Back in October, I wrote a post about presentations, citing a book I'm reading, Presentation Secrets by Alexei Kapterev. One thing I love about this book is its focus on storytelling. Everything in life is a story and if you can learn how to be a great storyteller, you can do anything. IMBO
Today I want to focus on Chapter 2 of the book: "The Story's Focus."
The major take away here is that you must focus on just one idea. Kapterev writes, "All great presentations can be distilled into one idea, and it's not always the same idea the author started with. The process of creating the presentation can transform the idea. So prepare for change, but start with an initial idea."
I bet a lot of you are thinking, "Of course, you start with an idea. One idea. I'm presenting at xyz conference in two months on photography. That's my idea."
But, will you condense that into one idea about photography or are you going to cover everything there is to know about photography? The goal is to ask yourself what you want the audience "to do" after you're done presenting. Do you want them to take better pictures overall? Or, better pictures for their blog? It's not the same, is it?
Do you want the audience to respect the process of creating beautiful pictures, or just learn how to optimize for the web? Do you want them to rush out and buy your book – which has 12 chapters and teaches far more in those 340 pages than you can teach in one presentation?
Here's a good question: what does the audience want to happen? This is important because you must understand the audience if you expect to reach them. You must find a way to relate to them, if you expect them to do whatever it is you want them to do. You can't tell the story of photography to people expecting to hear the story of pizza. Well, you could, but hearing a story about how to photograph pizza is not going to inspire people hoping to hear about how to make pizza. That means asking, up front, who will be attending the conference (at which you're speaking)?
Kapterev uses this chapter to explain "recall" and "impact" which are two major pieces of any presentation. "Recall is whether people remember what they've been told," he writes. "Impact is whether they act upon what they've been told."
The goal of any presentation, he tells the reader, is to impact the audience. "Give your audience the reason to act, as you want them to act-and nothing else," he tells us. The only way to do this is to involve them in the presentation. "Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand," Kapterev cites an old Chinese proverb.
I could write volumes on just this chapter but I urge you to get your own copy of this book and read it carefully. There is a wealth or reference information quoting Guy Kawaski's Art of the Start, Dick Hardt's Identity 2.0, and Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture. Each one is referenced for their ability to bring their vision to their presentation. Vision is the higher purpose we all aspire towards. Vision is what makes you the person you are and it plays into the sincerity of your presentation – it certainly inspires your story.
The chapter ends with advice on how to create your story – before you create your presentation. Hint: you don't use Powerpoint or Word. Use post-it notes. Focus on the journey – "The story is the journey for truth."
What is the truth? How do you get there? What do you want the audience to do with your truth?
If you aspire to present at BlogPaws 2012 or beyond, I recommend reading this book. I'll be looking carefully at RFPs that follow this format.