Quick notes from a conversation about speaking and facilitation

Posted: - Modified: | speaking

I’m working on revising my Remote Presentations That Rock presentation because it’s going to be featured in the “Best of the Technical Leadership Exchange 2009” series at work. (Whee!) Because the content’s already available via video recordings, slides, and blog posts, I’m trying to figure out how to add extra value to the talk so that it’s worth experiencing live.

Timothy Kelpsas reached out to me with a teaser about running multiple sub-plots to help with remote listeners. I finally got to ask him what he meant. Thirty minutes was far too short! =)

Tim thinks of presentations or facilitated sessions like a movie. Just as a director might plant clues about upcoming scenes (foreshadowing) or refer to previous events (flashbacks), Tim plans short forward-looking and backward-looking throughout the session. He establishes a rhythm. And just as a director mixes up action, comedy, romance, and other parts to appeal to different audiences, Tim tries to make sure that different kinds of people get engaged in a variety of activities. He shared how he thinks about introversion and extroversion, multiple intelligences, and other preferences that influence how people learn.

For remote audiences, he keeps a few tips in mind:

  • When Tim’s giving a presentation, he imagines the experience from the point of view of someone who’s far away and who’s watching the presentation through a replay. This helps him build empathy.
  • Tim works on actively engaging remote listeners by incorporating questions and self-reflection into his talk. For example, he might ask people to think about the worst leader they’ve had. A short while later, he might ask them to think about one thing they would change about that leader if they could. This gives people an opportunity to engage with the topic, even if they can’t interact with him directly.
  • Tim also deliberately builds rapport with replay audiences. He occasionally addresses people who are listening along on the replay. This acknowledgement helps build rapport, and it helps him remember their needs too.

How can I apply what I’m learning?

Instead of repeating the same presentation, I’m going to revise it thoroughly. I know the core ideas are sound. Not only did the content get me voted into the Best of the TLE series, but lots of people have reused it already, and people tell me that the tips are very useful. Now I get to experiment with more effective ways to present those tips. Taking Barclay Brown’s suggestion to use the basic fiction plots, I’m going to revise it to use a revenge plot. (Now I’m curious about how I might pull that off, and if I’m curious, chances are other people will be curious too!) I think that will be more fun than the quest plot, and the more vivid I can make things, the more people might remember.

Building on that subplot, I can weave reflection through more of the presentation. The original presentation had a little bit of reflection up front, but the revenge plot gives me plenty of opportunities to build reflection in.

Applying Tim’s tips, I’m going to prompt myself to  “break the fourth wall” and address people listening to the replay. I generally haven’t done this because I prepare blog posts, slides, and the occasional short standalone video for replay audiences, but people might come in through the web conference archives and miss out on the additional resources. Besides, it must be possible to do a good live/replay mix, and the practice will help me with in-person presentations as well.

Also awesome: The very first thing Tim did when we connected on the phone was to sing to me. He explained afterwards that he wanted to make sure I quickly got the sense of who he was. You bet that’s sticking in my memory! I told Tim how it reminded me of when Ethan McCarty sang me a song when I dropped by IBM NY. Ah, IBM and awesome people having fun… =)

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