tried to see as many friends as possible during my free time.
Before the conference had ended, some of our friends we met in England (who are Colombians) came by the hotel and had tea with me Thursday night. We talked for a good while, catching up on everything that had happened since the last time we saw each other in May, and they told me all about some really amazing new ideas they have for creating volunteer organizations in Bogotá.
As soon as the conference was over on Friday, I had lunch with a former co-worker of mine, Katie, who is now working with the British Council in Bogotá, who was also attending and presenting at the conference. Some small background information: The apartment Ele and I are currently living in was actually Katie’s apartment before she moved to Bogotá. It was great catching up with her and hearing about her new job and life in the city, as we hadn’t really talked since she moved last November.
On Friday night, some wonderful and very dear friends of mine and Ele’s took me to dinner at la Plaza de Andrés, a fantastic place to eat. There is a famous restaurant in Bogotá called Andrés Carnes de Res. A few years ago this company decided to expand and open la Plaza de Andrés and Andrés DC, among others. La Plaza de Andrés is designed to look like a local market, with different stands set up all around an open area with tables and chairs to eat at. Each stand serves different food–one sells seafood dishes, one sells fruit juices, one sells asados (chicken, beef, etc… cooked on the grill), another sells paisa dishes (bean related dishes from the coffee zone of Colombia), etc… It was incredible! Also adding to the atmosphere of the restaurant was the ceiling which was decorated with amazing vintage signs, posters, neon signs, and other memorabilia; the countertops of the stands also added an extra oomph and were designed with flattened beer and soda tops. Can you tell I really liked the place? If you’re in Bogotá, definitely check it out!
La Plaza de Andrés with my friends
at the entrance to La Plaza de Andrés
Also on Friday, before going to eat, I had the chance to visit Ele’s mom for a while. While she’s not blood family to me, she is definitely family and it was wonderful to share some time with her. I always enjoy her company, and I will always be grateful for all of the kindness and warmth she showed me during my semester abroad in Bogotá in 2008. She became and remains the matriarch of my Colombian family and will always be a very special person to me.
After a night of freezing (it was exceptionally cold for Bogotá on Thursday and Friday), on Saturday morning, I went to breakfast with two of Ele’s closest and oldest friends, who have become very special friends of mine as well. We walked from my hotel to a nearby mall, ate breakfast together, and continued chatting over coffee until it was time for me to pick up my bags and head ot the airport.
While I didn’t get to visit with all of my friends in Bogotá, I am grateful to have had the time to celebrate Amor y Amistad with at least a few of them during my short stay.
view of Bogotá…