Starting our virtual morning on Tuesday at the Presentation Summit was Nancy Duarte who was present with a cool videotaped message that introduced the keynote speaker of the day, Garr Reynolds. Nancy spoke highly of Garr as an amazing, honest person who has inspired her.
Garr, who spoke virtually from Osaka, Japan was awake late at night to coincide with the time difference with Austin, USA. He began his talk with pictures that showed views from his bedroom window during his childhood spent in west coast USA. He joked that he could probably see across the ocean to Japan, his future home country — even then!
Garr mentioned that PowerPoint or Keynote are just presentation tools, and presenting as an art is a much older form. He then talked about Kamishibai, a storytelling art form from Japan that uses changing pictures, a technique akin to today’s slides.
Garr spoke about a red Mt. Fuji, tsunamis, and earthquakes, mainly about the recent natural calamity in Japan where 25,000 people lost their lives. He mentioned how displaced people in Japan were rehabilitated. He spoke how there was almost no panic, and no looting during this disaster, and how everything was so civilized, a reflection of Japanese culture.
No wonder, Japan has touched Garr’s life in so many ways. He is inspired by Japan everyday, and this in turn has ushered change. He then asked everyone in the audience to talk to the person seated next to them about what inspires them. He said lessons are all around us, and what inspires him about Japan is nature. Nothing in Japan is far from nature including art forms like ikebana. I do not remember Garr’s exact words but he quoted the great Japanese teacher, Morihei Yeshiva who said one must study how water flows in a valley stream, and study the teachings that nature brings forth. Nature thus is a sensei, a teacher. We must also learn lessons from the pine tree, the bamboo, and the plum blossom.
Garr, who used to live in downtown Osaka moved to an area outside the city that is full of bamboo plantations. This led him to the main topic of his session, 10 lessons we should learn from the bamboo — these are my recollections, and may not be Garr’s exact words:
- Bamboo is strong. Complete houses are made from bamboo in some parts of the world. Thus, the bamboo teaches us that you do not have to be necessarily big to be strong.
Strength in the light, in kindness, and compassion.
- Bend but do not break. Even during natural calamities, when larger trees cannot cope with storms, the bamboo may bend but it does not break.
- Firmly rooted yet flexible. Bamboo shoots can grow a meter a day.
- Slow down your busy mind. We are all so busy, so much so that Garr asked how many of us in the audience were too busy to raise our hands. We need to still our lives.
It is only in still water that we can see.
- Be always ready.
The warrior, like bamboo is always ready for action.
- Find wisdom in emptiness.
Empty your cup so that it may be filled.
You must unlearn what you have learned.
- Smile, laugh, play. Know the difference between a real smile and a fake one; a real smile is in the eyes. Play is important, even for adults. Garr showed a tongue-in-cheek video of Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft on stage who was not afraid to play.
- Commit yourself to growth and renewal.
Even a 100 foot stalk of bamboo can progress one more step (a Chinese saying).
- Express your usefulness through simplicity. Garr mentioned how bamboo can be used for everything from manufacturing clothing to creating homes.
- Unleash your power to spring back. Many trees get uprooted during a heavy snowfall in Japan. But even though the bamboo may bend down and touch the ground, it revives again and stands up.
Fall seven times, get up eight.
Garr continued his analogy of the bamboo — he said that flexibility and adaptability are lessons that we all can learn from the bamboo. The bamboo also shows resilience, and we should all strive to be like the bamboo.Garr Reynolds is the author of Presentation Zen, Presentation Zen Design, and The Naked Presenter. A respected spokesperson for the presentation community, Garr is a former Apple evangelist and he works as a marketing professor for a small college in Japan. Garr runs a thought-provoking blog on slide design called Presentation Zen.