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.

Putting the Pressure on

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At TEDxStuttgart, we do rehearsals with our speakers. Some of them are still surprised when we mention it - it's not something conferences usually do (maybe they should?).

Such a rehearsal is pretty simple and informal, actually: Two members of the team meet up with a speaker in their home, office, or a neutral place (we don't have offices ourselves and the venue is usually not available before the event). We set up a camera and let the speaker do his or her talk.

When you're way over your audience's heads

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I witnessed a case of a talk going way over the audience's head recently at a local event. It was a technical talk, but I've seen this happen with other topics as well.

Often things like this can be avoided by checking who your audience is in advance (if in doubt, ask the organisers). In this case, the audience was foreseeably mixed and it was pretty much impossible to know in advance which way the audience would skew on that particular evening, i.e. whether there would be more technical or more non-technical people in attendance. Also, the talk was very much on-topic for the event.

What Do You Know about the Venue?

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We're currently working with our speakers for the upcoming next TEDxStuttgart. With some speakers, we are still working on their talks. With others, we are already in the rehearsal stage. Many have come up with ideas for audience interaction or props they want to bring to the stage. It always breaks my heart a little when they come up with a great idea and I have to tell them that, unfortunately, it won't work because we're in a different venue this year.

Presenting visually without Slides

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I often test my presentations in front of a friendly audience. If you don't have anyone who would be interested in your talk, I can recommend attending a Barcamp. In fact, my "career" as a proponent of better presentations started with a short presentation at Barcamp Stuttgart in 2011. I barely had material for 10 minutes, but the positive feedback and constructive discussion afterwards confirmed that I was on to something.

So after I stressed the importance of using visuals in slides - how and why they work - in a session last year, I came back to Barcamp Stuttgart this year with the question if you can make use of the positive effects of visuals even if you're not using slides in your talk.

In other words: Can you present visually without slides?