Friday, October 30, 2015

First Time Speaker

If you work in the Education Department at the World Bird Sanctuary then you will eventually be a speaker at our education programs.  I have just recently started speaking these programs.
Barnaby the Barn Owl landing on my glove during an Amazing Animal Encounter (photo: Linda Wibbenmeyer)

How do you prepare for this you may ask?  To begin with, I have been the handler in several Amazing Animal Encounters (our weekend programs at the World Bird Sanctuary from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend).  These programs are smaller than our full- length Raptor Awareness programs, but they are a great way to learn about the birds we fly and present.  I learned several facts and tips on presenting programs by listening to several Amazing Animal Encounters speakers while presenting the birds in these shows.  There is also a basic script that I was given to read over and learn my parts.

The next step is to start small. I presented my first Birdday Party at the WBS Visitor’s Center.  You present four different animals in a small setting.  This was great practice and the kids at the Birdday Party loved it (as did the adults)!  It really helped to boost my confidence, too.
The "Royal Falconers" at K.C. Renfaire, Kelsey McCord, Matt Levin and Paige Davis (photo: B. J. Talley)

As we come into fall the Renaissance Festival in Kansas City starts, and WBS presents programs as the Royal Falconers Theater each weekend.  Cathy Spahn, a WBS naturalist with many years’ experience, told me that on the second weekend she wanted me to be the speaker for a few of the shows.  These would be my first real presentations as a speaker. These shows are only a half hour long though, so they are good “stepping stone” programs.  I was a little nervous and a little excited.

I was still a little nervous about getting the timing down right when Paige Davis suggested I speak some of the same lines from our last Amazing Animal Encounters.  She suggested being the speaker for a few birds in a show, rather than the whole show, with some flyers and some non-flyers, so that I could get a feel for it and get some feedback from the other people helping in the show.  So the next day I received a bit of coaching before the program started, and then spoke for three of our birds. 

I learned during that first show that being the speaker is more than just talking.  You still have to remember to move about the stage when flying the birds.  I made sure to get that part right for the second show.  I received some great pointers after each of the programs to improve my role as the speaker.  I also felt much more ready for the following weekend at the Renaissance Festival.

As the day of my first full show began, Paige took the first show so that I could listen to her and get a feel for this particular setting.  At the Renaissance Faire we do four shows each day, and this weekend we had three speakers.  When my turn came up for the second show I briefly went over what I should be saying with Paige and Matt Levin, past WBS employee and current volunteer.  I took a deep breath and walked out on stage.  I introduced each bird as they came out and spoke about each of their species as they flew over the audience’s heads.  After they fly, each bird is walked between the aisles.  The birds did their part wonderfully which helped me to stay focused.  I introduced our last bird in the show (a Bald Eagle), then explained how the audience could hand their cash donations to our American Crow, Aesop, and the audience applauded!  I checked the clock, and my timing was perfect!  I had survived!!

After the program I got a few more tips and pointers, and I presented two more shows the following day.
Shadow, a beautiful Bateleur Eagle, was a new bird for me to handle (photo: Paige Davis)

About a week later, Paige and I presented three full Raptor Awareness programs at a campground for fifth graders.  This time it was a full length Raptor Awareness program which runs 45 to 50 minutes.  In these 3 shows we also had a bird that I had never met, let alone spoken about.  We brought Shadow, the Bateleur Eagle, for our finale.  Paige spoke the first two programs so that I could learn all about Shadow as a bird and a species.  The final program started and I introduced our first bird.  The program went great, and the kids loved it!  I got it to 47 minutes and then another few minutes for questions.  Perfect!  It was my best program to date.

I look forward to speaking many more programs and learning about more of our birds as I continue to work for the World Bird Sanctuary.

Submitted by Kelsey McCord, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

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