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Presentation Skills – the Aikido Way

2012 July 17

I don’t think I’ve ever attended a training session that began with the tutor pushing me towards a wall after reassuringly telling me that he “wasn’t going to hurt me”, but this training session is like no other that I’ve attended.

Damian Conway, minor deity of the Open Source and Perl world is not like other trainers.  A professional presenter, Damian tours the world speaking at conferences and providing training far and wide from his native Australia in what can only be described as a unique and elegant style.


Our martial arts introduction to the day was of course all part of a carefully planned and executed methodology designed to teach us how we too could excel at presenting.

Our tutor better described this as “Presentation Aikido” or a way of harmonising with the flow of the Universe, or in our case our audience.

Sticking with the advice of keeping focus on five to seven points, we learned all about the seven key points of presentation.

  • Be competent – only talk about things you know about.
  • Be passionate – only talk about things you either love or hate.
  • Be entertaining – it’s the key to communication
  • Be prepared – most of your work is done before you step in the room.
  • Be stylish – nobody likes a bad slideshow.
  • Be engaging – connect with your audience.
  • Be yourself.

For me, the biggest eye opener was when Damian told us that he spends around one hundred hours preparing for each hour he presents.  Us mere mortals should probably be trying for twenty to thirty hours though!

Don’t just take my word for it, Graham Morrison of Linux Format had this to say:

“I attended Damian’s ‘Presentation Aikido’ yesterday. It’s the only time I’ve remained so engaged with a subject for 7-8 hours, and that includes school, university, OSCON and an all night session with Lord of the Rings. What’s even more impressive is that I remained engaged with a subject I normally find incredibly tedious. Like almost everyone else, my professional life has been blighted by three dimensional transitions, psychedelic colour schemes and psychotic presenters, not all of my own creation. Damian’s skill is to focus on the content and to cut the rubbish that can make presentations so unbearable. And that content is unparalleled. Using his hard-won experience as a speaker, he imbibes attendees with a very real sense of what it takes to make great presentations, and that’s the best possible outcome I could have hoped for.”

If you don’t know how to do these things then I recommend getting yourself to the next session coming up in October!

Damian will be back in the UK and will give the following full day courses

Ian is a keen Perl hacker co-founding and co-chairing Northwest England Perl mongers for the last three years. Lately his focus has gone back to an old love in the form of network monitoring and management since working on an OpenNMS project for his employer. When not wrangling exim, herding linux system and working on access control technologies, he can be found roleplaying or singing tenor.

3 Responses Post a comment
  1. avatar
    July 17, 2012

    Indeed; I was surprised at the unpreparedness of the YAPC presentations given how much time I had spent on mine. If I learned anything, it’s that I needed another 10 hours of practice next time.

    The be fair, though, the number of presentations would decrease dramatically of people were expected to put that sort of time in.

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