Think Stories, Not Slides.

Speaking with Stories, Presenting with Impact.

"If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now” ― Woodrow Wilson

Crafting a talk that engages, inspires and connects with the audience requires time and effort. Plan for it. Here is a short guide to do so, in four sections ― See the Idea, Show the Visual, Tell the Story, and Engage the Audience. Read this guide and then start working on your talk. To get a pdf book version, click the book cover image.

See | Show | Tell | Engage | More...

Talk Types

So you want to read more. Maybe some examples will help. Here are different talk types that I have attended (& given) and have found them novel in their presentation. I have learned a few things from each one of them. By the way, I am not implying at all that they follow this framework (except for the last two which are mine!). All credit for the talk goes to the speaker, I just found them inspiring in their design and delivery.

Stories Talk

Stories Talk

“On the Building of A PostgreSQL Cluster”
by Srihari Sriraman Talk link: YouTube video, slides

Watch out for how Srihari weaves together four long stories and four short stories through his talk. He takes a complicated technical topic and makes it relatable through the stories. Each story in itself is a narrative journey through the problem, the quickfix, the root cause, the correct fix and the lesson learnt. A great example of how stories can help connect.

Interactive Talk

Interactive Talk

“Exponential Growth Models”
by Ashok Banerjee
Talk link: YouTube video

Watch out for how Ashok integrates the Q&A with his session. He uses the lens of exponential growth as the narrative tool to anchor the entire session. And his style was very professorial but in a good way. He carries the audience through with his Q&A approach baked into the talk, ensuring a high level of engagement and conversation.

Demo Talk

Demo Talk

“Visualising Text”
by S Anand
Talk link: YouTube video

Watch out for the nice narrative arc – starting with Anand’s personal journey into text visualization to beginners viz to advanced viz. The content is engaging and the contexts are setup nicely. Also presented in a personal style with humour. There is a bit too much switching between screens but for a demo style talk it can work, if paced well.

Process Talk

Process Talk

“A Billion Snapshots - Principles and Processes in the Census of India”
by Varsha Joshi
Talk link: YouTube video

Watch out for how Varsha unpacks the entire principles and process of census using a simple narrative. The slides are kept basic and limited to one idea per slide. The text size is large and highlighted with font size. Large graphics are used to illustrate key issues and challenges in the process. The overall tone is very conversational and pleasing.

Narrative Talk

Narrative Talk

“What Happens with Firefox Crashes”
by Erik Rose
Talk link: Vimeo video

Watch out for how Erik builds a three part narrative. Starts with the big picture to answer why this is important. Then uses a singular anchor visual - the process diagram (with zooming and focus) to guide us through a complex system stack that is used. And then ends the talk with big patterns - teasing out the generic learnings for big data users.

Conceptual Talk

Conceptual Talk

“Co-occurrence Analytics: A versatile framework for finding interesting needles in crazy haystacks!”
by Shailesh Kumar
Talk link: Vimeo video

Watch out for how Shailesh takes one conceptual approach and applies it across multiple domains to give different perspectives. The use of the metaphors like needles, haystack and common terminology across examples anchors the audience understanding. The verbal rhythm is strong in carrying the message across along with humor and wit.

Visual Talk

Visual Talk

“Visualising Multi-Dimensional Data”
by Amit Kapoor
Talk link: Youtube video, slides

Watch out for how Amit gives a talk which is focussed on ‘show, not tell’. He builds up the concepts gradually from small to wide data and then uses a singular anchor dataset to illustrate all the concepts. It definitely helps that the talk is about visualisation, but the consistent design helps in communicating the message visually and vibrantly.

Performance Talk

Performance Talk

“Learning Djembe Visually with p5.js”
by Amit Kapoor and Ashok Kumar
Talk link: Youtube video, website

Watch out for how Amit and Ashok coordinate to give a talk with live music and live visualisation. With this many moving parts technologically, it is important to prepare well and use a tool that provides a seamless presentation. Also, it is critical to have good timing and communication between the two people on stage. Listening for cues is important.

Resources

So you don't like my framework - See | Show | Tell | Engage. No worries! There are many good resources on the web on public speaking and giving a talk at a conference. Maybe you would resonate more with those. Browse through the links below to start that journey.

  1. On Speaking by Brad Frost
  2. No need to Kill it by Christian Heilmann
  3. Speaking Tips by Mark Boulton
  4. Killer Presentation by Chris Anderson
  5. Public Speaking by Zach Holman
  6. Public Speaking by Robin Hawkes
  7. Invited to speak by Lea Verou
  8. Conference Speaking Tips by Dave Addey