Sunday, November 9, 2014

What could be a universal phobia, transcending borders and cultures, shared by millions across this little blue globe? Hint: it's not the dark, not even spiders and no, it’s not heights! It’s public speaking. Yes, we have got ourselves a topper of the phobia list. Most of us have spoken on stage, addressing tens or hundreds of faces we did not know or hoped to never see again, as the prospect of death seemed more welcoming minute by minute.
Yet, there is a type of public speaking to which a hanging noose might look like sweet release: addressing the ones we know and see every day. Be it a classroom or a boardroom, presenting or pitching an idea to the people who could turn a blunder into the butt of every joke ever is indeed a grim prospect. On top of that, sprinkle a liberal amount of bullet points, a dash of cntrl-C cntrl-V Wikipedia entriesand a few artsy, neon fonts and youve got yourself adeath-by-PowerPoint.

Thankfully, there’s life after death-by-PowerPoint. Thats where John Quinn can help. The self-proclaimed presentologist and communication specialist was invited to speak on the Art of Presenting in the auditorium last Tuesday. He has 20 years of experience in the event technology field and in coaching big players in diverse industries to make visually stunning and interactive presentations. He has worked with the DEPA Hotel Awards, as well as with Emaar to create the first extensive wireless voting event in the Middle East

The workshop aimed to help us Media students shed universally widespread and yet commonly disdained practices when it came to presenting. The guest lecturer introduced the first year, second year and third year students of the School of Media & Communication to the concept of gamification of learning by demonstrating his live wireless voting system and stressed on three aspects of presenting: Preparation, Slide Design and Delivery.

He emphasized on the importance of shaping presentations into stories that are simple and clear. The rule of thumb he shared was 10-20-30, where presentations should not be more than 10 slides over a duration of 20 minutes and should not contain text with a font size less than 30 point. He also shared online resources, softwares and PowerPoint tips and tricks. The two-hour workshop was an intense wakeup call for many of us, who still hoped to not miss a single word of our prepared speech by reading it off the slides.

But how do we cope with the fear? A clip from Chris Hadfields TED talk ‘What I learned from going blind in space played, as the TED speaker explained that conquering the fear of spiders is possible by rationalizing it and walking into every spider web that you come across. John Quinn compared the fear of public speaking to the fear of spiders. Yes, us mortals could conquer this fear by practicing over and over again, by not only practicing things going right, but also things going wrong, and by taking up every public speaking opportunity that would show up.

By popular request, John Quinn spent more time on Delivery. He explained the importance of hand and arm gestures, which most of us forget as they limply dangle beside our bodies during presentations or stay crossed throughout. He pointed out the difference between pitch, volume and clarity of voice, demonstrating it by requesting members of the audience to ‘throwtheir message to him like a ball. The Irish speaker then tackled accents, listing them through a video by the YouTube channel soundlyawake and urging the audience to be aware of words and expressions with multiple meanings in different cultures.

As the workshop came to an end, John Quinn was swarmed with questions from students, who huddled around the speaker. He shared that the term "Presentology" was his own neologism and that it meant using the latest Presentation Technology to communicate your message. However, there was a crusade for the term, as some would claim it described the philosophy of living in the present. “Well thats alright with me, he added, as I also strive to live in the present!”

The speaker will be back for TEDx at Manipal University so don’t fret, there is still a chance to catch him again as he speaks about the gamification of learning. In the meantime, your best PowerPoint presentation so far awaits your rude awakening. 

Head to this video to see John Quinn in action: 

Written By Hansa Luximan
The writer is a second year undergraduate student in the School of Media & Communication