Up Front Communication

Helping people and businesses through the art of communication

Want to write great stuff? Here’s something to help you get started.

I’ve always loved storytelling.  As a kid, I liked to record improvised “radio plays” on cassette tapes and would take long walks during which I rambled adventures to myself out loud, looking for all the world like the neighbourhood madgirl.  Later, once the glories of the internet opened up to me, I spent hours in online writing communities crafting group-written stories with other enthusiasts.  Even some of my geekier pursuits, like creating a long-lasting Dungeons & Dragons game group, were born out of the desire to have fun felling stories.  A big reason why I love speaking and presenting so much is because it scratches that same itch – I get to tell a good yarn while giving people information that can improve different aspects of their lives.

Freeflowing, creative storytelling play hugely improved my ability to create compelling presentations.  Great presentations always involve storytelling, and having consequence free fun with stories is one of the best ways to stretch and expand your presentation and speaking muscles.

I completely understand that it can be hard to simply dive into creative writing.  That’s the beauty of group-written stories. You get the boost and creative input of other enthusiasts, and when it is overlaid with a game-based structure, you get the additional benefit of a scaffold to help direct your story.  It takes some of the hard work out of writing and lets you play in the mud with the other kids.

Today, a colleague of mine introduced me to the perfect platform for creative, group-based, storytelling play.  I had a look, gave it a go, and was so excited that I couldn’t wait to share it with you.  It’s an online game platform called Storium.  This is a collaborative story game that combines the best of group creativity with light game structure.  I’ve joined it’s Kickstarter campaign and am very, very excited to play in a way that I haven’t done in years.

Once you start telling stories on a regular basis, you will find it easier and easier to tell them on the fly.  Stories are the backbone of great presentations, and the more you tell them the better you’ll be.  Give Storium a go, and let me know what you think!

Do you do play with any other type of storytelling?  Planning on trying Storium? Let me know in the comments below!

Editing Heavily

It is hard to chop content out of your presentation.  You worked on it, you had a vision of where you wanted to go and how you would go about getting there.  You filled that presentation chock full of ideas.  It was loaded with stuff that you wanted to share with your audience.  You crafted your presentation slides to go with the speech portion, and thoughtfully provided all your information on the slides, too, so that people could download the slides and print up your notes, thereby having a great handout.

But we’re going to chop that presentation.  We’re going to go in there with a chainsaw and mercilessly hack out everything that is not absolutely necessary so that you – the star of the show – can actually shine.  Time to prune down the material you are covering and get rid of 80% of the stuff on those slides.

Top presenters have the ability to make their presentations sound like free-flowing conversations.  In order to do this, you need to give yourself space to speak freely, off script, and have your presentation slides be open to digression as opposed to locking in your path with a series of bullet points.  This means editing out what isn’t necessary to your point. Sometimes that means editing with a very heavy hand.

If you are finding it necessary to pare down a presentation – maybe even deleting entire sections or topics – and are baulking because of all the work you put in, ask yourself:  can I spin this into a new presentation?  (Hint: the answer is almost always yes!)  I love this question.  It does two things right out of the gate:

1) it gives you to permission to edit away to your heart’s desire because you won’t be “losing work,” and

2) it lets you get even more done because you’ve taken what you thought would be a single presentation and then expanded it to create two or more new presentations.

Give your brain space to converse naturally during your presentations; for that you need time, and to ensure you have that time you’ll probably need to edit quite a bit out of your presentation.  Don’t be afraid of throwing away good content and good work, though; if there’s gold in them hills, mine it to create more great presentations!