Strangely, I thought, neither of us had a strong visual memory of what the man looked like, what he wore, how he moved. We had the same response to another of the lecturers—we didn't remember him, we remembered his general message.
The purpose of most lectures is to provide information, information that we will remember and think about. Why was one of those 5 speakers so successful that I still can almost quote his speech?
Granted, he owns a business that requires presentations on a regular basis. But what principles had he learned in the process of creating a successful international company?
He began with a "hook," a $50 billion mistake that took 10 years of his life. He had our attention right away.
He next mentioned his state of despondency as he tried to find a new path. An emotion that everyone in his audience could relate to, a state that seems to be necessary before any creative breakthrough. Now we were with him, ready to follow his thinking.
Then a bit of history about his field—when and why the $50 billion mistake, which had seemed progressive at the time, had its origins. Although I was familiar with that history, he added a perspective that had never occurred to me.
His first slides gave us visual images of the "old way" of thinking about the problem, and then the "new way." Without printed labels, without any horrible power points. We were free to respond emotionally, and to agree with him that his new way was the right one.
His last point was about change—When we change one aspect of a problem, we create the necessity of change in every process connected to it. That point reminded my friend of a change she had made in the same system our lecturer was talking about.
I think that, if we were young enough, both of us would have applied this week for a job in his company.
I began writing this post with the question: Why wast the lecture memorable, while the speaker was not? I thought the answer was: Because he focused completely on his message and not himself.
Then I realized that every one of the arguments I'd been making to support that answer involved our responses as audience members. So perhaps the answer to my question was: The speaker thought of himself as the conduit between his message and his audience.
Then I looked, belatedly, at the title of the lecture—"Designing for Learning in the Creative Age"—and realized that the audience had been taken through the creative process itself in 20 minutes.