EVIL PLANS by @gapingvoid and Taking the Cream Off the Top (of the Conference Biz)

I‘m writing on a plane headed to Austin (now posting from the hotel), Texas, for South by Southwest (web, twitter). SXSW is a huge festival where music, film and interactive (or Internet stuff) overlaps for about two weeks. I’ll be there mostly for Interactive and this year I’ll be also speaking in one panel (How to Rawk SXSW) and am curating another one (the Technology Summit session focusing on Italy).

Going back to this Delta flight 109 from Madrid to Atlanta, what initially seemed a big disservice -there is no individual personal entertainment screen but a small “public” screen just too 5 or 6 rows away- turned out to be an excellent opportunity to catch up on some books in my Kindle/iPad.

First was Hugh MacLeod’s latest – Evil Plans: Having Fun on the Road to World Domination (Amazon)

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Haruki Murakami on his way of preparing speeches

Haruki Murakami's book (see links below)
Haruki Murakami's book (see links below)

While reading a book by Haruki Murakami on running and writing, a sort of memoir of the importance of running in the author’s personal an professional life, I came across the following description on how he prepares himself for international presentations in English language:

“Naturally it takes a lot of time to prepare. Before I get up on stage I have to memorize a thirty- or forty-minute talk in English. If you just read a written speech as is, the whole thing will feel lifeless to the audience. I have to choose words that are easy to pronounce so people can understand me , and remember to get the audience to laugh to put them at ease. I have to convey to those listening a sense of who I am. Even if it’s just for a short time, I have to get the audience on my side if I want them to listen to me. And in order to do that, I have to practice the speech over and over, which takes a lot of effort. But there’s also the payoff that comes with that new challenge”. [from What I talk about when I talk about running, page 101]

Murakami expresses some key issues of a succesful presentation.

  1. You have to give life to the presentation (it is not only about the content)
  2. It’s not so important how intelligent you are or brilliant the content is if people cannot understand you. The presentation IS FOR THE AUDIENCE, not to make the speaker’s ego bigger
  3. You have to be yourself, and try to transmit it. It is important that YOU are giving a speech and not someone else. So how is it different? What added value do you provide? If the speaker is not important he becomes replaceable
  4. Practice, practice, practice…. there are no secrets for giving a successful presentation but practice

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How to tell if your event was good according to Tara Hunt

Me with The Whuffie Factor (photo by Claudia Bergonzi)
Me with The Whuffie Factor (photo by Claudia Bergonzi)

I recently finished reading The Whuffie Factor, Tara Hunt‘s first book (recommended) and on chapter 8 I found an interesting way for rating the success of an event, that I agree with.

Hunt describes the TransitCamp she organized in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2008 and when talking about the result of this un-conference she says (pages 224-225):

I had several people approach me throughout the event and afterward to tell me that they were not only blown away by TransitCamp, but that they couldn’t wait for the next one and they would bring several people with them. To me, that’s the hallmark of a great event. Would you tell others? If no, it was disappointing. If maybe, it was okay. If yes, it was awesome. If, as one guy told me, you would drag many people even if they were kicking and screaming, it was kickass.

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[book] Presentation Zen

Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds
Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds

Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds is a book but also a blog that deals with the art of making presentations that is inspired by Zen Buddhism and Reynolds’ life experience in Japan, where he currently lives. Presentation Zen is an approach, not a fail-proof list of rules, for better delivering your message independently of the slideware (PowerPoint, Keynote, etc) or other multimedia support that you might be using.

Often the weakest point of a conference is not the organizational or logistic aspects of it but the low quality of the speaker’s presentations. From the “death by PowerPoint” effect to poor public speaking abilities or lack of communication between speaker and audience.

According to Garr, a presentation should be like a Japanese Bento (the lunch box):

The bento is presented in a simple, beautiful, balanced way. Nothing lacking. Nothing superfluous. Not decorated, but wonderfully designed. A delicious, inspiring way to spend 20 minutes. When was the last time you could say the same about a presentation you saw?

The main idea is to save yours and the audience’s time by making a difference with your presentation, big or small.

I have compiled some of advice delivered throughout the book and I warmly suggest that you get it to improve your abilities (you can use my referral link on Amazon.com by clicking on the image above).

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