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Can presenters learn from Star Wars?

Starwars_1OK, I am back from my Hiatus to the USA. I was in Oregon primarily on family business, but did get to both the Apple head office in Silicon Valley (CA) and the Microsoft main campus in Redmond (WA) for brief meetings. The blog will be updated regularly during the summer, so please come back often.

During my time in the USA, I watched Star Wars Episode 3. With my interest in Star Wars rekindled, I proceeded to watch the entire six episodes of Star Wars on DVD over the next week (hey, I was on vacation!). Frankly, the prequels just do not match the original episodes of my youth, but at least Revenge of the Sith does bring us back to the beginning, to the "real Star Wars." The most interesting part of the DVDs, however, are the documentaries and commentaries, many featuring George Lucas himself. I was in awe as I learned more about Lucas' ideas and his approach.

As I learned more about the incredible creativity (and hard work) behind Lucus' creations, I felt that we mere mortals can learn so much about business presentations (which are essentially opportunities to "story tell") by listening to master story tellers like Lucas.

One key idea often discussed in the Star War documentaries, was the importance of editing like mad to get the story down to about 2 hours. To do this they scrutinize every scene to make sure that the scene — no matter how cool it may be — actually contributes to the story. If during the editing process a scene is judge to be superfluous, it will be cut. They seemed very keen on keeping to the 2 hour format, they said, as this was in the best interest of the audience.

We have all seen scenes from movies that left us scratching our heads wondering just how it contributed to the story. Perhaps the director felt the scene was just so technically cool or so difficult to make that he just could not stand the thought of not including it in the film. But that would be a bad reason to include a scene, of course, wouldn't it?

As far as presentations go, we also have all seen people include data or facts, or graphics, etc. that just did not contribute to the speaker's overall point (which we were probably at a loss to find anyway). Presenters often include superfluous items because they are perhaps "proud" of their work and want to "show it off" even if it really did not help support the speaker's particular point.

Moral of the story: Always keep the audience in mind by (1) keeping it as short as you can and still do an effective job "telling your story," and (2) after you have prepared your presentation, go back and edit like crazy, eliminating parts that are not absolutely crucial to your overall point or purpose of the talk.

This website has some very interesting discussion on story telling and Star Wars.


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