Where do topics come from and what to talk about?
I there was one piece of advice I would give, it’s to be open to input and to be prepared to make lateral connections, i.e. not to approach a topic from one side only or from a very narrow perspective. I find it interesting to consider a topic from multiple angles and maybe also to look to other areas or industries, as again, this adds more layers and depth to a topic.
I have always found reading to be a rich source of inspiration and ideas.
Looking for a one-stop starting point from which to draw ideas from a wide range of science-based sources? I would recommend subscribing to New Scientist. This is a weekly UK publication that summarizes research published in the specialist publications, such as Nature, BMJ, the Lancet etc. and I have found it invaluable. When things are really busy, issues may go unread for weeks on end, but then I will pick one up and topics relating to things I have been working on or thinking about jump out at me from, I don’t know… somebody writing about copyright issues in regards to the future of 3D printing and home manufacturing. Or a review of a really interesting book I wouldn’t have come across otherwise.
As to the how of presenting topics, there are myriad publications on how to present. And often as not a lot of them I find annoying, patronizing or simply not relevant to what I am interested in.
However, having said that there is one author I would like to mention, which is Garr Reynolds. Garr is an American who lives and works in Japan and has written a lot about presenting. He applies the Zen philosophy to how he thinks information should be presented and uses a very stripped down, minimalist visual language, allowing white spaces, for instance, that I find really interesting. I can throughly recommend his books such as Presentation Zen or the Naked Presenter.
Another thing I have found really interesting is watching TED talks. TED began in 1984 and stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. At the TED conferences people deliver short talks on a dizzying range of subjects in a very short, concise fashion that I find really interesting, like for instance this talk by Rose George on the global shipping industry. Never given the subject much thought before, but she puts it in such a clear and structured fashion that I can take something away from this short talk – understanding based on fact.
Or this talk by Sir Ken Robinson on changing education paradigms. Ken is a really inspiring speaker who brings facts together in a really clear, structured fashion without over-simplifying things. I also really like his delivery and the way he creates a rapport with the audience. The other thing I love about this video is the artwork by Cognitive Media, as it visualizes the presented information in an intelligent and funny fashion.
These talks help you reflect and get you thinking about how to convey and communicate sometimes complex information in a very clear, precise fashion without having to dumb it down, but rather to strip it down to the essentials and to adapt it to the audience you will be speaking to, which is likely to change from event to event.
In approaching the assembling of themes and materials for your presentation in this way it becomes more than just that, it turns it into a process in which you gain insights and a broadening of vision that in turn will allow you to give the topics you are talking about more depth… or that is the way it is for me at any rate.