The Art of Impactful Presentations

Guest blogger Lana Friesen (pictured in the middle above) is a dancer, activist and member of the 2017 RADIUS Fellows. She will be one of the 22 changemakers presenting their “asks” at RADIUS’ signature concAUCTION event on May 16th – get your tickets now! Photograph by Byron Dauncey.  

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As systems thinkers, many of us have looked very intensely into a vast web of interconnecting problems, opportunities, and strengths. Part of our challenge as changemakers is to present our proposed interventions and how they address needs within these webs. It can be quite a daunting task to communicate all of this in an impactful capacity when we feel overwhelmed by the amount of information we need to succinctly convey – as if we need to capture an entire galaxy of stars within a 60 second pitch.

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One of the most useful tools Simon Goland offered the RADIUS Fellows at our most recent session was the Stepping Stones method. We identified a maximum of 7 different “stepping stones” that make up our presentation, and these stepping stones each consist of one image and one emotion. Rather than memorizing a script which has the tendency towards a cold delivery, presenters remember their intention as well as these stepping stones as a general, fluid path to follow while presenting.
I felt the impact of this method very strongly when Terri Rutty of the Food Trade Game transformed her presentation to a powerful story that grabbed my heart immediately after one sentence. With the help of other fellows in the program, Veronika Bylicki of CityHive shared her story and I could very vividly imagine some of the images she might have used as stepping stones.
When they say ‘a picture tells a thousand words’, I think we underestimate the ability of words to create images that convey an exponentially larger picture than a script alone – particularly if the communicator has an image in their own mind powering their words.
To convey the complex, intricate web of systems that we’re wrestling with as changemakers, it’s quite a relief to realize that we need not fully describe every single star – we simply need to hold the image and emotion in our minds, and let the words flow.