Thursday, October 21, 2010

Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Trying new things is a great way to grow, learn, and expand your horizons. Plus it can be a lot of fun.

I am a professional speaker who has presented to over 50 audiences in 2010, however all of those speeches were planned, prepared, and practiced. I have never done "Improv", and do not consider myself a comedian. While I use humor in my keynote presentations and training programs, I do not take the stage with the intent of being "funny".

Last night I was asked to participate in a "Battle Decks" competition at the Ignite Austin event. Battle Decks is becoming a popular entertainment component at conferences and other events (especially in the technology arena) where 3 or 4 participants present PowerPoint presentations they have never seen before. The speaker does not know what will come up on the slides, and is given the topic just as the self-advancing PowerPoint deck begins to roll. Some people call it "Power Point Karaoke." It is similar to "Table Topics" at a Toastmasters Club, but with slides and an audiences of hundreds of people.

While I am comfortable speaking to an audience, the unknown of what was going to happen with the visuals aspects of the slides did make me uncomfortable.

Turns out it was a lot of fun. There were three competitors. Two had to leave the room so they could not see the slides before their turn, and then one by one we each presented to the same slide deck (thus the term "Battle Decks"), trying to weave a cohesive presentation while making the audience laugh.

I won the competition (against a guy who is a professional Improv instructor!), giving me bragging rights as the "Ignite Austin 2 Battle Decks Champion" (there was no actual prize). I am not sure if I have to defend the crown at Ignite Austin 3, but I would welcome the chance do do this again.

Three years ago I would never have agreed to do a competition like this in front of hundreds of people and several video cameras (the video will eventually hit YouTube). I would have over thought the possible negative effects of making a blunder and worried about what people might think of my attempts at humor. However with experience comes confidence and having given 150 speeches over the last three years meant it was time to branch out and try something new..

Additionally, I discovered that I can step out of my comfort zone and have fun doing it. Next I think I will take and improv class or do an open mic night at a comedy club!

Have A Great Day.


*Photo from Twitter via Scott Hanson (aka @dellservergeek).


Brian Oates said...

What fun! I'm glad you jumped in and gave it s shot. (and yes, hopefully someone will post the video)

Sara Canaday said...


I'm sorry I missed your performance at Ignite Austin. I have no doubt you "rocked" the battledeck concept. This format was made for you. Please alert me when the Youtube is out.

Sara Canaday

Jen Crowley said...

Ha, with Lady Gaga in the background of your photo, I can only imagine the kind of presentation you gave! I bet it was hilarious.