The original website for this blog was at Blogger and the blog url was : preZENtationskills. This is in tribute to my Sensei, Garr Reynolds and his seminal blogsite Presentation Zen. His first post there was ten years ago and it is right today that I pay tribute to the man and his mission because standing on his shoulders, working from his thinking and message have allowed me to change my world.
Presentations are an integral part of my professional life. As in everything I strive to improve my presentations. I am aware that I was dissatisfied with the nature of them a long time ago even although they appeared to achieve reasonable results. I tinkered with their design but really had no idea how to significantly improve them.
In 2007 my personal organisation structure was also terrible. Through the website lifehacker I discovered 43Folders and a chap called Merlin Mann. Merlin gave a talk at Google on a concept called Inbox Zero and I was completely blown away. Blown away partly because of the concept of inbox zero. You really, really need to get on board with this but principally I was blown away by Merlin’s presentation. Even today that presentation is probably better than many presentations you have ever seen. Merlin credits one man in particular. That man was Garr Reynolds.
So I went to Garr’s blogsite prezentation zen and almost the same day I went out and bought the book “Presentation Zen” . I read the book eagerly recognising that this was what I had been searching for in terms of improving presentations and because of what I read, my life changed. I’m sure you have heard plenty of people say that about all sorts of stuff and so it is entirely reasonable that you ask, “how has your life changed?”
Once you have read Presentation Zen your life can never be the same again. It is clear and simple and like so many amazingly insightful people, Garr explains things in a way that brings the response, “That’s incredible! How did I not see that before?” The view of presentations that you receive and any presentation you want to give is totally revolutionised. Rather than seeing them as something to be endured or avoided, you see their opportunity to inspire, encourage, teach and ultimately you see their value again.
In my professional life I realised that so much of what I said in presentations, taught in lectures or delivered in scientific meetings had been just lost to the audience, almost as soon as I had finished speaking. By the application and development of principles that Garr had suggested I could see finally a direction that my presentations might improve. I began to change the way I constructed and delivered presentations and slowly people began to ask about the difference. The throw away line “thank you, I enjoyed your presentation,” became, “thank you, I really enjoyed your presentation, can you tell me how you did that?” So began my journey in presentation skills.
None of the skills I use professionally are intrinsic or natural, they are taught and practised and assessed and improved, slowly, over time. Yet presentation skills appear to be something we believe can simply be copied. Understanding the value of the information we share and the dreadful nature of its delivery I recognised that I could help by sharing and coaching ideas about presentation skills that have developed from Garr’s original thinking. What started as simple advice to colleagues has expanded over the years to encompass this blog, lectures to local centres and groups, to national groups and meetings and even international invitations to run workshops and seminars. Through twitter I have gained a humbling reputation and significant following principally because of presentations. Presentations have changed my life.
Those who know me well know that in 2010 I was forced into a significant career change. I was lucky enough to be offered a job interview for my dream job and faced with the prospect of delivering a 5 minute presentation, a presentation that might change my life. I worked hard, planned and constructed my piece; I gave an excellent presentation. I knew not one of the other candidates would come close in quality or effect of presentation and that confidence I carried into the rest of my interview. Presentations and that one in particular changed my life.
Meeting Garr also changed my life. I was lucky enough to meet him in 2010 when he spoke in London and again when he returned the next year. Then he graciously invited me to a international seminar he was holding in 2012 on giving presentations, to presentation coaches. One small catch, he wanted me to give a presentation, immediately after he had explained to them how to do it! No pressure then? That presentation changed my life too.
I now work with amazing people because of presentations. I have some very dear friends and some amazing experiences I would never have had because of presentations. I have had the humbling opportunity of speaking at TEDx Stuttgart because of presentations. I have helped countless friends and colleagues make a difference with their presentations and hear them getting excited about giving presentations and I know that this started because of Garr’s amazing insights shared at presentation zen.
The presentation I gave for Garr’s meeting in 2012 was entitled, “What I’m most proud of.” The header image of this post was my final slide. It is because of giants like Garr, his thinking and his passion, that presentations are changing and that will change the world.