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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Book Review for HealthIT Communicators


My wife works at a library, and often brings home books she enjoys reading.  Recently she told me about a book she was reading by Alan Alda about the work he was doing with Improvisation and communication in Science and Technology.  I grabbed a digital copy for the family including the audio-book version read by Alan.

So much of this book resonated with my experiences over that last decade+, starting with the event that gave me the reason behind the name of this blog.

Many years ago, I found myself speaking to an audience with a slide deck in front of me, behind a podium 20 feet from the front of a raised stage, in an auditorium with an orchestra pit.  After 15 seconds of trying to connect with the audience in that awkward postion, I ditched the podium mike, grabbed the hand-held and went to the front of the stage. 

I was now back in a familiar setting, that of the theater, in which I had spent some three semesters with a fantastic director from my early college days.  And I responded to that setting with all of the training* I had been provided about speaking (projection, diction), connecting with audiences, and MOST of all, improvisation.  First thing I did was went off script**.

I used that entire stage as I talked (from down stage right) about how Cross Enterprise Document Sharing (XDS) would enable patients living and being cared for in Hartford (where we were meeting) who traveled to Danbury (crossing to stage left) get access to their documents, traversing back to the center to reference my slides on the large backlit projection screen behind me (somewhat like a TED setup).  I could see the audience track me with their eyes from one side of the stage to the other.

That presentation was a turning point in my career in terms of how I approached speaking at public events. What I learned on that day was what Shakespeare already knew: "All the world is a stage, and all the men and women are merely players ..."  Since then, I no longer need the trappings of the stage, merely the impression that I have one, to apply that training I so thoroughly enjoyed.  Improv was the key for me, as it was for Alan as he describes in his book.

This is an awesome book for technology communicators. Read it. Enjoy it. Apply it.  I have the same sense about this book as others related to me about my presentation that day.  He nailed it.

   Keith

* For those of you who don't know me well, I am somewhat of an introvert.  Dealing with people in groups is exhausting, and I can spend hours on my own quite satisfied.  But I loved theater because it was a safe environment to go be other than my introverted self.  So I explain myself as being a well-trained introvert, and it was that early theater and improv training I had in high-school and college that I'm speaking of.

** I no longer script presentations, but I do prepare and rehearse them, especially if I've only done them once or twice.

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