RU: How do you create a new presentation, specifically in the conceptual phase?
DA: Presentations are first created in my mind and they don’t start as presentations they start out as fragments, ideas and parts of a story. The pieces of the narrative then show up in a variety of forms. Sometimes in work deliverables, other times in articles and occasionally a blog post or tweet. The narrative begins to take root. Then, when the time is right and all the pieces are scattered in a variety of forms—I begin to pull the master narrative together in the forms of words, pictures and whatever else helps me tell the story.
RU: What are your "pre-presentation" rituals that help you get ready? Any rituals during the presentation that keep you in the flow?
DA: I never, ever do dry runs. What I do is put some notes to the slides or sometimes edit them. I never read the notes—it is the act of writing them that helps me to recall the story. I also flip through slides in presentation mode whether on laptop, iPad or whatever. I need to see the slides over and over again until they are burned into my mind.
RU: How do you recover from losing your "flow"--when you're in the middle of a presentation?
DA: Great question, this happens from time to time. Not everyone notices it—but I know when I’ve lost optimal flow. What I do is look to the audience and find someone who is highly engaged. I focus on that person even though they probably never know it. I take that energy and bring it back into the presentation. This usually works and I regain my footing. I often find that I’m only as good as my audience. But I’ve been pretty fortunate to have some good ones.
RU: How have you combatted stage fright in the past and/or how do you combat it today? What are the techniques you use--not the whole "see the audience in their underwear" stuff, but the real tricks that make it work for you.
DA: This is going to sound odd but I typically get very calm before an audience. The larger the audience—the calmer I get. This doesn’t mean I don’t get nervous. I do. But I’ve noticed something interesting that often happens after I speak. I feel the physical effects after, not before. Sometimes in my lower back! After I'm done, I often feel depleted. I like to joke that I’m a “closet introvert” and people never believe me because I’m very social and outgoing. But interactions in public such as presentations and the meet & greets after drain my batteries as opposed to charging them. As for techniques, I have no tricks to offer here, but would suggest that you try to focus your presentations on subjects you feel passionately about. I think that’s probably one of the reasons my stage fright is pretty minimal.