“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” William Butler Yeats
How do I prepare a presentation? That depends entirely on which type of presentation I am preparing. We craft them for schools, corporations, conferences, with many different objectives. In each case, my primary goal is to understand their need. What concern or problem do they hope to solve by my visit with them? It is very rare that I am simply there to tell my story and entertain or distract people for whatever time I’m allotted to share with the audience. Even when that might be the case, I often find opportunities to introduce the most commonly appreciated aspects of our core presentation.
Most presenters have a niche, some aspect which sets them apart from others. As a blind mountain climber, the notion of reaching for our “peak potential” is a quality double meaning which resonates well. How can we be the best version of ourselves on our journey? What tools of teamwork and communication might rise from the anecdotes of my interactions with my guide dogs and the community of friends with whom I accomplish such things? Our signature image highlights these notions and opens an avenue for discussion of “vision” as something so much more powerful than “sight,” a concept that is essential to many discussions of direction and mindfulness.
My presentations continue to highlight a niche through the multiple Tough Mudder events which have created literal and figurative talking points for overcoming obstacles that captivate audiences. The messages from our signature video resonate powerfully to audiences from all ages and backgrounds. Few will look at barriers or challenge the same way after experiencing a fresh look at how we choose to see the obstacles in our world.
Finally, as a marathon runner, we include components of endurance and perseverance essential to success, delivered on the backdrop of motivation and inspiration behind success as well as failure. My approach to running is necessarily untypical and highlights teamwork, communication, and problem solving, different than most, but in ways that produce yet more essential opportunity for anecdotes.
With those three elements in mind, I take the objective for the presentation and choose which stories from my life’s journey, my assorted experiences, and our collection of images and videos to support them. These have now become small time modules in my mind so I add or delete them from my notes based upon how much time I’m allotted for the presentation. As I write out my notes I add custom points to relate to the target audience or event. I review it several times so that I’m comfortable enough not in the word for word memorization but the conceptual flow of the points.
This is essentially how I create each presentation and part of why I believe we are fortunate in having such excellent reviews. I’m sharing experiences and taking people on a journey with me. There are often moments of laughter, thought-provoking reflection, and at times deeper emotion. Ultimately, we reach a conclusion on methods to consider which might help us better meet the original presentation objective and perhaps a few other of our own life goals along the way!