Passion and Presentation

Updated: Mar 1 2008 Garr Reynolds has written on many topics that strike a chord with me. This from his blog Presentation Zen extends something that I touch on in the last couple of paragraphs of my post from 30 November 2007. This is how he Reynolds finishes his post Please read it all. It’s well …. inspirational.
Inspiration Matters

(1) Never apologize for your enthusiasm, passion, or vision.
(2) Never apologize for being inspired by another human being.
(3) Seek out inspiration (don’t wait for it).
(4) Inspire others by sharing your talents and time.
(5) And no matter what: Don’t let the bozos grind you down, ever.

The world needs more inspiration, not less. Speaking is not the only way to inspire—actions inspire too, often more—but leaders know how to inspire with both words and action.

This is the last for now in a series of three recent reflections on presentations. I’ve just come off an intensive conference schedule, where the consumption of presentations is the order of the day. It takes a robust constitution to sit and consume, and a focussed approach to deliver the goods to an audience, which hour by hour is finding it harder and harder to concentrate … and to remember what’s being said. Heck, even my handwriting fell apart by day 3.

Much has been written here and elsewhere on the design and delivery of the slideshow accompaniment of a presentation. These are almost now de rigeur during presentations, and I know that many of our students have come to expect the ‘power point presentation’ to be available as ‘lecture notes.’ I’m not going into this right now; I certainly do not believe that a slideshow has to be part of any presentation, though it is certainly an extremely useful way to generate interest and deliver material to an audience. This time, I want to talk about the human factor in the equation, which for me will always be the most important.

Basics: audience contact, being seen, being heard. Probably no excuses these days and certainly not at this conference for omissions on the above. The audience were well lit as were the presenters, and the auditorium was a nice size, so making eye-contact … itself a key part of personal communication strategies … was possible. Presenters were hooked up via a great mic system being EQd by a top team of techs, so no problems there either. If you can’t be seen or heard, or don’t make an attempt to contact your audience, kiss the learning experience goodbye. But basics aside, what works, what doesn’t? It’s the way the presenters engage with their topic and then present it. Call it the passion factor if you like. The audience will get it, if you get it. Get it?

Seriously, I have sat through many lectures and presentations often unrelated to my own discipline field, in which the engagement by the presenter with the material was what made the session for me. I remembered often how, not what a person has said, and it was his or her passion for the topic that sparked a reaction in me. Did I always gallop away to read up on quantum physics or colonial history? Not necessarily … but it got my imagination spinning on something not unrelated to how people engage with learning and communicate their humanity. And yes, sometimes I even read further on the topic. When it is related to my field, then it’s more than mere consumption … a good presentation is going to have an exponential effect on my learning.

So the presentations that work and have worked for me … even when the presenter read a paper (and not very well … too fast, no ‘keying’ of words and phrases to guide my listening) with head down, and little eye-contact … were those infused with a passion or deep felt care for the subject. These are the presentations I recall. Yes, I enjoy the slick slides, and all the paraphenalia of 21st century media that can back you up, but gimme the person and the passion at the core every time.

Author: Kate Wilson

Actor, director, teacher, dabbler with paint, serial traveller.

2 thoughts on “Passion and Presentation”

  1. I agree passion makes such a difference and I can totally feel for you going through the conference circuit. I find it such a struggle now with conferences because the lack of interaction makes me power down which is hard for me.

    Another aspect I have been looking at is how to make the presentation actually last longer than the actual event. For my last one I gave them my mobile number and asked them to send me SMS on relating to information that wanted to know more about, but what I was not able to cover during my session.

  2. This conference created an interactive members’ area e.g., a blog for each presentation and for each member should they choose to use it. Each delegate had pages allocated, contact details were provided, and there was access to images and presentations for sharing. The hope by conference organisers is that this site will continue in developing a community of practice. From my experience of blog communities I suspect it will not last, but that one to one relationships made at the conference will foster further communication, new projects and interaction. Such is the nature of conferences, their capacity to renew and inspire, and the limited life of their ‘communities.’

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