On Death by PowerPoint and Death by Chocolate

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Why should someone who's giving presentation courses take a presentation course? Well, I believe in the idea of lifelong learning (or Continuous Improvement or Kaizen). Knowledge isn't static, and neither is mastery. There is always new information and research coming out and you can always get better at something - if you really care about it.

So when I had the opportunity to take a 2-day presentation course with friends and fellow presentation coaches, organised by Ideas on Stage in Paris - I took it.

Day 1 was about speaking. This, especially, is something in which I'm certainly not anywhere near "master level" yet. This part of the workshop was given by the latest addition to the Ideas on Stage crew, Michael Rickwood. That he's also an actor (theatre and TV) was an added bonus.

There's much more to The Art of Speaking (which was the title of the workshop) than the actual speaking. When speaking in public, the audience will judge more than just the way you speak; they will also look at your posture, your gestures, and whether you're keeping eye contact. We covered all of this (and more) on that day, in theory and in practical exercises, which included short presentations, breathing exercises, tips on warming up your voice, and games (anyone up for a round of "Zip-Zap-Boing"?).

Day 2 saw me on more familiar ground, as Phil Waknell explained what he means by Presentation 2.0. The "2.0" bit may not seem too original but it's appropriate: Web 2.0 is all about the visitors of a website - you cater for their interests and invite them to participate. In a Presentation 2.0, the audience is at the centre of everything - you provide them with the content they want and need and, yes, you interact with them. You care about your audience - no more boring reading of slides by someone who doesn't even care if anyone's still listening.

Since we're all devoted followers of the Presentation Zen approach, the concepts weren't too different from what I teach in my own courses or my book. It confirmed some of my views, added interesting tweaks here and there, and even challenged my approach in one or two places. Which is good - there isn't the one way to teach how to do a modern presentation. Hearing someone's slightly different take makes you reconsider your own approach.

What made these two days even more enjoyable was the overall environment - and the other participants. While our teachers both felt a bit like they were preaching to the converted, it does certainly help if you're with like-minded people. All of us were there even though we already knew about the basic concepts, but we accept that there's always something new to learn and to get better at. Which made interacting with the other participants (a slightly different mix of people on the two days) so enjoyable.

And the environment? We weren't simply sitting in a conference room somewhere. We were treated to a very original and unique place in Paris: Un Dimanche à Paris, a little venue with a restaurant and their own chocolaterie (I've been there before, actually). So in addition to mental treats, we were also exposed to a lot of culinary treats over the two days. There was chocolate for everyone and in everything (even the lunch). Which made all of us feel very well-fed, both mentally and literally, at the end of the two days.

(Photo by yours truly)

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Creative Commons Licence "On Death by PowerPoint and Death by Chocolate" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.