Steve Jobs' presentation style...and all that jazz
Make your next presentation naked

Presentation, blues, and tapping into your creative soul

Blues_osakaI worked my way through college playing drums in different jazz groups. I have not played music fulltime for many years, but it is important I think for working professionals — no matter their field — to stay in touch with their "creative soul" and to nurture it. What a waste it would be to ignore one of your passions or talents. Frankly, you just never know where inspiration will come from. Inspiration, clarity, or a new perspective may materialize unforced as you climb that mountain in Nepal, paint that portrait, photograph that sunset, write that novel...or find that "pocket" while swinging with fellow musicians in a downtown nightclub.

I am a jazz guy, but over the weekend I played live with the GMS Blues Band, comprising of myself on drums and a fantastic blues guitarist/singer from the U.S. and a great studio bassist visiting Japan from Switzerland. It's so good for the creative soul to play live and connect with other musicians and an audience. Blues especially is about connecting and telling a story through the words and music. It's about feelings.

Playing the blues well is similar to making great presentations: it's not about technique. Once you begin to focus on technique and tricks and flash and making an impression...all is lost.

I like to play with people who can play simple and are not threatened by other musicians thinking they can't play. And that eliminates 99 percent of all musicians.
                         — Neil Young

Garr_jazztrioB.B. King is a legend. No one does it like he does. He's not flashy and he doesn't try to impress with speed or technique. That's not what it's about. That's not what the blues is about. It's about telling a story and making a connection in a way that can not be duplicated by anyone else. If you are being true to yourself and the audience, if you are authentic, how could it possibly be duplicated?

Many people can play good technique. With study, technique is not too difficult for many people. Computers, for example, can play "perfect technique." But even with perfect technique, computer-generated blues would lack substance and would seem empty. It would seem empty because there is no "feel" to it. To me "feel" is that kind of perfectly imperfect human quality that conveys emotion and the spontaneity of the time. That one moment in time that can not be repeated the same way again. And that's beautiful.

Blues is easy to play, but hard to feel.

                         — Jimi Hendrix

Do you have enough confidence to ignore 90% of PowerPoint?
PowerPoint is easy to use, especially if you ignore 90% of its functions. The technique required to make the slides accompanying many of the presentations highlighted on this website (e.g., Kawasaki, Jobs, Lessig, etc.) and all my presentations visually are very simple: simple/few transitions, few or no animations, a few words and high quality graphics, and maybe a video or two inserted. Even if you never used PowerPoint in your life, you could master the 10% of it you actually need in an hour or two with a tutor. Most of my coaching involves getting clients to unlearn and forget what they already know. When it comes to slideware functions, I don't think the challenge is to learn more, but rather to ignore more and forget more.

It is not about technique alone. Never. Yes, the basics of software are important to know. Delivery techniques and "dos & don'ts" are useful to understand. But the truly great presenters approach the whole process as an art. The "art of presentation" transcends technique and enables an individual to remove walls and connect with an audience to inform or persuade in a very meaningful, unique moment in time. Sometimes, at least in a small way,...a good presenter can even change the world.

Characterizing master swordsman Odagiri Ichiun's ideas on technique, Zen scholar Daisetzu Suzuki says, "...the first principle of the art is not to rely  on tricks of technique. Most swordsmen make too much of technique, sometimes making it their chief concern ..." And most presenters make the slideware their chief concern in the preparation process and in the delivery. This often ends up in a wasted opportunity to connect and "find that pocket" with an audience.


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