The UX of a keynote presentation: Unwritten rules to p-p-public speaking.

Asking the big question. Photo: Adobe.

Firstly, this is not a to-do list. You’re not going to scan this article and see a list of titles to look over and quickly move on. The intention of this post is a background narrative to public speaking based on my recent experience. To explain the steps you go through before public speaking and from this, give you an insight into the emotional side, as well as the practical and take the parts that sit well with you to apply the next time you’re presenting your message to an audience.

My recent public speaking experience at Adobe Make It APAC conference for 2017 was a career highlight. Not only did I have the privilege to address my peers with a keynote presentation on why we design, I discovered numerous insights from the creative industry both in Australia and the wider global community.

The conference began with speakers and event organisers many months ago. Fast forward a few months later, and I’m sat in a hotel room in Sydney Harbour refining my talk after hearing more than 28,000 creatives have tuned in to watch the keynotes. It’s both humbling and an honour to have the chance to change people’s minds, give a little insight and get a little in return.

Catching laryngitis a week before the conference had robbed me of my voice. Reading slides only goes so far, so I had no idea how long it ran. Add into the mix; Being the locknote (final take-away of the conference), requires every ounce of energy to keep the audience engaged.

Running on adrenaline (as you do a pre-stage walk) for 5 hours takes its toll on your nerves, and the doubt sets edge in. Is the keynote you’re doing relevant, will people relate?

You’re not here for your ego, you are here because of your passion, you want to make a difference, the ultimate goal is bigger than any one person. If you manage to make even one of the thousands of people tuning-in to see things differently, to connect with them. They maybe the difference the world needs, forming an idea that changes the outcome of the world’s approach to technology, climate change, or economic structure. I’d rather think big, and fail rather than small and succeed.

On arrival in the green room, we head to makeup and before you know it the conversation heads towards recommending restaurants in Melbourne. The makeup feels very strange, not a regular occurrence for me. I was dressed as a wizard and scared myself looking in the mirror the last time.

Livestream interactive visuals. Photo: Adobe

The LED screen pops up to see the dancers performing and creating a live simultaneous visual art show. Modern technologies wondrous, more and more we can create such beauty and organic feeling works that inspire.

The fluid movement being reflected on screen in swirls of colour and particles, it looks like stars chasing themselves.

With another 28,000 viewers tuned in via live stream, the calm is replaced with a small rise in the pulse as the adrenaline levels re-up. After talking with Kitiya Palaskas on our keynotes,I’m starting to think my measly 38 slides may not be enough if Kiti has closer to 70. Have I sufficient to cover everything I’m hoping to run through… too late now!

It’s time to keep re-reading the notes of the keynote, make as much stick in the audience’s heads as possible. What started as full sentences has slowly been replaced with keywords, topics and facts you want to make sure you get across. Keep each slide minimal, a word, sentence or image. The goal is for people to listen to what you have to say, not read/watch the screen. It’s also good to put a key point or reference on the slide before, that way you can deliver it before the slide arrives on screen for significant effect with the audience.

Kitiya Palaskas addressing the audience at Adobe Make It 2017. Photo: Adobe

Watching Kiti nail it, and seeing the human side of design with a few childhood photos goes down a treat, the audience is fantastic, loving it and engaged. The work on screen is beautiful.

Time to get a keynote slide refresh, and walking through the hustle of backstage, it’s time to look for a space for a little solace to get all the ideas in order. Being fuelled by passion stems an inability to stay focused on one thing at a time. This needs to be rehearsed to ensure the points trying to be articulated to everyone are in a way easy to understand.

“With a gigantic leap forward into the digital age, we became consumed. We felt like it was a whole new world, and we could communicate and socialise with all our friends and family 24/7. While we sat at dinner, we could see our friends’ breakfast beautifully photographed on the other side of the world; forgetting the person sat directly opposite us…”

The goal is to encompass the narrative, frame that we’re entering a whole new revolution where the digital, physical and biological are being combined to create new technologies and possibilities.

From digital being, our lives head down, staring at a screen in our hand all day. A shift is beginning to emerge. We’re starting to look up again and realise the potential of technology to assist, not consume every aspect of our day-to-day.

No longer faceless ‘Users’ its time for a progressive change, People Experiences.

We have an even bigger canvas to create, design and factor into our approach. The emotional design connection is increasing, and the technology by which we create it becomes more the tool by which we deliver the experience. No longer are people faceless ‘Users’, we create ‘People Experiences’.

My voice is down to 40–50%, hopefully it will last long enough to deliver the keynote in its entirety. It may be a good call to cut down my slides, areas to cover and shave off 3–5 minutes, make sure it holds before descending to a whisper.

Perhaps I’d approached this all wrong, stepped into the subconscious theory and subliminal suggestion too far removed from the audience expectations? It only lasts a moment, but the fear washes over you, it’s at that moment you need to trust your instincts and remember the rush of adrenaline is both pro and con.

Time to get wired up with the Madonna mic. Someone once told me ‘you know you’ve made it when you don’t have to carry your mic’.

Design in the new economy has an even greater responsibility than ever. As the world outside of our creative circles realise the influence ‘design’ and its value has on humanity. Our ideas and storytelling will shift and sway the world’s values on who’s elected and who’s not. How people live and how we work to help make the world a better and more sustainable place.

Freedom of thought has becoming harder to achieve. The amount of noise we’re surrounded by in today’s society, it’s becoming more and more difficult to find the mental space for our creative thoughts.

In a time where design is used so heavily to influence the citizens of the world, we have a great responsibility to ensure humanity understands and evolves to ensure our survival. That moment of silence to hear ourselves think is crucial if we’re going to use our creativity to design for good, with purpose, for people.

My introduction begins, cue the your name freshly animated visual.

Design — Bigger than you.

Keynote presentation forAbode Make It APAC 2017 (Photo: Adobe)

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