Finding Your Passion

mtn climb

Have you found your passion?

Is it mountain climbing? Writing? Performing on stage? Teaching? Making crafts? Cooking?

Joseph Campbell is attributed with the famous call to action to “follow your bliss.” This profound statement encourages all hearers to look deep inside and find within–that about which we are truly, innately passionate. However, mere discovery is only part of this call to action. This charge also necessitates the courage to follow and pursue one’s bliss. It’s almost as if an effervescent seed has been planted within – hidden clues on a scavenger hunt to find your life’s destiny. Once discovered, this passion can unfold with seemingly effortless ease.

But how does one find their passion?

We simply need to pay attention.

We’ve all observed those individuals who gravitate toward their natural interests. They radiate enthusiasm for those interests, and continue to apply them repeatedly, eventually becoming very skilled and highly respected in their areas of domain. These individuals can even become more effective and productive – quite simply, because they love what they do. Whether it be mountain climbing, childcare work, dental surgery, singing, acts of compassion, city engineering, or youth ministry, individuals who have found their passion realize what they were meant to do because they paid attention.

We can all think of people who are living their passion. The list is extensive, but here are a few exceptional individuals who come to mind. Feel free to use the reply box below to share others who exemplify passion to you.

  • Michael Jordan – an exceptional basketball player who sets his own gold standard.
  • Natalie MacMaster – who has a passion for Nova Scotia music, and is one of the world’s best Fiddlers.
  • Maya Angelou – a prolific American poet and author who has touched all our lives.
  • J.K. Rowling – renowed author of the Harry Potter series who said all she ever wanted to do was to write books.
  • Steve Jobs – revolutionized the way we communicate through technology with his leadership at Apple.
  • Derek Hough – a passionate dancer who continues to raise the bar for his own standards of ballroom dance.

Do you notice a pattern? There are actually several patterns emerging here, but some of them include:  enjoyment; talent, hard work; and focus. Another common pattern is that a natural outcome of their lives’ pursuit is the joy and inspiration it brings to others. You see, when you pursue your bliss, it’s not just you who benefits, but those with whom you share your talents and abilities.

Delivering presentations and speaking to audiences is one of my passions. Because I naturally love speaking to audiences, I enjoy the magic that comes from connecting with an audience whether it be in-person or in a virtual setting. Because of this, I also enjoy coaching others to improve their effectiveness as presenters. This is not something that you manufacture. This is not something you make yourself cultivate.

It just is.

Have you looked deep inside yourself? Have you found your passion? If you have, are you pursuing it? If not, what’s holding you back? The passion planted deep within you has a purpose for you and those around you. It is up to you to discover it, nurture it, improve your skill set, be mentored, gain experience, and then blossom by sharing your gifts with the world.

Although pursuing your passion may seem like an unsurmountable mountain pass at times, once you do what you love and love what you do, “the universe will open doors for you where {before} there were only walls.” (Joseph Campbell)

What is your bliss?

TED Talk Ideas for Your Presentations

Many people agree that TED talks may just be the standard of excellence for in-person and virtual presentations in today’s digital world. TED, which is a non-profit devoted to effectively spreading great ideas, began as a face-to-face conference on topics related to Technology, Entertainment, and Design back in the 1980s. Today boasting millions of Internet hits daily, TED talks address a wide range of topic areas; in fact, any idea worth spreading–as their slogan suggests.

So what is it that makes TED talks so effective, whether viewed as a live audience member or viewed virtually by the global community? As several published works will tell you, there are many reasons why TED talks are successful. From my perspective as a professional presenter, following are a few of the reasons why I think TED talks hit their mark.

To begin, have you noticed there are no physical barriers separating the in-person audience and the presenter in the auditorium? The absence of a lectern is immediately apparent. In a non-verbal way, this opens up the space dynamic between presenter and audience. From the onset, there is no physical structure to hide behind, no furniture to mute presenter energy, no lectern to support reading from notes, and no limits on a presenter’s onstage movement. This dynamic clears the way for a deeper connection between sender and recipient. Experiment with this when delivering your own presentations. Observe the freedom you have as a presenter to move across the stage to accent your transitions. Observe how you may feel more connected to your audience and the reciprocal connection they may feel likewise with you.

Another reason TED talks are effective is because if they do use visuals their supporting visuals are just that—supporting. Visuals used in TED talks do not compete with presenters to be primary. They merely illustrate any content that need more clarification. That said, notice the brevity and the lean design of the visuals. They are not text-heavy. Supporting visuals should be used to support content when needed, provide illustrations when helpful, and provide an engaging experience that will help with building mental models for recall later.

Additionally, TED talks are kept to an 18 minute maximum. Certainly, there are a few exceptions here and there. However, this length of time was researched and TED staff determined it was just long enough to prevent improvisation, yet short enough to keep an audience’s attention. Obviously, your application for presentations in the workplace may find different time constraints in the real world. However, the key point here is still applicable. Your audience can only process so much information for a limited select timeframe. So leverage the limits of working memory by applying brevity to your presentations where you can. We’ll be exploring ways to keep your audience engaged for short time periods in future blogs.

Lastly, TED talks are well rehearsed – and some, many, many times. Presenters usually have plenty of lead time unless they’re called to fill in a spot that may have opened up at the last minute. Ideally, not only have they had months to prepare, but they’ve had opportunities to work out the kinks, present before others, and get comfortable with the set-up and stage. All this preparation maximizes a presenter’s feeling of control, and this is very important to minimizing any presenter anxiety. Additionally, when you know your content that well you can deliver your presentation more conversationally because it flows naturally. I realize that in your daily work life, rehearsing a presentation many, many times may not be practical for you, but do your best to prepare as much as your schedule allows with spaced rehearsals to help solidify the content in your mind.

Think of the last TED talk you viewed? If you were engaged, why were you?

What say you?

Keeping Visuals in their Place

Back in the old days, if you wanted to use a visual aid to supplement your presentation you had to be creative. You might use a poster to display a diagram, you might bring in a prop to show your audience, or you might spend time and money creating multimedia slides the old fashioned way. Creating multimedia slides was not an easy task over thirty years ago. Sometimes it required dark room work, hand coding, and using color dyes. The process to create visuals took a lot of time and was costly. As a result, visuals were lean by design, and back then creating a visual was truly a craft and an art form.

Now flash forward to our modern world, where the affordances of today’s presentation tools today are simply stunning. We can easily craft professional and artful visuals in a matter of minutes. We have templates and SmartArt at our disposal and we have font choices and color options that our ancestors would drool over. However, there’s one catch.

With the fast pace of our digital age and the modern clutter of our lives, our visuals seem to reflect those elements as well. We find visuals full of content, loaded with text, serving as teleprompters for presenters, and potentially appearing at first glance as a better handout than supporting material.

There is a better way. In this blog, we’ll explore ways to make your visuals and presentations more effective. We’ll revisit lessons from the past and re-create the process of crafting visuals as a true art form with thoughtful, intentional design.

A simple first step is to realize that your slides are not the presenter. You are the presenter. Your visuals support your content where they need clarification, and you as a presenter do not need a slide for everything you say. When you have a blank slide because a particular content chunk is already easily understood, the audience’s attention can be focused back on the presenter. Some research shows that when slides are displayed and a presenter speaks at the same time, most audience members focus more on the visual than on what is being said in that moment. If, however, you do present content with more complexity that would be best understood by a pictorial illustration, you can reveal the visual at that time.

The bottom line is that all visuals should support your material. You, the presenter, are the feature. Your visuals are not there to take over, at least, not yet.