Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Putting passion on display

I like the way that one idea on the web can link you to another and then another and so on. And while it can eat up a lot of time, you often end up somewhere worthwhile.

I was scanning through some unread blog postings when I stumbled across a link to TED, a conference of 1000 thought leaders that happens in Monterey every year. I'm not even going to try to describe it. I suggest you click on the link above and explore it for yourself.

The presentation that I want to point you to is by Sir Ken Robinson, an expert on creativity in education. His presentation is deceptively simple.

He arrives on stage, with no slides and no notes. He just talks. He's witty. He tells wonderful stories and the audience loves him. But as he warms to his main thesis, which is that "Creativity is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status," you can feel his passion pulsing. His stories become more focussed and the intensity is palpable.

It's an extraordinary display of how to connect with an audience. Those of us who deliver presentations in our work will do well to watch the techniques he uses and consider how they might work in our own delivery.

Of course, there is no "right" way to connect with an audience. But in all the presentations I watch, it's always "passion" that makes the best ones work. We need to see it in the presentators. We need to hear it in their voices, see it in their slides, and watch it in their body language.

Mind you, standing on stage and delivering a lecture is not the only way to present. And with today's technology, most presentations use PowerPoint or KeyNote slides.

For many presentation, a good slide deck is mandatory. But learning how to use slides effectively is no less an art than effective speaking. If you're interested in exploring some of the best uses of slides, check out the Presentation Zen blog, where you will find plenty of examples and advice on the latest in using technology in your presentations.

And to see some of the classics of the trade, check out the best work of some people like Lawrence Lessig, or Dick Hardt or Steve Jobs at MacWorld 2006.

Your own presentation style will evolve, of course, as you sample the work of others and start integrating the "good stuff" into your own repertoire. That's the beauty of this new technology - how easily we can imitate. But the challenge is to move past imitation and creat our own unique style, full of the passion we need to be effective.

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