In the book Presentation Zen Garr Reynolds recommends finding a Pecha Kucha night to practice the skills learned from his book. When I moved to Denver I punched in the search terms and found an organization called Ignite Denver. They do a variation on Pecha Kucha-you are limited to presenting 20 slides but each only lasts for 15 seconds, giving the presenter only 5 minutes to convey a message. (Pecha Kucha is 20 slides for 20 seconds each.)
After applying and being accepted by Ignite Denver I went to work on my presentation: 6 Things I Learned While Riding My Bike. My idea was to share lessons learned and tie it to my new experiences after moving to Denver, giving it a local angle as well. The number of lessons or stories went down from 8 to 6. I figured that if I told 6 mini stories, then I could allot 3 slides to each. The remaining 2 slides would be used for intro and outro. Next, I outlined the presentation as a storyboard using 20 sticky notes. I had to decide what 3 images would be used to tell each mini story. Talk about economy…tell a story with only 3 images.
Well, I was up for the challenge. To up the ante I decided to shoot new photos and use a minimum of text on the slides. I treated the project as if I was shooting a film. I made a shot list which included location and props needed. Ah…the props. This took some extra work, and at one point out of my comfort zone. One of the props I needed were bullet casings. Not being a gun owner, nor having many gun-toting friends I had to go to a local shooting range and ask them for some empty shells. Fortunately they gave me some without any questioning, although they may have joked about me later after I left. No matter. I got what I was after. As time went by I was able to take all the photos, with the exception of 2. One had to be shot by my wife Nita, since it included me in the frame. The other, of a large truck, I found on Flicker Creative Commons and gave it proper citation.
The setting for the Ignite Denver presentations are different from any other presentations I had ever given. First of all, they are in front of a large live audience who are drinking large cups of beer. Secondly, presenters are expected to memorize their speeches. No notes allowed. Fortunately for me, my years as a performing musician helped me deal somewhat with any stage fright and I am blessed with a good memory. To thwart any potential memory lapses, I used the slides to be my prompts/reminders as to what I should be talking about at that precise moment in time.
Now any good storyteller/presenter needs to bring emotion and engagement. The stories themselves would help a bit with this, but I made sure that I included drama and humor into the script and my vocal inflection. What more could I do for engagement? Ironically, one day while riding my bike to work I came up with an audience participation segment. I would encourage them to make motorcycle sounds. Since I figured their inhibitions would be lowered from the beers, I thought I could pull this off. What did the end product look and sound like? Take a look here at the recording and let me know what you think. (NOTE: the recording has a few buffered glitches in it, but you should get the idea. And there was a technology bonus to mention. The event was streamed live, so some of my friends on the East Coast were able to attend virtually. This may have helped me too. Knowing that I had friends in the audience-in person and virtual.)