I’m finishing up work on a keynote presentation I’m giving at a student leadership conference in Utah on Saturday. As I’ve done previously, I’m showing my work in progress. Here’s a screenshot of my Keynote app in “Light Table” view, which I think is a magical mode for thinking through ideas and putting together a narrative arc:

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 1.58.43 PM

I’ve already discarded and rearranged significantly in the past few days. And with less than two days till my talk, I’m still not satisfied. I take a bit of a kitchen sink approach, throwing everything in, and then I try to pare back to what I hope is a core message for the audience and the occasion. I’m rehearsing today and tomorrow (standing in front of my computer giving the talk to an empty room), and I expect this arrangement of slides and ideas to look somewhat different by the time I get to Saturday. Talking out a presentation shines a light on problems and possibilities that would never appear otherwise.

I asked some of my students this week what college students ought to hear in a talk like this, and they kept mentioning points they’ve gotten from my talks that were connected to specific images on the screen. “Remember that picture of the band on your slide…” This reaffirms my delight in using slides in general, and powerful images especially. I go acoustic and speak without slides occasionally, but I keep coming back to using images for their impact on emotion and on recall.

I keep searching for a way to take these talks to another level, to string together a cohesive narrative rather than just listing interesting, related points. I want the whole talk to tell a story, not just tell a bunch of stories. The more stories, the better, of course. But stories and anecdotes and images should all serve to support the primary narrative. This quote from Kubrick continues to challenge me:

“If you really want to communicate something, even if it’s just an emotion or an attitude, let alone an idea, the least effective and least enjoyable way is directly. It only goes in about half an inch. But if you can get people to the point where they have to think a moment what it is you’re getting at, and then discover it … the thrill of discovery goes right through the heart.” -Stanley Kubrick

The “thrill of discovery”. That’s what I’ll be searching to build into this before standing before the students I’m privileged to address in Utah this weekend. If they’ve got to sit and listen to me for 45 minutes, I want to awaken possibility and give them something worth thinking about and talking about. Okay, back to work, back to the quest.