Held up? Time to resource a presentation web library

Turning stuck-time into presentation research time

by Peter Watts

Technology used well can bring extra impact to your presentation.

Take a look at TED and you’ll find people using laptops, tablets, and phones in new ways to help them tell their stories.

The trick to using technology is to reach beyond PowerPoint. Start by watching some TED talks and pick up ideas about how people put digital devices to dynamic use.

On first glance you wonder how these individuals get their ideas. Then you explore and realize that the web is swimming with creative possibilities, and that brings me to the point of this blog.

You can use moments of unexpected downtime to go out there and build your library.

At this precise moment I’m in Johannesburg, sitting in a hotel lobby, and waiting for my hotel room to become available. Housekeeping are currently attempting to wrestle the existing occupant out of it before the cleaners can go in and I can finally take up residence.

The hotel has WiFi. I have my iPhone. In just a short time I’ve been able to find new inspirations on TED, some new resources on YouTube, and a couple of press cuttings that I can build into my South Africa presentations to give my content a fresh feel.

I’ve also located several resources that although not applicable to what I’ll be doing on this trip, I can file away for possible future use.

Once you start to find dynamic new toys to build into presentations, your next goal is to build them into the presentation structure.

Any web-derived resource, such as TEDTalk, will operate in the same way as an anecdote would. Its deployment needs to be planned:

  • How does it support your story?
  • How will you introduce it?
  • How will you integrate it’s message into your presentation once the video has finished?

Once you’ve built the resource into your structure, the next step is to build it into your style. If you’re not used to deploying web resources mid-presentation, take it slowly. Build in a single item and be successful with it. You can scale-up as your competence grows.

Finally, you need to become comfortable with the technology itself, and in particular with downloading the resources from the web directly onto your presentation device. Sure you can always run video live across WiFi, but WiFi has an unfortunate habit of running slowly when you least want it to.

So next time you find yourself with an unexpected delay and an Internet connection, go on a web-hunt and find new ideas.

Stories, anecdotes, and diversions

by Peter Watts

Anecdotes, stories, and diversions bring a presentation to life.

When we add something personal to a presentation, it is a gift from ourselves to the audience. It paints colour into our words, sharing our passion for the subject.

The secret is to not leave the anecdote to chance. Plan it carefully. Know at what point you are going to introduce it, and most importantly, ensure you know how to link back into the presentation afterwards.

This week I have had the privilege of working in Istanbul, and the even greater privilege of having a small portion of leisure time. During that day off, I found myself walking down one of the city’s principal streets.

All the usual suspects were there. Well known designer brands sat beside Starbucks outlets. Recognition of familiar branding gave me a feeling of being somewhere I knew. Rather like the main theme of a presentation it was easy to navigate.

Numerous smaller streets sat between the western chains. I took a diversion, and headed down one.

Familiar stores were replaced by street markets. The area around me had come to life. THIS was Istanbul. Like a good story or anecdote, my diversion bought me not just the colors of Istanbul, but it’s sounds, and smells, and textures, and tastes. All the senses engaged at once in a full memory locking experience.

I so much enjoyed my diversion, that I wandered further, following the twists and turns. My initial experience so pleasant that I was encouraged to wander deeper.

When we tell a story, the audience sits forward. Interest peeks. We are encouraged to keep going.

Before long, I became aware that the streets were becoming distinctly narrower and more neglected. Time to go back. The problem was that as I traced what I thought was my route back to the street, I realized that I was going in circles. I had passed the same fabric store three times. The store keeper was starting to recognize me. Hopelessly “lost tourist” had to be scrawled all over me.

If we haven’t planned a story thoroughly, before we know it, the walls can start closing in, and we struggle to find our way back to the main theme in a way that the audience start to recognize as a “lost presenter”!

I made it back to that main thoroughfare, and resumed my walk. But I was so disoriented by this point that I started walking in the wrong direction, and five minutes later found myself back-tracking in the heat over places I had already been.

If we become lost in an anecdote, we are so relieved to rejoin our main thread that we then become lost all over again.

My detour into the backstreets of Istanbul was the most memorable part of my day, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. In just the same way, a well placed story will be the most memorable part of your presentation.

For it to be a success though, make sure that you know how far into it you want to go, and have a clear idea of how to find your way back out.

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