Unpresenting workshop style

Non­prof­it blog­ger Beth Kan­tor often finds gems about pre­sen­ta­tion. Yes­ter­day she shared a “unpre­sent­ing” style of work­shop. She writes:

I do a lot of pre­sent­ing and am spend­ing to much time writ­ing bul­let points, cre­at­ing slides, and prac­tic­ing what I’m going to say. I think that this puts a stop to cre­at­ing con­ver­sa­tion in the room. I want­ed to learn some con­ver­sa­tion­al mechan­ics — so I could stop talk­ing at peo­ple and begin talk­ing with them.

Beth’s main link is to a Google Tech Talk “unpre­sen­ta­tion” by Heather Gold. Might be good back­ground lis­ten­ing today. I’m par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in this for two rea­sons: first, obvi­ous­ly, is that pre­sen­ta­tions are often very bor­ing and it’s nice to think about more inter­ac­tive ways of engag­ing with an audience.

But sec­ond, many mod­ern Friends have default­ed to a lec­ture style in their reli­gious edu­ca­tion. I’m not sure it works. I’ve met peo­ple who have par­tic­i­pat­ed in mul­ti­ple Quak­erism 101 class­es and still don’t know basic facts. I myself have rebelled against pow­er point pre­sen­ta­tions and pre-set cur­ric­u­la to be more engag­ing but I’m not con­vinced that this has made me a great pre­sen­ter. It’s always worth find­ing new ways to present in a clear and direct and engages them with the issues they expe­ri­ence day to day.

I imag­ine this would be of inter­est not only to lib­er­al Friends who give work­shops, but pas­toral Friends with a con­cern to stay open to imme­di­ate rev­e­la­tion dur­ing wor­ship–Cherice B has a great post about this yes­ter­day , a response to part four of Brent Bill’s Mod­est Pro­pos­al series.

Some inter­est­ing points from Heather Gold’s pre­sen­ta­tion on “tumm­ling”

  • The best way to tumm­le is to be a very big ver­sion of your­self. Tumm­le means to make noise.
  • If you’re hap­py, i’m hap­py. The num­ber one way to do that is to care and to notice them — espe­cial­ly the peo­ple who don’t seem that involved.
  • I’m notic­ing [the dis­en­gaged per­son in the back]. if i can involve him a lit­tle bit i’m much more like­ly to involve more of you faster than if i pick the per­son in the front row with their arm up. a tech­nique to pull every­one in is to go to the fringes. go to the peo­ple who seem on the end, who seem like they have low­er sta­tus in what­ev­er com­mu­ni­ty you’re in (speak less, more nervi­ous, know few­er peo­ple) and go up to them.
  • Some peo­ple will be mad at you. Some peo­ple will be schmucks. Some peo­ple will want to talk a lot. You have to let all that be okay. Tools and rules will nev­er ever do as good a job as your con­fi­dence that you can han­dle any­thing. It’s time con­sum­ing to run through fifty rules in your mind; it’s not so time con­sum­ing to just be there.
  • Chris­tine

    As a Quak­erism 101 teacher, I know that sev­er­al of us have moved away from the work­shop style to solic­it con­ver­sa­tion, ques­tions, and engage­ment. When teach­ing at a meet­ing, I gen­er­al­ly ask sev­er­al long-time mem­bers to tell me what is most impor­tant about being a Friend to them (this is long before the first “class”). Even though I may have notes, that’s a dis­ci­pline to remind me of impor­tant things… real­iz­ing that oth­er ques­tions may arise — and they usu­al­ly do. 

  • heather­gold

    I real­ly appre­ci­ate your interes in UnPre­sent­ing. The lit­tle tiny bit I know about Quak­er meet­ings is that there is an ele­ment of open par­tic­i­pa­tion in which peo­ple are moved to speak and any­one can and there is space for that. There’s an ele­ment of that in what I’m doing and teach­ing (http://​unpre​sent​ing​.com) in that it’s very much a flow ori­ent­ed thing. For me this came from per­for­mance and the kind of inti­ma­cy and con­nec­tion I’ve learned how to cre­ate there. But I know that reli­gious and AA meet­ings are exam­ples of more democ­ra­tized participation. 

    There is tech­nique that works and you’ll also find some notes at unpre​sent​ing​.com and on Beth’s blog. I hope to make video class­es at some date in the future in addi­tion to the live workshops.

    If my under­stand­ing of Quak­er meet­ings is accu­rate then why would Quak­ers have begun teach­ing in a dif­fer­ent way?

    • @Heather: cool, thanks for spot­ting this and giv­ing us the unpre​sent​ing​.com URL. I hadn’t seen that in my link travels… 

      It’s always a bit dicey to com­pare Quak­er min­istry to any­thing performance-based. Friends have always placed a big val­ue on meek­ness and humil­i­ty and hav­ing the mes­sage come from the Holy Spir­it. Friends talk about “out­run­ning the Guide” when they go beyond a mes­sage they’ve been giv­en and start talk­ing from their own knowl­edge. One bit of wis­dom was to nev­er come to a Quak­er meet­ing pre­pared to min­is­ter but to also nev­er come pre­pared not to minister.

      There’s a cou­ple of hun­dreds of years’ worth of rea­sons why this mod­el has been over­shad­owed. Can we admit that a lot of it is eco­nom­ic? There’s con­fer­ence cen­ters want­i­ng to fill in week­end slots with pop­u­lar pro­grams that will pack the vis­i­tors in. I’m more com­fort­able with the Old Time Reli­gion myself but get asked to give these work­shops often enough. For me it’s usu­al­ly an excuse to see friends from the oth­er side of the coun­try but I won’t get asked back if I arrive at one and decide that the Holy Spir­it isn’t giv­ing me any­thing to say (“and can you please reim­burse me for the plane and pass that yum­my organ­ic veg­an vinai­grette?”) My conun­drum is to find a way to keep some­thing like this root­ed in wor­ship. The unpre­sent­ing style keeps pre­sen­ters more engaged with the spir­i­tu­al ener­gy in the room. It’s more-or-less the tech­nique I’ve been using. I like to over-prepare pre­sen­ta­tions in my head over show­ers the month before and then skip the slides and impro­vise at the event itself. If a work­shop is suc­cess­ful then there will be a point where par­tic­i­pants break out of the expect­ed dynam­ic and start inter­rupt­ing me. I become just anoth­er par­tic­i­pant. The Holy Spir­it takes over the pre­sen­ta­tion. It hap­pens, though not every time. It’s a goose­bumpy moment.

      • heather­gold

        Martin- apolo­gies it took so very long to reply. Some­how, I am not noti­fied of replies. Some­times I get goose­bumpy moments in my shows. I enjoy the unex­pect­ed a lot. Thanks for explain­ing what you’re doing. In a play (eg http://​heather​gold​.com/​c​o​o​kie) of course I have a lot of it pre­pared but it’s “scored” often rather than always specif­i­cal­ly script­ed. And I find once I open the room peo­ple do want to jump in. Isn’t that great feel­ing what folks want in con­nec­tion? It’s a do-able thing at con­fer­ences. I often speak at con­fer­ences. But I find the qual­i­ty of the expe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent when there’s room to include pos­si­bil­i­ty in the room.