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The Future Of Presenting

“Trying to predict the future of the Art of Presenting is the easiest way to convince people that you are a fool.”


What Is Considered State Of The Art In The Art of Presenting Today?

What I witness whenever I meet with the best of the best in our profession – Garr Reynolds, Guy Kawasaki, Nancy Duarte, Phil Waknell or Carmine Gallo – is the fact that hard, factual, testosterone driven presenting is giving way to a softer, more creative and at the same time much more meaningful presentation style. The importance of the mind is still acknowledged, but today the emotions of the audience are taken into the equation much more willingly than ten years ago.

Why? Mainly for two reasons. The first is that today we know much better how our brain works, how memories are constituted and above all, how important our limbic brain – our emotions – are for our choices. Our brain’s emotional centre is basically deaf to data and abstract language, but receptive to images, sound and – stories. Well structured stories change the chemistry and the structure of our brain almost instantly, stories link our brains together, thus bringing about that kind of communion with your audience that will make people follow you.

The second reason for a more emotional approach towards business communication in general as well as to the Art of Presenting in particular is Steve Jobs and the people he influenced like Garr Reynolds and Guy Kawasaki. Jobs realised early that in the future firms wouldn’t be able to differentiate from their competitors through the quality and features of their products any longer. In a world of identical products he made Apple focus on immaterial features that link to the values and emotions of the greatest number of people; to their sense of beauty, to their wish for a user friendly technology, to their need to feel as a part of a group of special, creative, forever young people.

Steve Jobs realised that product quality relates to product marketing the same way as functional hardware relates to a computer or phone today; it’s nothing more than an expected standard. Today people do not buy a computer or phone mainly because of it’s technical qualities, they expect more. The same way people are not buying in your presentation because of the (new) data anymore but because of the values, meaning and emotions – the story – you offer to them.

The fact that most decision making is emotional and that consequently, in a world of alike products, storytelling will become more and more the main Unique Selling Proposition, should encourage you to engage also the heart and soul of your audience whenever you go on stage.

Please read: “Presentation Zen” by Garr Reynolds.
Please read: “Resonate” by Nancy Duarte.
Pleas read: “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs” by Carmine Gallo.

What Will The Art Of Presenting Look Like In The Future?

I think that there will be two interlaced and yet partly opposed tendencies in the future of the Art of Presenting: One will be a technical revolution, the other a spiritual one.

The Technical Revolution Of The Art Of Presenting

Let’s start with the technical revolution ahead. I think it will have three interconnected dimensions: The first is Big Data/ Profiling, the second is Augmented Reality and the third is Virtual Reality.

Big Data/ Profiling
The volume of data every presenter will have to consider while preparing his or her pitch in the near future will skyrocket to the point, that we will use algorithms programmed to recognise valuable pieces of information within our own documents as well as within those available all through the internet. Special apps will only need the working title of our presentation in order to create a say ten slide presentation proposition with charts, pictures and headlines and all. But that will only be the first step. The data mining by firms like Cambridge Analytica and the resulting psychological profiling of almost every Facebook user on earth will allow every presenter (willing to pay for it) to get an almost complete scan of his or her audience well ahead of the pitch. Thus allowing a much more fine tuned (or should we say a much more “targeted”?) presentation than ever before.

Augmented Reality
This is the point where augmented reality clicks in. Thanks to Paul Ekman we know that every audience in the world is able to express at least six emotions trough their faces; joy, sadness, anger, surprise, fear and disgust. The presenter of the future will wear glasses or contact lens that will enable him or her to get a general idea of what the audience is feeling in real time. The scan of body temperatures, changes of expressions and changes of body postures will enable every presenter to be aware of the audiences reactions in every single moment of his or her presentation. But the use of augmented reality will not stop there: PowerPoint and Keynote will cease to work in 2D and will become full scale 3D- and Hologram-presentation tools. Audiences will regularly wear glasses or lens that will allow them to see pictures, prototypes and plans in the air in front of them or all around them, thus enabling them to move them around or to move around within them.

Virtual Reality
As we have seen, Augmented Reality will open up the rooms where we are going to present and transform the tools we will use while doing it, but I am convinced that Virtual Reality will lead us even further: VR will bring the classic, thousands of years old setting of a presentation to an end. No more speaker and audience in one physical room, but speaker and audiences in a virtual space with its own almost limitless physical laws. Wearing a sensorial suit, we will be able to experience every presentation as a travel trough time and space, we will visit cities and museums and production plants, flow in a stream of touchable data that will communicate with us, we will see the heart of our patient from inside before the surgery and we will present always one on one and face to face, even if our audience is composed of a million people. Or at least so it will appear to them.

But of course there will be a partly opposed tendency to this brave new world of Ar- and VR-Presentations: The Spiritual Revolution.

The Spiritual Revolution Of The Art Of Presenting

Today in most universities and firms the courses offered to improve our presentation skills are named “Presentation Techniques for …”. That is no coincidence but expression of a general believe that there is a catalogue of “communication techniques” (regarding how you move, what you say and what you show), a kind of rhetorical to-do-list for the mind, that you can memorise and rehearse in order to become a good presenter. It’s very rare to find courses with teachers, trainers or consultants who have developed a more holistic approach towards the Art of Presenting. I think that in the future we will see more and more presentation courses and trainings build around all four relevant areas of human intelligence and with a long term focus:

Our Body – Our Physical Intelligence

Our Emotions – Our Emotional Intelligence

Our Mind – Our Analytical Intelligence

Our Soul – Our Transcendental Intelligence

Physical Intelligence
I am convinced that in the future Energy Management will be an important part of every presentation training. Learning to switch from periods of pure focus and activity to periods of pure relaxation and recharging; in life, at work and on stage. Learning to follow the rhythm of nature; to the outside and back to the inside, out and back again, exhaling, short stop, inhaling. In order to do so we will need to reach a flexibility on the body level that, unfortunately, is not taught systematically today.

Please read: “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working” by Tony Schwartz.
Please read: “Be Excellent At Anything” by Tony Schwartz.
Please read: “The Power Of Full Engagement” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz.

Emotional Intelligence
The importance of being able to feel and express our own emotions through our gestures, facial expressions and our voice but also the capability to manage and restrain them in certain situations will grow in the future. It will be part of a general revolution in teaching that I see looming behind the horizon. On stage as in life, fear, moments of discouragement or even anger are common but it’s rarely wise to let them overwhelm us. To be able to feel everything we feel, but not acting every feeling out, will become one of the most important dimensions of emotional intelligence. Even more so in a world that will be changing even faster than it does today.

Please read: “The Road Less Traveled” by Dr. M. Scott Peck.
Please read all the quotes and poems by Gialal al-Din Rumi.
Please read: “EQ” and “Destructive Emotions” by Daniel Goleman.

Analytical Intelligence
Albert Einstein once said that “every blockhead can know things, the real challenge is to understand them.” Great words that do describe perfectly the single biggest problem of my students today. In the future we will need to train our minds to identify causes and effects and the resulting patterns faster and in a more creative way than today. In a democracy people should not be taught what to think but how to think. That’s not happening today. Of course there will be creativity enhancing drugs and possibly computer extensions for our brains available in the future, but I think that the problem will persist. That is why I presume that many people will continue to believe in the good old “mind sculpturing” through learning a second and third language, playing an instrument, reading, travelling, talking to real people and discussing complex ideas with them.

In the field of business presentations it’s highly probable that we will have lots of very short, very analytical, AR- and VR-backed presentations on the one hand (not more than 5 minutes each) and, in opposition to that, a few extended “presentations” that will be more likely vision quests of groups of people sitting around fireplaces somewhere in the mountains. The one hour catch all-shotgun business presentation will (thank god for that) disappear completely.

Please read “Mind Sculpture” by Ian Robertson.
Please read “The Back Of The Napkin” by Dan Roam.
Please read “Beyond Religion” by The Dalai Lama.

Transcendental Intelligence
Our soul longs for real hope, real joy and real love (or at least mine does). There are more and more people today already looking beyond material possessions in order to find meaning and happiness and focussing on a value driven, “right” life instead. That is why ethical codices stating that a presenter should always act out of pure intention, never lie or betray and never advocate harm to living beings or the environment will become first popular and then the new official standard in the future. But the then even faster capitalism will probably get us used to double standards: Ethical presentations in a few NGOs, GOs and elite-universities and -firms and profit over people-presentations for all the others. Still there will be more and more people offering highly ethical keynote speeches, seminars and trainings via the net and in the VR of the new cloud, thus creating a zero cost personal growth environment.

The greatest impact on presentations will come from a new mass movement of people fighting for a new kind of spirituality. “The Internet is god”, “Nature is god”, “The Multiverse is god”, these will be only a few of the expressions of new beliefs that will plunge traditional mass religions into a crisis. People will create new spiritual communities and temples in the VR-Cloud or become new Shakers and renounce to AR and VR completely. Overall there will be a forceful trend towards every kind of myth and story from the past, thanks to AR and VR, cults from ancient Egypt and Rome will be as present as “new saints” like John F. Kennedy or Steve Jobs. Poor people will live in a highly standardised, minimal and practical environment with 24/7 VR-playing consoles, wealthy people will live in a highly individualistic, mystical environment with a high class VR, while new global firms will be built around shared myths and religious stories. In a world with global standards and interchangeable technology and features, every product, every service and every business presentation will be “loaded” with emotions, status and myth. At some point everything will have become “spiritual”, but mostly in a mass capitalistic, “feel the force”-fashion.

A small intellectual elite will oppose this “Made in China-spirituality”, turn back to the non augmented, non virtual reality and meet under trees and among flowers to meditate, learn and discuss. Thus closing a circle made of three thousand years of history of humans presenting ideas to each other.

Please read: “The Wise Heart” by Jack Kornfield.
Please read: “The Leadership Challenge” by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner.
Please read: “The Kaizen Way” by Robert Maurer.

*The quote at the beginning of the page isn’t authentic of course 😉