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I gave the keynote this morning at a regional science fair. As I was getting ready today I told my wife that I had low expectations because the majority of students in the audience were middle-school students. Maybe I’m just remembering my own awkward middle school years, but I had it in my head that 13-year-olds were probably not going to be the most engaged audience at 9 a.m. on a Friday with a dude their father’s age talking to them.

Boy, was I wrong. Maybe it’s because they’re all extra bright science fair winners, but they were as locked in and as attentive as the college students I typically speak to. Fortunately, I walked onto stage thinking I needed to bring extra energy to brace myself for a potentially tough crowd. Instead, they were an easy crowd, but the extra energy I started with was a bonus and carried through the entirety of the 45 minutes I was on stage.

Right before going on stage for a talk I visualize connecting deeply with the audience and see them in my imagination enjoying the encounter. Whether the audience got much out of my talk or not today, I left satisfied that I had given them all I had. And I walked away physically tired* yet mentally energized about polishing this talk for the next few gigs I have coming up in the month ahead.

Here’s a PDF of my slides, and below is the “light table” view I was working on in Keynote. I treat my slides more like a souvenir of the talk. They won’t make much sense if you weren’t in the room for the presentation, and that’s the way it should be.

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*If you don’t feel tired, like “I need to sit down” tired, after giving a presentation, you probably didn’t put enough energy into it.