Next week, starting on June 6, I’ll be in French Lick, Indiana, at the Babalon Rising festival. As with most festivals, there will be lots of music, rituals, dancing, bonfires and workshops. I’ll be giving three workshops, one on a form of numerology most people don’t know about (hint: it’s Kabalistic), one on the five types of magick generally practiced by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (they call it the Magic of Light), and one on the practice of sex magick. I encourage adults—this is an adults-only festival—in the area (and even out of the area) to consider attending.
One of the people giving workshops is the noted hypnotherapist, NLP trainer, magician, and author, Phil Farber. In one workshop he’ll be sharing exercises for developing rapport leading to a group mind ritual. In another workshop he’ll be sharing “Techniques to create and manage wonderful feelings…with an eye (or other body part) aimed toward applying them to magick,…using some choice bits from hypnosis and NLP to explore how we can influence each other toward peak states of pleasure and intelligence.”
Phillip H. Farber
I’ve been lucky enough to have been invited to give presentations at festivals and conventions and trainings from Washington State to Florida, from Hawaii to New York, as well as in Europe. I’ve given workshops and talks to a few people and to groups of many hundreds. I consider myself very fortunate.
Although sometimes I present by myself, most often there are many people presenting. For example, a few years ago I was presenting at a festival where I was also able to attend a workshop by Phil Farber called something like “How to be a Megalomanic and Start Your Own Cult.” Well, that’s what I remember as the name. It was a great workshop. He demonstrated some amazing techniques, shared a lot of information, and we had a lot of fun.
On the Other Hand…
Unfortunately, not all workshops are that good. To be blunt, most of them suck. They’re excruciating to sit through and poorly presented. Some time ago I presented at a college. There were professors—professional presenters—from all over the world who were also giving presentations (“delivering papers”). Later, with more surprise than ego, I asked my girlfriend (Now my wife…Hi, Holly!), “Am I crazy, or am I that good a presenter and were those professors really bad?” Now, she may be prejudiced (she did agree to marry me), but she said I was correct. She told me that’s the way most professors are giving lectures and talks. They’re bad because those are the type of lectures they observed and that’s all they know how to present.
So this is not just a rant about presenters at festivals—most of whom are not professionals—nor is it a dis of teachers and presenters. Rather, it’s meant as a dual plea. My first plea is to presenters,
Note To Presenters:
Wise up! You’re in competition with books and ebooks and HBO and Xboxes and the internet. If you think you can survive by reading some notes that you project with Powerpoint, you’re living in 1990. Welcome to the 21st century.
When you give a presentation, there is a triad of things you need to be aware of: audiovisuals (including charts, Powerpoint or Keynote slides, a whiteboard, etc.), handouts, and you, the presenter. Each point on this triangle (if you use two or three points) has its own value, and simply repeating what is on one of the other points won’t cut it. For example, I’ve seen presenters who have handouts that include a written paragraph, a Powerpoint slide with the same paragraph, and then they read, out loud, the same freakin’ paragraph with all the emotion of a dead jellyfish! This is the worst of the worst.
As a presenter, the most important aspect of the presentation should be you. Any audiovisuals and handouts should support what you’re doing, not repeat or replace it. Putting up a paragraph for people to read is BORING. Having it on handouts as well as on a screen and reading it is BORING and redundant. How about, instead, showing photos or illustrations that demonstrate what you’re talking about or a photo of the person you’re quoting. While people watch the screen you can summarize the paragraph. The handout could contain the paragraph in full. Each point of the presenters’ triad—presenter, audiovisual, handouts—reinforces what you’re doing, they don’t replace it.
Is this going to be a bit more work for the presenter? Absolutely. And the presenters willing to do more and give more are the ones who will be asked back repeatedly.
Do you have to use all three points of the triad? No. Look at what I wrote above about Phil Farber’s workshop: “He demonstrated some amazing techniques, shared a lot of information, and we had a lot of fun.” He didn’t have handouts. He didn’t use audiovisuals. But his workshop was not just an in-person version of a book. A book can share lots of information, but it can’t give demonstrations (this may change in the future with eBooks). A book can’t immediately respond to the feelings and actions of the participants to make itself fun.
I hope, presenters, that you can understand what I’m sharing here. DON’T just read something you’ve written. Give a presentation. Learn about the dynamics of presenter and audience. Understand what I’ve called the presentation triad and its three points. Yes, you do need to provide information, but if people can find it in a book or on line, why should they listen to you? I would add that when presentations are involving and fun, rather than someone just reading something in a boring voice (“Bueller?…Bueller?”) your participants will learn more, retain more, and enjoy it more.
Note to Participants:
My second plea it to all of us who attend (or might attend) workshops at festivals and conventions. Part of the reason presentations and workshops suck is because we, the people who attend such things, don’t demand more. If you accept poor workshops and poor presentations, why should the presenters give you anything else? Why should the people putting on the workshop or presentation ask more of the workshop presenters?
You can stop “Death by Powerpoint” and other horrible presentations and workshop! Be polite, but tell the people putting on the event that although you found the material interesting (if you did), the presenter did a poor job. Don’t just say it was bad, however, explain what you didn’t like and how the presenter could improve. Share this with the presenter, too. We need the feedback. Unless we demand it, workshops and presentations will not meet the level of quality I think we all deserve.
And when someone gives an excellent presentation or workshop, let the presenter and the people putting on the workshops know.
What Do You Think?
Have you attended some excellent workshops?
Who gave it and what it about?
What did they do that made the presentation excellent?
Have you attended some awful workshops?
No need to name who gave it, but what did he or she do that you didn’t like.
Let us know in the comments section below.