Those of you who read this blog regularly will know that I was excited about visiting Sydney to see Garr Reynolds present his ideas about presentation techniques. Well, that visit was this last weekend and I wanted to give you a rundown about the great opportunity it was and the fact that it led to other wonderful experiences.
First things first. I have to thank my great friend Helen who was kind enough to accompany me on the trip. Helen has been a close friend of mine for many years now; she knows me well and is a tremendous support to me. She always knows when I am in need of support and has been a rock. I’m deeply grateful to her for agreeing to join me. We had a wonderful time together. Really good friends are hard to find; Helen, please know how much I value you.
Garr Reynolds was presenting at the Wesley Conference Centre in Pitt Street. Step Two designs had organised the presentation and I was very keen to attend. I’ve been reading Garr’s Presentation Zen blog and have watched his Authors at Google talk. His ideas make sense to me and I’ve tried to apply them to presentations I’ve made. I wanted to see if he had more to share in a ‘live’ presentation.
The conference room was packed. A sold out presentation. Garr looked relaxed and was an at ease presenter. Exactly the kind of message he sends out about how to present effectively. Early in the presentation he showed a slide with pictures of people reading his book ‘Presentation Zen’ in different locations. A woman from the audience yelled out ‘that’s me’ and Garr asked ‘Are you the teacher?’ She replied, ‘no’ and I piped up, ‘I’m the teacher’. Garr said, ‘Is that you Jenny?’ I couldn’t believe he had remembered who I was! What a moment for a low profile blogger like me. He had us talk to other conference participants on a couple of occasions and each time people started the conversations with, ‘So you’re the teacher…’ The audience seemed to be more the corporate set – I think I was probably the only secondary school teacher there!
What were the things I took away with me from Garr’s presentation? The idea that story is central to any presentation; story connects you to your audience and will help hold their attention. Eliminate wherever possible too much text on slides – don’t follow the templates provided in PowerPoint as a guide. Probably the strongest message was to follow doh – meaning ‘the way’ and not the Homer Simpson variety of d’oh. Garr’s doh is to follow these three principles for presentation;
Take a look at any presentation Garr has made and these principles are obvious. I need to take note of restraint- was too tempted by the cool transitions in SlideRocket and used them too frequently. Will take note of this advice for future presentations.
Garr spoke of books he’s read that have had influence on his ideas. These included ‘The McKinsey Mind’, ‘Rules for Revolutionaries’ by Guy Kawasaki, ‘Word of Mouth Marketing’ by Andy Sernowitz, ‘Multi Media Learning’ by Richard E Mayer, ‘Brain Rules’ by Dr. John Medina and ‘Made to Stick’ by Chip and Dan Heath. Brain Rules is sitting on my bedside table as we speak and I must get to the Heath Bros. book -that’s the second or third reference I’ve heard of late to that book- a sign I should be reading it!
Garr was kind enough to speak with me at the end of the event and was obliging enough to have a photo taken with me. I was very pleased that I had made the effort to get to Sydney to hear him speak. Even though you can glean a vast amount of info from the Web, nothing beats human face to face interaction.
My last visit to Sydney was seven years ago with another good friend. She chose to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge while we were there, but I didn’t do it. I was scared of heights and felt it was something I wouldn’t be able to do. This time I decided to have a go at it. My Mum encouraged me; she felt I’d get something from it that I need at the moment. I’m still scared of heights, but I did some pretty serious climbing up a very steep mountain in China last year and thought I’d be able to do it. So I plucked up the resolve and booked myself in for a bridge climb.
I had an 8.55 booking so set off from the hotel at 8.20 to walk to Cumberland Street at the base of the bridge. I must have walked at least a kilometre when I realised I was heading in the wrong direction! Thank goodness for the constant supply of Sydney buses – got to Circular Quay and ran to Cumberland Street – a sight in itself! Was puffed and anxious when I got there. 10 of us had lined up for the 8.55 climb – families and couples and another solo traveller – a lovely lady named Sheila – we encouraged one another. It takes an age to get ready for a climb; you have to gear up in all manner of things and everything needs to be attached to you – there can be no possibility of anything falling off that bridge. You do some preliminary training! and then set off. You’re tethered at all times so there’s no possibilty of stubling over the edge.
What an amazing experience. I didn’t suffer any effects of vertigo like I thought I would. I felt pretty safe and just loved taking in the incredible views. It was a perfect winter’s day -blue sky and not a hint of wind. Ed, our guide for the climb, told us that they climb even in high winds. Can’t say I’d be too keen on getting up there in conditions like that. It was an empowering experience and I’m proud of myself for having a go at something that I didn’t think I could do.
To cap off a great day we met up with Chris Betcher in the afternoon. I first heard Chris talking in one of Jeff Utecht’s SOS podcasts, and I was impressed with his depth of knowledge. I kept seeing betchaboy appear on Twitter and in blog comments so checked out his blog. It became pretty evident that this was a guy who knew what he was talking about. Chris has been participating in the Oz/NZ educators flash meetings and we’ve had an opportunity to see and hear one another via that medium. We made some tentative plans to catch up and I’m so glad that Chris took some time out to catch up.
We met on George Street. I was betting that Chris would be wearing a long sleeved white T-Shirt and jeans. Wrong. Black short sleeved T-Shirt and camoflague pants! Always hard to identify someone when you haven’t met them face to face before but Chris was easily spotted. He looked like he does in our flash meetings and was tall as I had assumed he would be. The conversation flowed naturally from the start. At Chris’ suggestion we went to the Apple store to check things out. Chris and I were heavily engaged in conversation and it was up to Helen to do the shopping!
We moved on to a coffee shop and discussed all myriad of techhy bloggy things! I had a great time; it’s wonderful being able to share ideas with someone who ‘gets’ the things I go on about. My friends are fantastic and tolerant, but I think they get a bit bored when I start talking widgets and wikis. Chris has a wealth of knowledge and such enthusiasm; the time flew too fast. He’s coming to Melbourne in August for a IWB conference so a catch up is essential.
What a wonderful three and and half days Helen and I shared. Offline for most of it, but online in terms of connections to the world we live in.