Feeding Bed Bugs in the Big Easy

When people hear “New Orleans,” many things may come to mind – Hurricane Katrina, Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. But lately, when I have thought of the Big Easy, my mind instantly has drifted to bed bugs.

When I recently touched down in New Orleans I wasn’t headed for Bourbon Street, I was attending the National Apartment Association (NAA) Education Conference. NAA does a lot more than just manage an exhibit hall, they educate. And education is what brought me to the city.

For the past several months I have had the privilege of working with our client Orkin, specifically Technical Director Dr. Ron Harrison, to prepare for a speaking presentation at the Education Conference. While the mainstream public is not regularly exposed to bed bugs, the hospitality and apartment industries are already fed up with these bloodsuckers.

On my only night in New Orleans before the Conference, I enjoyed a Cajun culinary experience – taking in an old restaurant’s architecture, lending an ear to the talented musician playing in the background and savoring my jambalaya. What I didn’t know was that I would soon encounter another city visitor – the dreaded bed bug – enjoying a meal just as much as me.

Dr. Harrison solicited three volunteers from the conference to allow a bed bug to feast on their arms. The pictures with this post are from that feeding session.

As I watched the volunteers I couldn’t help but laugh and realize that when it comes to presenting, there aren’t many rules. But a few guidelines can get a speaker off to the right start and through a topic as quirky as bed bugs:

  1. Be prepared. Familiarizing yourself with a presentation is undoubtedly the most important thing you can do to ensure success. They say “practice makes perfect” because it’s true. I’ve worked with Dr. Harrison on a series of webinars using a similar presentation. Already an engaging speaker, his comfort level was high and he was even able to anticipate questions and reactions from the audience due to our prior run-throughs.

  1. Stand up and project. The PowerPoint might be projected on the screen but is the speaker projecting him or herself? Standing up and having the freedom to move around grabs the attention of the audience. There’s no need to hide behind a podium – use a lavaliere microphone to start moving. Your listeners will see you as more accessible and are more likely to ask questions.

  1. Engage the audience. This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many speakers get wrapped-up in their presentation and forget who they’re talking to. We sprinkled question slides throughout the presentation relating to previous content. These slides allowed the audience to think on their own and participate. The Q&A break was a good time to take similar questions from the audience so they weren’t all saved for the end – a common technique that doesn’t always need to be followed.

  1. Don’t be afraid to tell a joke. Many times speakers feel they need to be formal. Some situations do call for a more buttoned-up approach, so assess your presentation accordingly. But remember that even the President uses this technique, and you can’t get any more formal than that. Dr. Harrison’s comfort with the presentation allowed him to tell a few jokes, which made the audience relaxed and created a safe atmosphere to share and ask questions.

  1. Admit you’re not the expert. I bet you’re wondering where this is going. While a speaker is typically presenting on a topic because they are the given expert, sometimes there might be questions you just don’t know. It’s better to be honest than attempt to address something out of your knowledge base. When detailed questions of litigation arose during the bed bug presentation, Dr. Harrison passed it back to the attendees. As property managers they had direct experience with the issue and could provide tips and information to their colleagues.