Glenn Gibson is the author of the presentation skills book, Before the Mic. Glenn is an award-winning public speaker with a passion for technology and has collected several IT certifications over his 17-year tenure at a leading software company, including VMware Certified Professional, Citrix Certified Administrator, and Microsoft Certified Professional. As a native of Scotland, his passions include playing in bands, expanding his vinyl collection, and all things Scottish; kilts, bagpipes, whisky, (real) football, meat pies, and everything deep fried.
In this conversation, Glenn talks about his participation at the upcoming Presentation Summit 2022, being held on location in San Diego, CA, and virtually this year from October 9 to 12, 2022.
Indezine.com is the official media partner for the Presentation Summit.
Geetesh: Glenn, at this year’s Presentation Summit, you will be delivering the Beautiful Music session. Your session is different than many other sessions because it is about hearing rather than seeing. Tell us more, and also what, according to you will be audience takeaways from this session.
Glenn: I’m focusing entirely on how presentations sound, not on how they look.
We all know the power that simple, gorgeous, and inspiring slides can have in making a deep impression on an audience. However, a question that every presenter needs to ask themselves is; if I had no slides, could I STILL blow people’s minds with the words that I say?
Every presentation should be meaningful, memorable, and motivational to the audience, regardless of the topic or situation. These three outcomes are absolutely determined by the words the speaker says, and not by how nice the slides look.
The session is called Beautiful Music (shout out to Rick Altman for helping me choose this catchy title!) because I correlate the act of presentation writing to songwriting. There is SO much that presenters can learn from musicians as to how they approach the creative writing process. I’ll delve into this and provide some ah-ha moments for presenters to help them think differently about how they approach their own writing process.
The key takeaways from this session, are the eerie similarities and lessons that presentation writers can learn from songwriters when it comes to the structure, lyrics, and “melody”.
As regards structure, we’ll delve into the repeatable structure that prolific songwriters rinse and repeat almost every time and share an award-winning, repeatable structure that all the attendees can begin applying immediately.
When it comes to “melody”, we’ll apply some of the concepts that musicians use to create catchy hooks by exploring analogies, mastering storytelling, and peppering in repetitive “hooks” that the audience cannot help but remember.
And finally, for lyrics, we will provide practical tips from songwriters for refining word choice, for remembering what to say, and ultimately delivering without notes.
The reason that I love correlating presentations to songs, is that songs often make a deep impression on us simply by hearing them, long before we ever see them performed live.
I like to think of slides in a presentation as to how a musician thinks of the lighting and video displays for a live performance in a concert. Amazing lights, lasers, video clips, and fireworks can add an amazing element to the performance and create a true wow factor for the artist at the time of the live performance. Yet, what came first? The song. Once presenters embrace that quality material MUST precede the creation of flashy visuals, that’s where they truly start to create beautiful music.
Geetesh: Beyond design, you are involved with many more aspects such as sound, travel, writing, and more. Can you share some thoughts of finding synergy between these varied aspects, and how is the sum of these more than the individual parts?
Glenn: Yes! Besides launching my book on presentation writing, Before the Mic last year, I’ve had the pleasure of touring with the Band Beat the Drum – The Runrig Experience.
Here’s some random footage from a couple of shows we did in March 2022 as part of our ‘Dance Again Tour’ Part II!
Dance Again Tour 2022 – Tour Memories | The Runrig Experience
We’ve completed two mini-tours of Scotland in 2021 and earlier in the year, and we just played at Attendorn castle in Germany in July. This has been an unreal experience, not only as a lifelong Runrig fan myself but also in being part of a band of fantastic musicians and genuinely great people.
As we were doing our sound-check in Germany I had a realization that the activities we were doing, were almost identical to the steps I do, and that every presenter should do, to get ready and set up for success, before every presentation.
You see, although we were all extremely well-rehearsed and knew the songs inside and out, every venue is unique and demands a specific set of activities to minimize the chance of something going wrong. After our setup, we did an individual check of every instrument, checking mics, levels, and cables. Then we did a full band sound check, where our incredible sound engineer ensured the mix was correct and that the overall impression was exactly as it should be.
When you present, do you get in the room as early as you can? Do you check to make sure that your slides are displaying correctly on the projector and/or in the virtual meeting? Do you check that your clicker is working? Do you check that your microphone is allowing you to be heard in the room and/or in the virtual meeting? It might sound a bit dramatic to liken this setup to a band’s sound check, but it’s not. I have hundreds of horror stories of projectors not working, computers crashing, mic’s causing ear-splitting feedback, video clips playing as silent movies unintentionally and many more disasters, which have ultimately ruined the presentations I’ve delivered.
In the band, we went through the exact same routine in every venue, before every gig, even where the setlist was identical to the last time. This routine is determined by our sound engineer and he is the man that makes sure everything works. I’m guessing most of us don’t have a sound engineer when we walk in to do most of our presentations, so that checklist falls to us.
And yet, even with all of this rigorous prep, the weirdest things still go wrong! In Germany, as we walked on stage, the bass guitar was inexplicably not working even though it had been mere minutes before – cue the flurry of stagehands troubleshooting the problem as our lead singer swiftly and elegantly changed to an acoustic song to begin instead, while the problem was addressed. When we played in the Gathering Hall in Portree, Skye, mid-way through a spectacular guitar instrumental, a cable went bad, and the sound started cutting in and out.
What’s the point of all this checking then, if things will go wrong anyway, you may wonder? It’s all about how you feel when it does. When you KNOW that you have done everything you possibly can to ensure smooth performance, and an inexplicable thing happens, you feel much more relaxed because you know that it was simply out of your control and that it wasn’t your fault. In all the cases above, while there’s an obvious heart-fluttering moment as you acknowledge what’s happening, you can still smile and think of how to handle it, rather than getting completely flustered or paralyzed with thinking “what did I miss?”.
On all the occasions listed above, as a band, we all smiled and moved on, and then added new items to the checklist for the next time to ensure THAT particular gremlin doesn’t surface again.
So, as a presenter, IF you ever get the chance to go along early to a gig to observe their sound check, definitely do so! You’ll get first-hand experience of how much work it takes to pull off a polished performance with as little risk of something going wrong as possible.
That’s just one lesson I’ve learned on the road, there are SO many correlations between the contagious energy of the performer and how that impacts the crowd (and vice versa!), but I’ll stop there for now. I hope that your readers enjoyed these “lessons from the road” and I look forward to seeing you at the Presentation Summit in San Diego!
Are you a nervous presenter? The secret to improving your confidence happens long before you approach the microphone. If you want to write presentations that are meaningful, memorable, and motivational, you need to learn the skill of turning information into inspiration.
Before the Mic – Official Book Trailer
What is the Presentation Summit?
For two decades, Rick Altman has been hosting the Presentation Summit, a highly popular event that is geared towards users of PowerPoint and other presentation platforms.
Indezine.com is the official media partner for the Presentation Summit.
Date: October 9 to 12, 2022
Location: San Diego, CA + Virtual Event
The views and opinions expressed in this blog post or content are those of the authors or the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer, or company.