Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Props, Not PowerPoint

Passover begins Monday evening. Our family will gather together for the Passover Seder - the retelling and re-experiencing of the Jewish people's exodus from slavery in Egypt.

Certainly, there's a lot of important information to cover. So, why not make a Passover PowerPoint presentation and show it at the Seder? Surely this would be a lot more "sophisticated" and "impressive" than the traditional, "old school" visual of the Seder plate!

So, what makes this such an awful idea?

Aside from certain religious prohibitions, one can only imagine that a PowerPoint presentation would turn a potentially meaningful, exciting and interactive experience into a dreadfully boring and passive one.

The Seder plate, on the other hand, with it's various, colorful symbolic foods, is a brilliant visual. It is concrete, tactile, and a great trigger for discussion of the topic at hand. What's more, it helps the participants remember the information, even after the holiday is over.

From the Green Room: Next time you give a presentation, consider minimizing your usage of PowerPoint, which inhibits human interaction and connection. Instead, choose a prop to emphasize your point. When used correctly, a prop not only helps you communicate your message, but helps your audience remember it, long after you have stopped speaking.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cover the Extremities

My three-year old daughter refused to wear a jacket for most of this winter. She did insist, however, on always wearing her hat and mittens.

As frustrating as this was as a parent, she was perfectly comfortable - as long as her extremities were covered.

The same holds true for eye contact during a presentation. Focus the majority of time on "the extremities" - the people at the edges of the room, who are the most likely to be ignored. When you look people on the edges, you include everyone and make everyone feel comfortable. When you focus mainly on the middle, you exclude the folks on the side - AND make those in the middle feel uncomfortable.

From the Green Room: Cover the extremities. The most important people to look at are the people at the farthest ends of the room. By focusing on the edges, you include everyone.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Awaken Possibilty in Other People

Listen to this remarkable speech by Benjamin Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic. Not only is Mr. Zander a conductor, but also a motivational speaker for business leaders:

About nine minutes into the talk, Mr. Zander describes a transformational moment in his conducting career, when he realized, "I don't make a sound....I realized that my job was to awaken possibility in other people."

What a wonderful metaphor for speaking!

So often when we get up to speak, we focus on the sounds we make, the words we say. This self-focus is what makes us anxious. After all, all eyes are on us, listening for what we have to communicate.

But imagine if we took the focus away from ourselves and saw our role as a conductor - to awaken the possibility in the people we are addressing.

This removal of focus on self might free us up to truly communicate and connect with the audience.

Monday, March 8, 2010

How to Give an Acceptance Speech

The acceptance speeches at last night's Academy Awards were unmemorable at best and dreadful at worst.

Only one speaker managed to give us a moment of grace - Sandra Bullock.

Without resorting to sappy cliches and narcissistic self-righteousness, she cut right the heart of the matter. Bullock was able to sum up in one sentence the essential message of the film - and then personalize that message in a way that felt completely authentic.

By choosing to take a moment and thank her mother, Bullock made us all feel appreciated and at the same time, paid a beautiful tribute to the film.

From the Green Room: Keep it simple. Keep it personal. Keep it short.