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Wild Presentations: How to Leave the Crowd Begging for More

By Alece Birnbach
The Graphic Recording Studio

I have the opportunity to watch a lot of presentations as I work on the sidelines as a graphic recorder. From that perspective, I have picked up a few tips about what makes a crowd hang on to a presenter’s every word—and what makes them yawn.

Here are three of the best speeches I’ve seen and graphic recorded in the last few months, and some thoughts on what helped the crowd stay interested, focused, and begging for more.

The speech: Generation Y Challenges

The presenter: Nadira Hira

The conference / location: National Association of Independent Schools annual conference, Philadelphia, PA

The wild factor: Hira is completely incapable of standing still. She moves around the stage, uses her hands a lot, and generally mesmerizes her audience. She doesn’t speak too fast, she pauses to allow her more salient points to sink in, and she repeats key messages. A dream speaker for a graphic recorder!

Why was it great? For the first time in our country’s history, we have three generations in our workforce at the same time. Baby Boomers are finding it more than a little challenging to understand this younger Generation Y and incorporate them into the workforce.

Hira’s speech was great because, unlike other experts, she is part of Generation Y herself. From her inside perspective, she’s able to help people gain greater insight into where people her age are coming from—and how to meet them on their level.

The speech: Energy Management

The presenter: Bill McAlpine, Human Performance Institute

The workshop / location: National Security Agency Leadership Training Workshop, Baltimore, MD

The wild factor: McAlpine has more energy than the Energizer Bunny. He talks to groups as if they’re old friends, using examples from his personal life, which are at times self-deprecating, touching, and endearing. He spoke for four hours and people didn’t want him to leave. This group would have happily listened to him all day long.

Why was it great? McAlpine walks his talk and it shows. His speech, titled “Energy Management,” focuses on ways for senior leaders in stressful jobs to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle while continuing to perform well at work. Since McAlpine looks a good 10 years younger than he is, and his work schedule is as demanding as anyone’s, he’s quite an inspiration on this subject. His advice about stress and recovery, nutrition, exercise, and healthy habits is practical and attainable.

The speech: Forgiveness

The presenter: Phan Thi Kim Phuc

The conference / location: The 2013 People of Color Conference, Houston, TX

The wild factor: Phan Thi Kim Phuc speaks from her heart in the most authentic way I’ve ever seen. Even with her soft-spoken Vietnamese accent, it’s impossible to take your eyes off of her. Her story is one of courage and forgiveness, and by the end of her speech there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Why was it great? Kim Phuc was the young girl captured on film in an iconic photograph running naked through the streets of Vietnam as her body was burning after the South Vietnamese dropped napalm on her village, which the North Vietnamese had occupied. She told her life story, ending in her message of forgiveness, which she says is what ultimately set her free.

A moving and powerful story doesn’t always mean the speaker does a great job telling that story. But Kim Phuc Phan Thi delivered. She spoke to 2,000 people, but I felt like I was sitting in her living room and she was talking only to me. No cards, no slides, just her telling us how she overcame a horrific experience, how the healing process made her healthy and strong, and how she’s blessed to have a happy life. Now that’s inspiring.

About Alece Birnbach

The founder of the Graphic Recording Studio, Birnbach brings experience as an illustrator, fine artist, and advertising expert to her company, which is hired by the Fortune 100 to craft graphic recordings at their conferences, workshops, and proprietary meetings.

Her unique combination of skills and experience gives Birnbach the unique ability to listen differently to what clients need and to draw out (literally!) their ideas, always with sustainable outcomes in mind.

“Alece’s graphic recordings and in-studio vision-mapping will take your breath away,” says one of her top clients.

Decide for yourself. To learn more about Alece Birnbach’s Graphic Recording Studio, visit www.graphicrecordingstudio.com. And check out her popular commercial artwork at alecebirnbach.com.