Visual aids and crutches

Two of the best, most natural presentations I’ve given have been in the last two weeks – one of them I was coming off of 24 hours of travel and 3 weeks in India with a presentation (slides) but absolutely no real preparation; the other was a completely impromptu one hour talk with no supporting slides at all.

I think I made a mistake about a year ago in over-preparing for most of my talks – I ended up burying my personality, the spontaneous directions the talk could go, and my connection to the audience.  I couldn’t be more thankful for the friend who, about a year ago, cared about me so much that she walked straight up to me after a talk and said, “Sorry man, that just wasn’t that good.”

All of this made me think that I need to practice giving six different kinds of talks:

  • With and without slides
  • Scripted and unscripted
  • Rehearsed and unrehearsed

The food for thought part is:  if every talk you give has slides and is scripted and rehearsed, you might want to ask, “Are the slides there as visual aids, or are they a crutch?”  There are five other kinds of talks you can give.  And since nothing’s more attractive than earned confidence, why not start practicing these other kinds of talks today?

(and for those of you keeping track, yes I recognize that it’s hard to imagine a talk that is “without slides, unscripted and rehearsed” but I’m pretty sure you get my drift.  And while I’m adding postscripts, I’ll put one more reminder for me and for you: it’s never, ever better to read a script.)

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2 Responses to Visual aids and crutches

  1. Agreed Sasha. But (a small one), you can only get to the stage of being able to present without crutches after lots and lots of practice. You told your story many times, you live and breathe it, so you got there. Many others have not arrived yet.

  2. Sasha says:

    Jan, I couldn’t agree more. And don’t get me wrong, I love and will continue to use slides. The revelation for me is more about preparing less – when it’s a topic I’m familiar with – not avoiding slides.

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