Welcome to the club. You have raised your first monarchs. While there is so much more to learn, you’ve picked up a lot, and you are exploding to share. In fact, your friends may have been encouraging you to talk at local schools, clubs, retirement residences and libraries.
You may have taken enough photos to put together your own slide show. I’m happy to give you mine, together with a script. It includes the whole life cycle, predators, butterfly gardening, Mexico, and how people can help. Just write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know whether you would like it in Power Point or Keynote.
The first thing you need is the confidence to proceed. If you have raised a single monarch, you know more than just about everyone in your audience. You need only tell your story, rave about your experience, put on the power point and follow the script. You will be a local hero, while saving the world.
Here are a few tips to make your presentation dynamic and memorable.
1. Bring whatever specimens you have. Bring a variety of rearing containers. Take the lids off when it is safe, to let people get up close and personal with your caterpillars. They will remember this. Invite the audience to explore them before and after the presentation. Older groups do not want to leave their seats. Pass your containers around.
2. Dress up. Pick up a monarch t-shirt at monarchwatch.org, or wear your own favorite. Wear monarch wings and anything else monarch related. People notice my jewelry, socks and shoes, all covered in monarchs. My shorts or pants are orange, black, or white.
2. Connect with your audience. Chat with people before the presentation. Tell them a story about how you got into raising monarchs, and a brief biography. They won’t really listen to you if they don’t know who you are.
3. Use the microphone, properly. You may not need it for a small school group, but for most other situations, it will really help. Have a friend signal you if you are too close or too far from the mike, or keep turning your head away from it. It’s OK to stop for a second to correct what could ruin an otherwise great presentation.
3. Explode with excitement. Over do it. Wave your hands around. Raise and lower your voice. Tell them how excited you are to be speaking to them. Tease them with an overview of what you are about to tell them. Before it’s over, people should think you’re a bit crazy.
4. Use stories and humor. Did you accidentally throw your caterpillars in the garbage? Did they escape? Did you miss the winning goal because you were waiting for your caterpillar to pupate?
5. Keep it short. Don’t lose them at the end by going on for too long or answering too many questions. Cut it off at 30 to 45 minutes depending on the crowd and its mood. Tell them you’ll be staying around to answer any other questions privately.
A few don’ts.
6. Don’t apologize. Don’t disappoint your audience by telling them what you forgot to bring, or the photo you just missed. And don’t apologize for not being an expert in everything.
7. Avoid verbal fossils. Practice your presentation to eliminate repetitive meaningless words, like uh, so, again, um, and like.
8. Avoid tangents. You want to dramatize your information with stories, while staying on point. ‘I had been scouring the ditches looking for caterpillars for 3 hours on a 90 degree day when I came across these aphids with wings’. Then go on to talk a little bit about aphids. Your audience does not want to hear that you were visiting your Aunt Mary in Beanstown, and that Aunt Mary makes the best pie in the state.
9. Avoid preamble. At the start of your presentation, your audience wants to hear how excited you are to have the opportunity to address them, and how well qualified you are. They don’t need to know that you got lost three times on the way then had to Facetime your dog because he was missing you so much.
10. Don’t try to answer a question you don’t know the answer to. Thank them for question, and perhaps congratulate them for stumping you. Mention that you’ll be sure to look that up when you get home. Then throw the question back to the audience. More than half the time, someone will know the answer.
- Print yourself a business card at vistaprint.com. Choose a monarch template and add your contact information, so people can contact you with questions, or to book you for another speaking engagement.
- Interact with your audience as if you are speaking directing to each person. Instead of ‘Has anyone got milkweed in their garden?’, say ‘Put your hand up if you have milkweed in your garden.’
- Have a really easy quiz at the end, just one or two questions. I like to hold up my monarch puppet, and ask them so shout out if it is a girl or a boy. They will be so pleased with themselves for remembering.
It’s time to call your local retired teachers club, girl and boy scouts, and anyone else who will listen. If not now, when?