The Naked Speaker

How To Present Naked?

By naked, I mean without the whole set of classy and sleeky powerpoint slides, latest projector, remote control, laser pointer, giant screen with latest videos and dolby stereo….This post was triggered by reading the brilliant article written by Martin Shovel, "What Power Point can't show you" in Creativity Works Blog. 

What happens when technology fails?

Commenting on Twitter last week about Peter Senge 's performance, without Power Point, here are the reactions I got from Angie Chaplin, Leadership Speaker and Trainer


Recently, I had to facilitate a TeamBuilding seminar for International MBAs. I had designed a very “Zen like” short and sleek, design & Chic ppt with pictures purchased in iStock photos, few words, big fonts, very “Steve Job” styled…(without the black turtleneck, though)

I was very proud and eager to “make my show", I had rehearsed and prepared carefully.

I had not anticipated I would spill my coffee on my laptop, the day before, ruining my unsaved ppt.(The laptop, a brand new MacBook, is still alive with a mouse and keyboard transplant). Oh, lala! Désastre! Malédiction! (28 days later, it resurrected. I'm a Re born Mac Believer, now)
When I showed up the next morning, after a night trying to bring back my bonniemac to life,apart from my high stage of internal panic and lack of sleep,I had in fact all the presentation ready in my mind and was completely available for the participants.

I felt myself "naked".

Like in naked truth. Simply, naturally,..naked.

I told them many stories, I listened to them and asked them plenty of questions, I was more flexible and available than if I had sticked to my initial plan, which was ,more secretly, to make a Marion show.
Of course, I had integrated the components of the presentation and was in fact making it “Live”.
It was the best presentation ever. I felt free, natural, spontaneous, close to my audience and gave them more space too.

Why do I think Peter Senge is a naked Speaker?

Watch this very short (2.40 min) video "Closing Circle" 

He's speaking with simplicity , he's open and aware of others.  Very natural. He's standing in the middle of a circle and telling us a story.

This is called "presence".

If you really have to use Power Point
Preparing with visual aids, ppt slides and even better mixing with mindmaps , can be a fantastic way to get sharp and ready . Ready to do without, too…

  1.  It enables you to anticipate and structure your presentation, to think about the illustrations you might want to use.Then you use homeopatic dose.
  2. You hand pick the best quality slides, the “wow” effect illustrations. That’s all.
  3. You rehearse and rehearse, and eliminate. You “prune
  4.  It’s a great discipline and framework, from which one has to free oneself and move out of the ppt box.
  5. It’s a means and should be used with only one question in mind: What added value is it bringing to my audience?

A wonderful way to do this is to embrace the Magical Story Frog Prince.

Happy Smiling Frog

You tell stories, you ask for stories from your participants, you make an imaginary fire and warm yourself around!

As Terrence Gargiulo says “If a picture is worth a thousand words, a Story is worth a thousand pictures.”

Visit his site Making Stories, and his blog.

20 thoughts

  1. Marion, great story! I greatly admire the Presentation Zen approach ala TED talks and Steve Jobs. I aspire to that, although still have some PowerPoints with more info on them than I would like, inspite of pruning.
    I have taken to more facilitated discussions as you described with questions, reflection and sharing from the participants.
    This approach really supports the learning!
    Thanks for bringing your experience to this topic.
    Peg Rowe

  2. Marion,
    Thanks for sharing your experience on getting caught without your PowerPoint safety net. As a result of PowerPoint, we’ve become distracted in making our talks full of animations, colourful text and unusual fonts because we believe this is what’s needed to keep our audiences interested in the subject we’re there to present.
    The ironic twist in the PowerPoint story is that instead of simply facilitating our ability to give presentations, it ended up causing so many of us to forget the key fundamental about giving a talk – it has to be about engaging your audience, drawing them into the message you wish to impart.
    Hopefully, stories like yours Marion will get us back in touch with that simple truth.

  3. Marion – this is a great story and a great lesson -there is no substitute for not knowing your stuff! Research and product knowledge – doesn’t matter which sector or activity you’re in, presentation, job search, sales – you have to be able to perform “naked”.
    I experienced this in reverse when I was working with a partner who insisted on a ppt – I felt as if I was on a beach in a ski-suit. Over dresssed and overwhelmed! I was not good and reverted after one more attempt in this mode to a more fluid interactive approach.
    Brava for spelling it out so easily for us.

  4. Maid Marion, it has been a long time since we have spoken on twitter but well worth the wait. Great Blog Post. I very seldom use power point, I find it distracts me let alone my audience. To be fair I’m very familiar with my material but still being “naked” allows one to be immediate, present and alive to the warmth and ambience of the audience. Thanks Kriss

  5. Marion,
    I have not done much presenting or speaking in a long time, but I love this post. The idea of using stories and discussion to engage your listeners is fantastic. Would love to sit in on one of your session! Thank you for sharing this post!

  6. Marion,
    Great post! It’s got me so excited that I intend to write a post of my own inspired by it. Our anecdotal experience with clients suggests that there’s a definite move away from the suit of armour approach to presenting – as exemplified by PowerPoint – towards what you so perfectly describe as the naked approach to presenting.
    I believe that the future of presenting in organisations is beginning to look more positive – especially thanks to the influence of blog posts like yours. Coincidentally, CreativityWorks – – the communications consultancy I run with my wife Martha has just been commissioned to run a two-day course in Athens, in January, for a leading Greek coaching company that wants to move its presentation and marketing materials beyond PowerPoint.
    In fact, they told us that their multinational corporation clients increasingly frown upon its use – and don’t use it much themselves. Instead they want us to teach them how to develop their ability to use visual/concrete language. And they also want us to teach them how to use live drawing as a tool for communicating ideas.
    We’ll be offering them a bespoke mix of our ‘Words that Move Mountains’ advanced presentation skills and our ‘How to use cartoon drawing as a tool for thinking and communication.’
    As is so often the case, change is happening first at the top of organisations, but it will slowly trickle down to the tiers below. Our speech coaching clients – chief execs and senior managers – are also increasingly attracted to working with us because we give them the courage and technical skills to be able to abandon artificial props when speaking.
    One of our clients – a senior adviser at the Cabinet Office – recently gave a keynote speech at a very important event. It went extremely well and when he told us about it afterwards he was delighted by the fact that he was the only one of ten speakers not to use PowerPoint. As result, members of the audience came up to him afterwards to congratulate him and to reflect back some of the things (words!) he’d spoken that had stuck in their minds.

  7. Thank you Peg!
    We all have PowerPoints with more info on them than we would like, what is great and is changing, is that we’re now ready to admit it.
    Awareness is the first step towards change!
    There’ s room for improvement and innovation.
    I’d love to hear your story on that…see you in a while…

  8. Very true, Tanveer,
    There is definitely an “irony” in that PowerPoint story.
    The tool which becomes the master, instead of the instrument…
    Speaking of stories.
    You also must know, Tanveer, that one of the reasons I decided to write more assertively in this blog, is because of you.
    You once told me, when i was still “looking for my voice”. We all have many voices inside of us. Don’t be afraid to let them speak with different accents… (well, maybe you didn’t say that exactly, but that’s how I interpreted it!)
    My gratitude to you 🙂

  9. Oh, Dorothy!
    Your sense of humor and derision strikes again, and I love it.
    Now, I can picture you with a ski suit on the beach of your next Conference!
    Very well said, impactful and illustrated, like usual.
    You remind us to use EXAMPLES and make it real!

  10. Ha, Bip Bip!
    I had no idea you all had answered and commented (I’m not used to it, I’ve been writing almost confidentially here for a year!)
    Coming from such an experienced motivational speaker like you, your comment is inspirational, and will be for many.
    The future of presentation will definitely have to include simplicity and excellence, just like you do when you speak.
    Accepting to be humble and show your truth.
    Gratitude, my friend!

  11. You’re precious, Becky,
    You took the time to read and comment here, although you have many other blogs you’re following and commenting on a regular basis.
    I’m very touched by your words.
    Thank you

  12. Wow, thank you Martin!
    And congratulations to Martha and you for being selected for the European Coaching project in Athens.
    Your communications agency is going to be thriving if you bring your clients innovative, empowering presentation tools.
    In what you’re describing, the added value seems to be in the service you provide with training the client to be the source of its creative presentation.
    I’d love to learn to use cartoon drawing as a means of communicating (you may already know by my tweets that I ‘m a big fan of cartoons…)
    Very happy to have stimulated the desire to write another post!
    That’s exactly what you did with yours!
    Can’t wait to read your next post,

  13. Wow Marion! Exsctly how I describe myself as a presenter/speaker… going ‘naked’ which usually gets a warm if not humorous response from whoever I’m talking with at the time.
    PP, shazam music/intros are so distracting when people want contact, connection and meaningful interaction.
    More power to you woman!

  14. What a great story. Ironically I gave a keynote address as a Women’s Business Conference last Friday at The Kight Center for Emerging Technologies. I have NEVER used PowerPoint in my work and until this point resisted successfully. Although as an IT professional in my prior life I used it often so I am no stranger to the technology.
    For me it is all about the connection and the conversation. I prepare for a conversation rather than a presentation. Participation is essential no matter how large the group in my worldview. Yet I felt compelled for this talk to use PPT – perhaps because of the high tech venue.
    I had a great experience. Far better than I expected. My slides were simple – nothing fancy at all. I tried to use them to enhance what I was talking about instead of being what I was talking about. The thing that helped was how well integrated into the room the technology was. Yet I can see how easy it would be to let the technology take over.
    I am now wondering what would have been different if I did not have the slides. And I can see I need to visit your site often. I have some catching up on some great reading here!

  15. Nice way to put back the importance on the speaker! Seth Godin, who’s pretty good on stage too, like to use totally black slides, to bring back the attention of the crowd back to himself. Good way to have the best of both worlds.
    I usually keep PPT presentations for big crowds. And even then, a good story will make wonders. It’s all about addressing both sides of the brain. Left is data. That is usually not a problem. Right is usually easier to “talk” to with stunning visuals but a good storyteller will conjure up strong images, even stronger that what you can put on the screen because the listener builds it up in “his” brain.
    As for the “wow” effect…It’s another challenge 😉

  16. Thank you Susan for this story!
    By this personal example, you have more impact than any theory about communication.
    I agree 100% with you: it’s all about the connection and the conversation.
    Brilliant, I wish I had been there at the Women’s Business Conference last Friday at The Kight Center for Emerging Technologies.

  17. Thank you so much Sharon!
    That’s another woman I believe makes a prodigious impact just by walking into the room.
    Incredible serendipity that you should have used exactly the same word a few days ago.
    I think it’s reflecting an actual trend in the presentation field where people crave for simplicity and human connections.
    More power to you woman! 🙂

  18. Thank you Alain for your input, very precious.
    I really enjoy this conversation which enables me to get to know you better.
    Good point with Seth Godin.
    As far as the right brain and left brain are concerned, I won’t speak unless I consult with my lawyer (:-)
    Regarding brain research applied to learning and presentation, I’ve become very cautious recently (cf @MartinShovel post about the dangers of co-opting scientific explanation
    I agree with you about the multiple choices to offer to the listener’s brain, and feed him with various gourmet quality food…, appealing both to his whole mind.

  19. It is always your message or better yet, the conversation you create with the audience that makes a presentation compelling. I have been using all photo slides for some time now…no words, no bullets or lists…just pictures that spark the imagination, get people talking, make a point. Of course, it takes more preparation and makes the presentation less structured, in a good way. I smile when I am going to a congress and they ask me for a copy of my presentation to put in the material they will give out at the end…there is nothing there for someone who didn’t attend. I prefer to give out small, teaser cards to take away as reminders. The kind they can keep in their wallets. Or I put an article on the subject on a website where they can download if they like. Thanks for this take on presenting and stories. Nice!

  20. I loved Garr Reynolds’ “Presentation Zen” and became an immediate convert of his presentation style. I tried it on a large Toastmasters event and was received with mixed reviews. Some said it was okay (33%) and some said it was not okay (33%) while others were undecided. I guess people were expecting the crowded pages usually associated with PowerPoint. To see a lot of white space in the slides made some in the audience uncomfortable. Change is never easy and unlearning concepts takes time, it it is achieved at all!

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