Sunday, February 28, 2010

A few questions about presenting

I was fortunate enough to speak with Dr. Jean-luc Doumont over dinner Friday night following a talk he gave on effective presentations at CREOL. The man is a truly gifted speaker, and if you are at all interested in improving your technical (or otherwise) communication skills, I highly recommend that you read his blog or look at his book, though I have not read it. I have been following his blog for a short while now and have to admit that it is one of the reasons I decided to start writing my own. More precisely, I am trying to practice the methods he espouses through my own writing.

What I found most interesting from our conversation is his belief that his principled approach to presenting is universal, i.e. it applies to many people in many occupations and settings. Given that the culture and content underlying a business or academic field can be drastically different from another, I find it very intriguing that the same skill set can be effectively employed in different settings.

For example, a presentation on new data at a conference on astrophysics will surely contain very little information that is pertinent to topics discussed at a meeting of marketing executives, yet his methods for communicating the presenter's message can successfully be applied in both situations.

This may not seem too surprising since communication is a basic function of society. It does however bring a few questions to my mind:
  1. Is there more than one structured approach to accurately conveying information to an audience? If so, does it relate to Dr. Doumont's methods, and to what degree does it overlap with them? 
  2. Is there a better way to do it, or has Dr. Doumont described the best possible way to communicate a message to a large number of people. 
  3. Is his approach only applicable to writing and speaking, or does it apply to multimedia and mass marketing as well?