2 Effective Tactics for Conferences

The other day, I left home somewhere around 9 am. My cat was sitting on my bed right in the spot where I like to sleep, kind of staring at me with those ‘have fun at work’ eyes. I got back home around 9 30 pm and there she was, in the same spot. ‘Oh back so soon? Where did the time go?”

Avery: “Are you SURE you can’t skip work and stay with me?”

Where DID the time go? I’m entitled to ask annoying, unanswerable questions and complain  because Bodies Never Lie is entering the ‘terrible two’s as it is my second anniversary (minus a few month hiatus back in 2010/11) .This right here also marks post number 200. SOmetimes I think these milestones just serve as a way of measuring change. Where were you a year ago, a month ago, a week ago, an hour ago?

A year ago I was here in St. Louis, ready to put away my pointe shoes, my Dad was still here, and I had  no idea what I was going to do with myself. An hour ago, i was meeting with a performance group about a…thing we’re doing soon. I can say it involves costumes, music, and pizza boxes.  More on that later.

A week ago, I was still riding high from the weekend and the Regional Arts Commission ‘Rustbelt to Artist Belt’ convening and the FREDtalksa take-off on the ‘TED talks’ program which celebrates innovative and interesting ideas surrounding creativity and community.  There were  presentations from people from around the St. Louis and surrounding MidWest areas- mostly talking about projects or organizations that do things like reclaim public performance space with free happenings, rediscovering the value of unprotected architecture, connecting the active people of St. Louis through a network of censors that detect in-use technology such as twitter to show where the population of the city is hanging out. (Hey, lots of people at so-and-so cafe, oh cool there’s a live jazz show!) Ideas reached into community, productivity, and positive activity.

The list of speakers and their topics/ organizations included:

Joan Lipkin: Why Bayard Rustin Just Might Be the Greatest Man You Never Heard Of

 Lyndsey Scott: Recalibrating Presence

Jessica Ruhlin: The Type One Project

Michael Allen: Pruitt Igoe Now

Jack Storey & Rick Stockburger: Saving Cities & Mega-Region Coalition

Dan Reus: Openly Disruptive

Kathleen Richert: An Instaconomy

Kara Holland: Reclaimed Places: Picnics

 Zoe Scharf & Matt Strom: Brain Drain: Light up and connect St. Louis

Mallory Nezam: StL Improv Anywhere

Speaker Michael Allen discussing Pruitt Igoe as MC Chris Clark looks on

The FREDtalks took place at the Chase Park Plaza in one of the private ballrooms. I was there to present a short description of ‘The Type One Project’ (what it entails, how I got the idea, who I was hoping to reach and the general message) and to perform a short excerpt.

The most effective talks in my opinion had one of these two key but contrasting features:

  1. An engaging, interesting, scandalous topic- Speaker Allen told the grim truth about Pruitt Igoe with passion and clarity. He supported the content with visuals that spoke for themselves. He let the content be the star and I still can’t shake the fascination, the concern from my mind.


2. An engaging, interesting, charming speaker- Lyndsey Scott told a personal story of travel and community with her unique ability to connect with the audience with little more than a slideshow of her personal (not professional) pictures and her words. If you care about the speaker, you care about what they’re saying.

It seems that the best presentations on art and community at these types of conferences are conducted by those who know if they rely on the product or the salesman more as the selling-point.

At this point in my life, I was much more comfortable in the dancing part of my presentation than the speaking. I wish the work would always speak for itself, but sometimes I guess it’s the artists job to declare the presence or importance or purpose of their art. And I intend to become better at both tactics for successful presentations.

I met some really cool people from the whole ordeal who have in turn, introduced me to various amazing fun, inspiring things to do here in the city. I met some Swing Dancers and I’m going to start learning how to Lindy Hop, I’m going to go on picnics in abandoned spaces, I’m going to perform with the St. Louis Improv Anywhere group- to name a few. I can’t believe all this stuff was going on around me and I had never even heard of most of it.

A year ago I was  not enthusiastic about being in St. Louis. I didn’t think there was much here for me. I’m so glad I’ve opened my eyes.

Poets.org is also celebrating national poetry month with their ‘poem-a-day’ series. The director and Founder of StL Improv Anywhere, Mallory, sent this one to me:

The Dancers Inherit the Party
by Ian Hamilton Finlay

When I have talked for an hour I feel lousy—
Not so when I have danced for an hour:
The dancers inherit the party
While the talkers wear themselves out and
           sit in corners alone, and glower.

Look for me on the dance floor, carpet or marley, – passing away time and milestones, losing my shorts- inheriting the party. xo- Jess

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