During my vacation I realized that I rather watch useless YouTube videos filled with somewhat irrelevant informations than archives of presentations, lectures and conferences on subjects I care about. I tried to figure out why this is the case. I came to conclusion that the reason for it is the way presentations and lectures start.
I am a fan of learning. Although I prefer watching as opposed to reading, I do enjoy absorbing new information. And therefore realizing that I wasted so much time on gaming videos, videos about Hollywood actors, whom I don't really know, and so on caused pretty big astonishment for me. I simply had to think about this and try to figure out the reason behind it.
I have to admit that the reason behind it is based on culture. Other cultures might disagree completely with what I am writing here. But it is important to understand the view of other people and so I am sharing my view.
Introduction, core, ending
At elementary school I was taught that every written and spoken piece must have structure made of introduction, core and ending. This structure was used in poems, stories, reports, presentations, etc. Whether it was correct or simplification of the real world was not important at the time. But it stuck with me till now. Or so I thought.
I have never been a fan of an introduction. Not just during presentations but also in real life, during meetings and so on. Many workshops I attend have round table introduction where people say couple of sentences about themselves. I see certain benefit to it, but I am still not seeking to give or receive this information.
In presentations it is very common to start by saying your name, reading the title of the topic you are going to be talking about. In more corporate environment it is also kind of a must to have agenda of the things you are going to say. To start by explaining why this topic is important, what will you hopefully take out from the presentation. This entire ordeal can take up to 10 or even more minutes. I personally just consider it useless.
Think about it. You waste 10 minutes listening to what is going to be the topic, who is the speaker of the topic, what are the points that will be addressed and what you will learn. And in those 10 minutes, you learn nothing. Absolutely nothing. If you leave that presentation after this introduction, you pretty much just wasted 10 minutes of your life.
Get to the point
I tried to remember all of my presentations I have ever given. And I noticed one common pattern. I always skip introduction. I rarely say my name so if I am not introduced, the only hint of who I am is in the bottom corner of my first slide with title of the presentation, slide that is only visible till I actually start presenting. I use this slide as filler before I get to the stage or wait for people to sit down and prepare themselves.
The moment I start talking I switch to slide number two. And slide number two is the core. There is no explicit discussion about why the audience should listen to me, what specific points I will talk about or how many Nobel prizes I have received - that would be very short list and by short I mean non-existent.
In case I feel like I need to lure in the audience, motivate them into listening, I do it in the core part by actually talking about interesting things. I do not do it by telling them how awesome the topic is. I let them decide for themselves.
When people come to my presentations they usually come for a reason. They either understand the topic and want to learn more or they don't understand the topic and I am there to give them the basics. They did not even come to listen to me specifically. I am not there as the king of the world and they are not there because of me. I am only the guy talking. I can be replaced very easily. That is the reason why I rarely say my name. It is not important. And if it is, the moderator of the whole event can take care of the introduction.
YouTube vs presentations
Some YouTube videos tend to start with suggestions to like the video and subscribe to channel it is still shorter than 10 min long introduction. Even though I do not understand the need to tell me to subscribe before I even view the video. If it is good, if I want more, I will subscribe. Let your content speak for you, stop making stuff happen if it is not supposed. It is tedious.
YouTube videos usually start by getting right to the point. And that is why I personally consider them so good. Even if the topic is useless to me, I am learning something that matters. Somewhat. I might never use that knowledge, but it is knowledge nevertheless.
I learned games lore just by watching videos about it. I do not care about it and it is rarely part of my discussions with people. The videos pulled me into the topic by talking about it and not about introducing the guy making the video, guy recording it with camera, guy doing the effects, guy eating the donuts in the background and so on.
When I watch archive from conferences it is always about the speakers. Even TED talks tend to lean this way sometimes. It is a shame. And for me personally it means that I will miss on lots of good presentations because I cannot be bothered to listen to boring and useless introduction that gives me nothing.
I believe that good speaker will swallow her ego and talk about the important part, the part all the people in the audience came for. That is not to learn what is the agenda or the autobiography of the speaker. Well, in most of the cases. I believe a good speaker will always ask herself: "Who are these people, what do they know and what are they interested in learning?"
When you go to present something, you will find yourself standing in front of bunch of people. This number can be quite great if you are speaking at a conference. Always consider what is reason for you being there. Are you there to teach or to gloat?