11 March 2009

The Zen of Presentations, Part 25: Caged tiger

Lazy blogging time, in which I point to photographer James Duncan’s blog entry called, Dear Speakers. About half of his eight entries can be boiled down to, “Stop moving around so much!” As a photographer, you can certainly understand why he wants people to stay put: it makes it much easier to make the photo.

As a presenter, I am probably guilty of the “caged tiger” problem at times. I like to move. I like to present with energy. I like to try to look to different parts of the audience or classroom. There is a threshold that you cross where that energy just looks abnormal, like a big cat looping around the same track in its enclosure in a zoo.

You have to be aware enough of your conditions to figure out if, or how much, you can move. Some stages have very definite light and dark spots; a recent talk by Robert Ballard at our university reminded me of this. His talk was lit by several stage lights, with some areas being very bright, and quickly fading to very dark. Ballard rarely stayed in the light, and it was bothersome. Some rooms, however, have very uniform lights, so this may not be a problem.

The “caged tiger” look also becomes less of a problem if you can simply remember to pause occasionally. It’s the constant movement along the same path that is most distracting.

For many presentations, there is simply a sweet spot on the stage where you can see the audience, the audience can see you, you can reach the lectern, but are not concealed by it. Find that spot before the talk. Then you’re less likely to go prowling for it during the talk.

No comments: