Sunday, October 2, 2011

Speaking of speaking....

I spoke at an Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference yesterday. My slot was 4:15, the last 15 minutes of a long day of many speakers. By 10AM all the points of my talk had already been covered, much more eloquently and thoughtfully by talented people from the industry. Sometimes you get what you get, a tired audience in a half filled auditorium, who doesn't know you from Adam. I screwed my chipperness to the sticking point and was perky as possible. (And hopefully not too boring or annoying.)

A month ago I would have probably melted into a puddle of goo, but after traveling for two weeks and non stop speaking it wasn't a completely daunting task. I've learned a lot from people who are actually good at speaking. The wonderhub, for example, is an incredible speaker. I envy his ease in front of an audience. He gets the info over and makes people laugh, making learning fun. (He used to do stand up comedy.)

I've also learned a lot from my studio mates at Studio Five.

J. H. Everett has years of diverse experience from speaking at Christ Church College to musical theater.  Years of teaching at the university level has given him a polish an the ability to communicate complex ideas clearly. 

Lesson learned = Prepare your speech with a beginning middle and end and tailor it to your audience.

 Bob Singer is basically a shy person, a behind the scenes kind of of guy... that is until you get him in front of a drawing board. Then the magic happens. He is a super star. Watching him draw is like being at the Olympics and seeing the figure skaters.

Lesson learned = Showcase your superpowers.

Kim Dwinell and J.R. Johnson gave a talk at the University of SF on storyboards and sequential storytelling. Kim worked as a Disney animator on Mulan and Hercules. She does hilarious voices when she is teaching. J.R. has years of art director street cred and is great at breaking down ideas into bite sized steps. 

Lesson learned = Experience makes you a better teacher.

 One of the presentations I did was with Bob for a crowd of kids. We made monster posters. these photos don't do the art justice. With Bob drawing pictures of Scoobie Doo and talking about monster design we hit a home run. I showed the kids how to make letters out of a strip of paper to do their typography. 

Lesson learned = Surrounding yourself with talented people makes you look good.


 Another talk I did was on "Growing Your Creativity" to group of college art students. I gave them five minute challenges like, "make the tallest structure you can from a single piece of paper" Here's the winning piece....

Lesson learned = A successful presentation also means interaction. We learn by doing.

Andy Michell, Katie McDee and Alice Provensen couldn't make it up to San Francisco for the trip. Hopefully next time. Andy wrote a wonderful speech for the tour that I will share in my next post. Lesson learned = Do what you can. It may be more than you think.

So I'm actually looking forward to  the next chance to speak and teach. The idea of speaking in front of a large group isn't as formidable as it was a month ago. Bring it on!



“You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.”  ~ John Ford 


  1. I wish I were still teaching teachers. I would copy this and present it, just as it is. You so much have the heart and soul of a teacher - it just flows into everything you do.

  2. Thanks, Marcia. So do you! I would have loved to sat in on one of your classes.


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