Thursday, 23 September 2010

The Story Develops for Pecha Kucha Night

Last time I had decided to present on the topic of communication - it's history etc. Pecha Kucha is too fast for a "this is the history of communication" presentation. In putting ideas onto post-it notes, I counted dozens before I have even reached cave paintings.

Tip #1 - Pick a topic small enough to fit into 6 minutes (+) yet with enough substance to satisy your audience

Playing with various ideas involved intense and active pondering - despite outward appearances!

Tip #2 - Try talking off the cuff about your chosen topic and see how much you have to say - time yourself and then work out what to cut out.

After much editing, revising and some practices that helped me learn just how little I can say in 20 seconds (without a machine-gun delivery), I came down to using the Seven Deadly Sins of Presentations.

Tip #3 - Practice the timing after you've done your slides - does the story flow?

For each sin, there is a virtue, so without effort I had 14 topics/ slides at my fingertips. I searched the net and found images of slides, and presenters and some random images to suit the presentation. With a few more hours refining and altering the build-up and finale, it was done (phew!).

Tip #4 - Practice the story - do you stumble over any of your ideas or phrases?

As I did a dry run, the actual names of the sins and virtues was causing me too much anxiety, so after creating the slideshow, I ditched the Sins and changed the title to "Presenter Heroes and Zeroes". Perhaps another night to think would have improved that one!

Tip #5 - Remember, it is only Pecha Kucha night!

Today is the day that I present at Huddersfield Pecha Kucha night #2. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Art of "Chit Chat" - Pecha Kucha

Pecha Kucha is a time limited format for presentations, with a similar twin in Ignite - each allows just 20 slides, with either 20 (for PK) or 15 (for Ignite) seconds per slide. The talks are therefore either 6min 40 seconds, or 5 minutes dead.

It is fast paced, and fun (I hope!)

And instead of going along to one to see what it's about and gradually building up, I launched myself into the deep end by volunteering to present at the second Huddersfield Pecha Kucha night next week.

This is the one time that I can present on anything. It is not a sales pitch, but an evening of discussion, enlightenment, enjoyment......So I am blessed (or cursed) with total freedom.

Reading up on some advice I came across these nuggets: "it should be about passion" and that if I don't have "too much to say" I had chosen the wrong topic. In clarifying that, this Pecha Kucha presenter suggested that I talk about something I have stayed up late at night arguing or discussing with friends etc.

That got me thinking - learning (which I love)? presentations (my life's work to save the world from Death by PPT)?

Then I thought, let's get back to the real issue - this is all about communication - from cave paintings to PowerPoint, this is all about our desire to understand and be understood.

Now to create a story about that that will take my listeners on an enjoyable and potentially thought-provoking journey.....

Watch this space for how things develop....

Thursday, 9 September 2010

How Enjoyable Should Learning Be?

Watch any episode of Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (where the celebrated chef spends time with a failing restaurant to help them out) and you will observe some of the following stages of learning:

* Unconscious incompetence - the moments before Gordon arrives, when the owner/ chef is looking forward to Gordon "helping them out"
* Conscious incompetence - just after Gordon has sampled their food, when Gordon subtly informs the cook/ manager of how poor their restaurant is (watch their faces as they learn)
* Conscious competence - after days of changing the menu, redecorating as the team puts new ideas/ menus etc into practice successfully (if they get that far)

The final stage is unconscious incompetence, which will happen after Gordon has left (sometimes) - the sort of "do it in your sleep" capability that experts exhibit.

Now any of you who have watched this programme (or others like it) will recognise that few owners find this process either enjoyable or easy in the short term. As Gordon bluntly explains just how bad things are, they quickly reject the painful process of going from where they were to their new level of understanding (going from unconscious to conscious incompetence).

This is the real heart of the programme - the people reject suggestions, they argue that Gordon doesn't know what he is doing, they blame everyone else but their own incompetence. There is anger, tears, trantrums, you name it. What you are watching is the the painful process of learning how much you don't know. They demonstrate just how difficult transformatory learning can actually be.

It is very tempting as a facilitator to ensure that your learners enjoy themselves throughout your workshops/ presentations. Learning can be, and should be in many instances fun. But fun rarely gets your learners leaving their comfort zones (which by definition would be uncomfortable), nor will it transform their attitudes, knowledge or skills.

If you really want to create change, then you have to be prepared for your learners to be uncomfortable, to be challenged, to hear things that are difficult to hear.

If what you design leaves them enjoying their learning too much, they might learn nothing at all.

As William James once said "A great many people think they are thinking when they are just rearranging their prejudices". To me, the word thinking can be replaced with learning to describe that lovely safe learning experience where nothing much changes.

So go on, I dare you.
I dare you to create discomfort in your learners and move them into conscious incompetence.....