Lessons in engagement from Flight of the Conchords
To This Day: A powerful narrative in transformation

On the power of speech & telling your own story

Mtfuji-pic-from-GarrLast week I was in the beautiful city of Wellington, New Zealand for Webstock 2013. While working out of my room in the Museum Hotel late one night I received an email from Nick White. Nick had been one of the participants in the first series of seminars I ran in Wellington in 2008. I remembered Nick for his enthusiasm for public speaking as well as his love of mountain running, interests that we share. I had not heard from him for five years, so just in case I did not recall his name, Nick sent me a scan of the note I had written in his PZ book so many years ealier (above). Since I last saw Nick he went through quite an ordeal to say the least. In his email to me he shared the news of his  battle with cancer, and sent me a link to his Ignite talk from 2011. I watched his talk on YouTube immediately and was blown away by his presentation. There are several inspiring elements to Nick's talk, including the delivery itself. My favorite line is from his surgeon, Swee Tan: "Life's a bugger, but we're going for cure." Nick's story of battling cancer, losing his speech, and then working hard to get it back...and then runnning The Goat as planned is truly an inspiring tale of hope, belief, and rugged determination.

Watch Nick's talk in HD on Youtube below. (What is Ignite?)

Preparing analog
The Ignite formula for presentations is 20 slides with each slide advancing automatically every 15 seconds. "I planned the presso very, very carefully, changing and redrafting it many times, thinking about the mood of the story," Nick said. "The constraints of the format actually helped by forcing me to make tough decisions on what was crucial and non-crucial to the story." Nick told me he worked hard to simplify his talk and used techniques from presentation zen as well as using a lot of helpful advice from Olivia Mitchell, a fantastic presentation coach based in Wellington.

Above: A rough sketch Nick drew showing the flow of his talk before he ever made a slide.

Above: One of the rough drafts Nick sketched of how his visuals would actually appear once he had his story down. A good tip is to make rough sketches of the kind of visuals you want *before* you go searching for images.

A story has exposition, conflict, and resolution. Basic yet important stuff. A story, however, is often as much about a journey of change in one's inner world as it is in the physical world. In this case Nick shows us both. Story is transformation, and this story is a remarkable one. Please share Nick White's presentation if you can. It just may help someone who could use a little inspiration right now.

• Contact Nick White on Twitter: @outwardnick
• Nick's website Outward Looking



Amazing story that Nick shares! Also good example that even if you have an extraordinary story, you need to prepare it properly before presentation.


Jacob Abraham

What is the y-axis label for his graph?


Thanks for the great write-up and kind comments!

@jacob - the y-axis on my chart, in my mind, was "mood". It was low when the subject was tough or grim, in the thick of "difficulty" and higher when I was talking about overcoming difficulty, or my own inspiration through Swee's quote.

To help audiences best take in a message, I think it's important to mange the flow of the mood. I could have spent most of my talk on difficult and grim things, but that wouldn't have been very helpful to convey the message I wanted to. At the same time, it needed to be authentic, and contain a realistic picture of the degree of difficulty.

Overall, I was very happy with the final mix and the flow of mood in this talk, because in my mind it reflects very truly my own cancer experience - plenty of lows and intense difficulty, but with a lot of human highs, and plenty to live for!

Nick :)


What a story! Preparation is the most important before you speak on anything in front of anyone!

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