Presentation Zen Studio 2014

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Storytelling is an important part of any presentation. There's also quite a hype around storytelling these days; you see it used in all sorts of environments, from advertising to branding your own company. On the one hand, that's a good thing, since it shows that storytelling is on to something - it works. On the other hand, the hype could potentially cause people to turn away from it or ignore it, assuming that, as so many things that have been hyped before, it will be dead and replaced with something else in a few months.

Storytelling was also the main topic of the Presentation Zen Studio in Paris this year; but the participants agreed that there's more to it than just a hype. Storytelling is, in fact, a very very old technique and it won't become irrelevant anytime soon, even if (or once) the hype machine moves on.

After the success of last year's impromptu Presentation Zen Studio, a small gathering of presentation experts, enthusiasts, and followers of Garr Reynolds, the consensus was to do it again. And so, when Garr came to Europe again this year, a small group of people ended up in the kitchen of a fancy Paris restaurant again, talking about storytelling in modern presentations.

The nice thing about this meet-up is that it happens at eye level. Yes, here's our sensei, Garr Reynolds, and there are people whose business is presentation coaching but others are simply interested in the topic and try to change things in their organisation in their own small ways; and we all treated each others as equals. This was about exchanging views, ideas, and thinking about the value we can all bring to our respective environment, be it commercial or not.

Garr kicked off the meeting with a short presentation of his own, repeating and highlighting the ideas and history behind storytelling, but also gave some insights into methods he's currently exploring to get his students in Japan into storytelling. A few of us had also prepared short presentations, each focussing on an aspect of storytelling. Each short presentation provided a different angle and sparked discussions before we moved on to the next aspect.

There was quite a lot going on and I was too busy listening to take note of everything. One thought I did write down (and I realise I'm paraphrasing something that was already paraphrased) goes like this:

You learn either emotionally (by being involved or from experience) or you learn analytically, but not both at the same time; except when you're hearing a story.

I think this originally comes from David Baboulene's book Story Theory (someone please correct me if I'm wrong). This idea certainly feels right and matches my own experience. I'll have to look into the science and data behind this some more, but I think it would help convince people of the power of story and why you should use it in your presentations (especially with my usual target audience, i.e. people with a technical background).

There was a lot more going on and being mentioned, but I'll have to digest it all first. It'll show up in one form or another in my blog posts and presentations over time.

In summary, it was a great, useful, productive, and entertaining little event amongst fellow presentation enthusiasts that was very well worth the minor hassle of having to cope with with the train strike that was happening in Germany on the same weekend. Thanks to Garr for being there, Ideas on Stage for organising it, Un Dimanche à Paris for hosting it (and serving us all that great food!) and everybody else for coming to Paris and participating. Let's do this again some time, shall we?

P.S. And here's a blog post from Ideas on Stage with some more details, e.g. the various presentations that people gave.

(Photos by yours truly. The blurry one is from my Narrative Clip)

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Creative Commons Licence "Presentation Zen Studio 2014" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.