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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Jazz and the art of connecting

A wonderful analogy from Presentation Zen between jazz and the art of presentation - and which can be applied to almost anything - especially teaching and learning. He uses inspiring quotes by jazz greats - see his post for the whole thing.

(1) “The most important thing I look for in a musician is whether he knows how to listen.” (Duke-Ellington)
The best communicators in the world are almost always the best listeners.

(2) “Writing is like jazz. It can be learned, but it can’t be taught.”(Paul-Desmond)
I'm not sure I've ever been taught anything about making presentations, but I have learned a ton from observing great presenters...

(3) “Don’t bullshit… just play.” (Wynton-Marsalis)
Audiences today are busier than ever and have developed built-in "crap detectors" to filter out anything remotely insincere or shallow.

(4) “If they act too hip, you know they can’t play shit!” (Louis-Armstrong)
... Practice, rehearse and make it great. But keep it real. Keep it human. And remember that it is about them (the audience), not us.

(5) “Master your instrument. Master the music. And then forget all that bullshit and just play.” (Charlie-Parker)
Studying design and presentation, communication, etc. is crucial. But when we present, all that matters is that moment and that audience...

(6) “It’s taken me all my life to learn what not to play.” (Dizzy-Gillespie)
...Knowing what to leave out takes work...

(7) “You can play a shoestring if you’re sincere.” (John-Coltrane)
... A poor presentation is not any better simply because expensive equipment is used to project images. Sincerity and respect for the audience matter far more.

(8) "When people believe in boundaries, they become part of them."(Don Cherry)
... Conventional wisdom is often the unwisest choice of all. "Conventional wisdom" about presentations is at best a prescription for mediocrity.

(9) “Anyone can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple.” (Charles Mingus)
Many presenters -- very smart people -- either take something essentially simple and confuse an audience or simply fail to make their more complicated material meaningful to their audience. Simplicity ain't easy. In fact it's hard.

(10)“I can’t stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in succession. If you can, then it ain’t music..." (Billie-Holiday)
Even if you have the same set of slides or the same key points from one night to the next, every presentation is different because every audience is different...

(11) “A great teacher is one who realizes that he himself is also a student and whose goal is not to dictate the answers, but to stimulate his students creativity enough so that they go out and find the answers themselves.”(Herbie-Hancock)
My best teachers as a child and my favorite presenters of today have this in common: they inspire, stimulate, motivate, provoke, and lead...but they do not dictate.



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