Monday, March 4, 2013

East vs West in presentation

In recent times I had been experimenting on starting presentations. I decided that the traditional way of starting a presentation or session by saying, 'thank you very much for the opportunity' and ' I am glad to be here' was too mainstream and a waste of the precious 'honeymoon' period with the audience.

By reading through some of the manuals on presenting originating from the west, it was clear that almost all the western authors agreed that you should never start a presentation with an apology. As per them, this showed that you are tensed and weak. They also argued that, an act of apology can get you sympathy but it makes you loose respect. I kind of agree with the rationale of these arguments.

But it leaves me puzzled, on how to handle the situation if there was a genuine need to apologize at a presentation. In this part of the world in case if there is a need to apologize, if not explicitly mentioned it is taken as a cardinal sin. More than anything else, being humble is always considered a prime element in the value system. So I was looking around for inspiration from eastern culture and remembered our O/L Tamil literature book. Kamban a celebrated poet when presenting Ramayanam has handled it in an entirely different way, in stark contrast to the above western ideology. He actually has devised a two phased strategy, in the first phase, he makes a very humble start and says what he is about to do is analogous to a greedy cat who wants to lick up an entire ocean of milk. Then in his second phase of the introduction he systematically sets up arguments to make people realize that he is indeed a great poet and then eventually taking control of the audience.

Not sure whether he did this purposely to play to the gallery or was it because it was being recited in front of Royalty. But for me it looked like a better way of approaching an eastern audience. In my last two presentations I had tried to 'borrow' some inspiration from him. So far so good - I mean the personal feeling, not sure about what the audience felt like! Let me know your thoughts in case if you try...

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