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Rikk Flohr: Lest you lead your flock astray

©iStockphoto.com/Mantonature

©iStockphoto.com/Mantonature

Why is so tempting to focus almost all your precious rehearsal time and energy on what the presenter is doing?

Maybe it’s because what’s happening onstage is the most visible/audible element of the entire production. Maybe it’s because the person who will be behind the lecture is usually the most worried person in the room. Maybe it’s because the speaker, at least in a corporate setting, is often the biggest of the several big cheeses involved in any given event.

I came across the story below in my feed reader a last week and it’s author, Rikk Flohr (his blog, his website) was kind enough to give me permission to reprint it here on BML. It’s a great illustration of an important principle: Everyone knows that it’s essential to rehearse, but not everyone knows how to rehearse what’s essential.

In other words, a successful rehearsal has to be about more than just a speaker getting the words, voice, pacing, stage movement and gestures right. It also has to include, in a meaningful way, the easy to overlook “backstage” elements that need to be performed correctly and in unison with the presenter.

Death and Resurrection by PowerPoint

Have you ever been inside one of those English-dubbed Japanese Monster Movies? I don’t mean being chased by some rubbery monster with curiously man-like proportions. What I am talking about is the experience of, in real life, having the sounds being heard not follow the visual cues of script and mouth shapes. Today, this happened to me.

REHEARSE!  REHEARSE!  REHEARSE!

My recent forays at PowerPoint Live brought me in contact with many people who, primarily or secondarily, were learning the craft of professional presentation for use at their local church. There has been an explosion of multimedia materials used in conjunction with church services. Inspirational pictures are shown, announcements are broadcast and lyrics for the hymns are displayed.  It also keeps the church feeling modern and in-tune to today’s youth.

I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked to find my own church constructing a trio of large screens in the main worship area. Three massive screens with powerful projectors lead us all in the celebration of the mass. Pictures are shown, announcements are made and lyrics displayed-all run from the mixer board at the back center of church. We no longer have hymnals and we no longer have photocopied sheets stuck in the pews cueing us on what to sing. Until today, it was all running so smoothly.

REHEARSE!  REHEARSE! REHEARSE!

Saturday Night Live did a great skit once about St. Mickey’s Knights of Columbus where no one in the crowd new the second line to any of the less common Christmas carols. Life imitated art today.  During the second song of the day, the second verse was upon us and the vocalist leading the song, sang, suddenly alone.  The crowd trailed off into silence. Some mumbled heroically. Some looked around awkwardly for guidance.  The lyrics being displayed on the massive screens were not the same as those being sung. Since it was a second verse, no one was really quite sure who was right: the presenter with the script or the slide that said otherwise.  Eventually, the perplexed singer looked at the screen and joined the subdued crowd in the projected lyrics.

REHEARSE!  REHEARSE!  REHEARSE!

For the rest of the service, every song was tentative-every churchgoer unsure of his or her self.  The projectionist started to become tentative too. The slides didn’t change quite as crisply as before. Some of them appeared too early as compensation for the bewilderment in the crowd.  Mass ended early-perhaps by design-perhaps by confusion.  I surreptitiously grabbed a few cell phone camera captures (see them here) in the uncertain moments, knowing that this was presentation precarious.

Choirs rehearse. Musicians rehearse. Speakers rehearse. Projectionists and those interacting with the presentation-particularly in a multi-presenter environment need to rehearse too. It isn’t enough to know the script (read lyrics) on the sheet on your podium (read music stand), you have to know the visuals too and be certain that they are sympathetic or at least not incompatible.

Lest you lead your flock astray, repeat the refrain (to the notes of “…in this world and the next…”:

REHEARSE!  REHEARSE!  REHEARSE!

A-MEN!

Anyone who receives your presentation is your flock. Do not lead them astray!

Rikk Flohr © 2008


Rikk Flohr teaches and writes about the subtle art and inexact science of imaging-from capture, through editing and finally presentation. In addition he teaches at national conferences like PowerPoint Live and conducts photographic and image editing workshops in multiple countries. His design firm, Fleeting Glimpse Images supplies design for print and screen, presentation consulting, video and still photographic services for a wide range of clients.

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