How to write mind-blowing presentations

Or: “How to be a thought leader in 5 easy steps”

Full-of-ideas vs full-of-shit

First and foremost, an apology for breaking a promise:

In a Twitter exchange some time ago I promised that my first “real” blog post (basically: a rabid rant just as this one, as it will become abundantly obvious rather quickly…) will be entitled “From Correlation to Causation and back again”…

However, there is a recent trend that managed to top the above issue on my personal “Bullshit-o-Meter”. You know, just when you thought the industry cannot sink any lower somebody comes along and proves you wrong (Well, just before you managed to do that yourself first — we’ll get back to that in a moment…)

So, what this is all about ? Well, it’s a long-winded answer to Chris Hoff’s question he asked on Twitter a couple of days ago (with the mandatory tongue-in-cheek):

“How does one become a thought leader ?”

Well, my dear attention-starved reader, here’s my “How to become a thought leader in 5 easy steps” guide. Oh, and in case you wondered, this never-before shared, unique recipe (now trademarked and patent-pending) will allow you to give <american> AWWWWwwSOME </american>, mind blowing presentations to stunned audiences:

  1. Quickly (and only partly !)  browse through a book and/or academic research material on some subject that was previously completely foreign to you. Popular suggestions: Thermodynamics, Cybernetics, Neuroscience, Sociology, Philosophy (including Philosophy of Science), Linguistics, Organizational and Management theory (ahem…we’ll get back to this one day hopefully. See the broken promise above). Anything that captures your imagination, really… The more controversial the book or the more obscure it is,  the better.
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  2. Collect some quotes from this material that supports some random point you’re trying to make — but make sure they sound smart. For example something like this:
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    “Information is meaning extracted from data in specific contexts that have to be pre-shared”.  Or:
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    “Knowledge can only be observed indirectly through acting on the meaning extracted from data in specific frames of interpretation”.  Or, more sophisticated / eclectic:
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    “Coherence is an emergent quality of a complex adaptive system”
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  3. Make sure you are not providing any references whatsoever to the original material thus making an implicit claim of originality (but never clearly stated — we gotta be smart here and leave room for an exit in case some poor soul actually did read the original material and has the audacity to calls us on that…).  Also, feel free to mangle the concepts, terms, and vocabulary in the original source as such to obfuscate their origin. That is why I recommend only partly reading the said  material — it will help a great deal to that end.
    (Oh and before you blame me of unrivaled originality or depth of new insight: The source of the first two quotes above is this wonderful book by Max Boisot, one of my personal favorites. The third can be found in any half-decent book about complexity theory / complex adaptive systems. This one will do just fine).
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  4. Browse Google Images, Getty Images, or any other image repository that you think somehow relates to the point you’re making.
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  5. Put the two together in a slide.

As a result you will have a wonderful presentation that will simply simply WOW the indigenous population at IT conferences to the point they’ll be so amazed at the depth of insight you’re sharing that they will stop fidgeting with their mobile phones and laptops (or any other toy) for just about 15 seconds.

And, most importantly, you’ll have the instant status of a (deep) thought leader.

Now, please excuse me — I need to finish my talk at the OpenStack Summit in Portland (yes, lest we forget self plugs…) by re-using concepts from Geoffrey A. Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm” and Clayton Christensen’s “Innovator’s Dilemma”. How original is that, huh ?

Over and out,

/Florian

P.S. 1: The image is from the inimitable @gapingvoid cartoon — one of my top favorites.
P.S. 2: Still not entirely happy with the WP theme / formatting. Spent more than a couple of hours of hair-pulling of trying to get even this simple post formatted somewhere close to “decent”. So please excuse the suboptimal formatting as I’m still figuring this out.