Archive for February, 2009

Beautiful Presentations
February 5, 2009

chessWhen we think about design in the broadest sense it encourages us to look for inspiration all around us. Architecture is no exception. I recently read Paul Goldberg’s article in the New Yorker, Center Stage, about the redesign of Lincoln Center and Alice Tully Hall. A quick aside, the New Yorker contributors are excellent at using story to make any subject more captivating.  There was one line that got me thinking,

“Architects sometimes talk of design elements as “moves,” as if they were playing a game of chess…”

First, we should be thinking about our presentations in terms of design. As far as I am concerned our presentations are works of art. Architects design a space thinking about how people will walk around in it, how they will feel, how they will interact with different elements, and as presenters we should be taking the same view. Our words are creating a structure which the audience will live in for the duration of the talk. We want them to feel welcomed and comfortable, not unsettled and dying to get out of there. We need to see the whole of process of developing a presentation through the lens of design. There is beauty in reducing an idea to its core. The search for perfect simplicity, as we keep taking away the unnecessary is also an aesthetic. Then with the essence of our message we begin to build, move by move, word by word, image by image, a cathedral where the audience will come and pay homage to our idea. All the while keeping in mind how will audiences like being in this space we have created. It is not my intention to be over the top with the cathedral image, but as presenters we are there to give the audience something they will remember, act on and believe. We want the audience hanging on our every word like it is gospel.

Design is not about putting a nice shell on our idea and attracting people with the glitter. Real design starts with the idea and protects it, throughout the process, from distractions so the audience can receive it in as pure a form as possible.

Everything Has A Meaning
February 3, 2009

I once heard the phrase, “words mean what they do” and I really like that idea. For presenters it is a great principle, because the mental and emotional state the audience leaves in is what our presentation meant. We can have the grandest of intentions and the genius insight, but it does not count for anything if the audience was not with us. This also applies in one-on-one situations. What are the effects of our words? If our intention was to comfort did they? If it was to clarify did they? If it was to be honest in order to help was the person better off upon hearing our words?

I recently came across this i-phone application called Midomi. I don’t have an i-phone, I have a LG Chocolate (which I would like to write about another time), but my friend showed me this app. It allows someone to humm, whistle or sing a song and it will recognize it for you. It went 1 for 3 with me; recognized La Cucaracha but not the theme song to MASH (2 attempts). As we were playing with it, it occurred to me what a brilliant little app. It is so  frustrating to have a song playing in our head, we don’t know how it got there and we can’t remember the name of it. When we finally do figure it out it is such a relief, and now this app can help us with that. It means what it does, and what it does is make you feel good, takes this trivial yet visceral feeling and makes it go away. It is so insignificant except when you can turn to it in your time of need. What I loved was how this app is the feeling it gives the user and is thus meaningful and memorable. So I don’t know if the programmers were thinking about this or not when the app was developed, but regardless of what they intended Midomi mean what it does.

A big part of what we should be doing as presenters is giving something meaningful to our audience. In order to do that, we need to figure out the meaning of the presentation , the data, the product etc. We can begin by asking what does it all do?