Drinks and glasses all set up for the guests

Narrative

I think I surprised a few people last night, which was good. I’d been invited to launch my book at an event sponsored by Birkkets LLP and asked to ”say a few words” to the guests. I’m not entirely sure I’m capable of ”a few words” so I set about putting together a 15-20 minute presentation that quickly spiralled into a 30 minute one.

Ordinarily my talks are technical in nature, and while I try to keep them amusing they are always going to be a little dry. The skill level and experience of the audience can vary from school children to highly skilled techies, but the relative skill level of the audience tends to be constant. A book launch organised by a law firm presented a big problem: the audience was going to be diverse.

Then there is the overriding problem that it’s a book based on a blog that’s probably been read, at least in part, by most of the people present. So what exactly do you talk about?

In the end I talked around some large life events that, ultimately, put me in a position to be at Rainbird and attend Techstars. This was done to the backdrop of a bunch of nice photographs I have.

The sum total of the talk could be condensed to a single, short paragraph:

“How did I find time to write a book? I didn’t, I wrote a blog instead and then published that.”

But that’s not exactly a compelling story. People don’t want to hear the how, they want to hear the why. They want to identify with the experience. The trick is to spin that into a cogent tale. For example this entire post is a segue from a simple statement, to a short explanation of that statement with a big dollop of narrative in the middle in order to justify posting it.

I think I told a compelling story last night. The audience seemed to enjoy it. I know I did. People laughed at the right parts and appeared to be listening intently – this may have been a pleasant surprise to some of the audience. Sadly it also means that expectations will be adjusted accordingly for any future talks. I need to find a new audience with low expectations 😉