Yesterday a major milestone happened as I hit career presentation 300! I never imagined in my life achieving such a major goal. However, I don't want to talk about presentation 300 but rather the one earlier in the day.
Presentation #299 was held at a middle school and once again, as with the presentation a week ago Monday, I thought I was going to be speaking to just one class. I was mistaken though as it wasn't to a class, or a grade, but rather the entire school! All 550 students!
I've given five or six school presentations now and to be honest there are no nerves now. As the students and faculty were filing into the gym I was talking to a TouchPoint coworker and was rather calm. Although I must say that I lost track of time and when I looked towards the bleachers, well, I could try to put into words what it looked like but I think this picture will do better.
Quite the crowd, wouldn't you say? As I saw this I did have a hint of nerves, but not of public speaking but of the power I hoped my words would have. Of all 300 presentations I have done, this was now my largest audience for which I was the sole presenter. I had one shot to reach this audience. I didn't want to blow this opportunity to bring autism awareness and understanding to such a large group.
I planned on the format which has worked in the past with students and that is a 20-30 minute segment which is a non-PowerPoint version of my 90 minute presentation. After that I open the floor for questions for the remaining time. As I said, I've given 5 or 6 of these and each time the staff of the school have told me how amazing it is that I keep the students' attention. I was just hoping that those weren't a fluke and that once again magic would happen.
There have been so many times over this blog that I have mentioned that I gave my best presentation, but I think yesterday in front of a packed gymnasium I gave a presentation of a lifetime. I have never felt more comfortable and confident in front of students and my energy level, timing, and delivery was as perfect as I could be. I worked the floor and by the silence in the room I knew I was being heard.
As for the questions and answers period; once again the magic happened. It isn't a fluke! Every presentation I have given to students the amazing questions always happen. It was actually hard to keep up with them because I wanted to spread the questions out among the age groups but what could I do when no less than 50 hands were up at a time? Maybe someday I'll find a way to illustrate this, but I wish you could, wherever you are where you are reading this, to experience this question segment. For me, it gives me so much hope for the future! I realize I could make this blog post about my 300th post because that is a major deal for me, but nothing can compare to reaching those who will someday run this world. Yes, I wish you could experience the energy in the way the questions are asked. Just writing about it brings tears to my eyes.
Each presentation I've given to students time seems to fly way too fast. I looked over to the principal who gave me the signal for two more questions. Once those were finished it was over, but not without the loudest applause I have ever received along with cheers and foot stomps of the bleachers. Another magical hour had come to an end. I walked over to where my coworker was and as the students filed out several students asked me questions and one even said, "Sir, you're amazing!" I thought to myself how odd life can turn out. When I was that age school was a place that I felt as if I were drowning and now I can make an impact the size of which is, perhaps, unmeasurable.
After all had left and the gym had become just an empty room once more the principal led us to where my presentation was going to be that night and walking the hall towards it there were many comments from students thanking me. When we got to the library a student entering the gym asked me, "Would you say having Asperger Syndrome is awesome?" With a smile I replied, "At first I didn't think so, but knowing what I know now it most certainly is awesome and I wouldn't change a thing about me." He gave a big smile and said, "Thank you!"
So yes, 300 happened last night, and every presentation I give probably has an impact, but there was something special, magical, and unique about #299. I think back to my first school presentation last year in how I sort of protested doing such a thing. It was somewhat selfish, but I didn't think my words would matter, or be understood. I mean, who am I to speak to students? But now I want more of those! I've said this several times over the past few weeks, but there is an unmistakable thirst for knowledge and I hope, in my next 300 presentations, I have more chances to make an impact and a lasting impression as I did for presentation #299.