Hello Cleveland!

David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) getting directions to the stage door.  Credit: MGM Home Entertainment

David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean) getting directions to the stage door.  Credit: MGM Home Entertainment

There is a scene in the rock mockumentary This Is Spın̈al Tap where an eager crowd is awaiting Spinal Tap to come out on stage. The band is shown backstage heading out of their dressing room pumping themselves up with shouts of “Let's rock 'n roll!” But somehow the path to the stage door is a labyrinth and you get to witness the hilarious scene as the band wanders around lost and bewildered, despite them being able to hear the chanting audience waiting for them to hit the stage. At one point, they think they’re headed in the right direction and Derek excitedly calls out “Rock 'n roll! Hello Cleveland!” only to take another wrong turn and they’re still nowhere closer to finding the stage. 

That scene feels rather symbolic for me. I came up with the idea of this rock-n-roll inspired presentation blog over a year ago.  But I feel like I’ve spent the last year lost backstage with no hope of ever finding the stage door. It's been one twist and turn after another of personal setbacks, changed jobs, deaths in the family and just plain old fear of getting this thing started. But through it all, I could still hear the crowd chanting. 

Why a rock-n-roll inspired presentation blog? Well first let’s talk about my love for presentations. I believe a good presentation or talk can change the world. A bad one on the other hand can make people fall asleep or worse, get up and leave. Presentations have the power to inspire people, connect them with new ideas, and introduce thought provoking conversations. But so often the potential isn’t fully met. I never want that to happen to you and hopefully this blog can help. Nothing makes me happier than helping people shine.

Which is what I spent years helping musicians do. Driven by my love of music I started working with bands in college while being the music director of my college radio station, doing PR on the side for them. Then I designed posters, marketing materials and album covers for them. I managed the band called Pinwheel, that splintered into the bands Death Cab for Cutie and Army Navy. I also did a few ancillary music roles including designing club visuals for DJs and gig posters for local clubs and touring bands. Lots of different roles, but all focused on helping the artists I love achieve their dreams. 

Over the years my “day job” in the tech industry accidentally became a career and I got to spend less and less time with the music industry. But interestingly enough, working in tech and becoming a product manager, I found myself up on stage. Not the stages of rock venues, but conference stages doing product presentations and talks on career happiness.  

It took a colleague telling me, "Man, you're a rock star!" as I walked off stage one time for me to begin to see the parallels between my personal love of music and my professional love of presenting. But a rock star? Why not? Sure, when I was up there on stage I had no distortion pedals at my feet or a Fender strapped to me or a tower of Marshall amps behind me. But I had a mic, and there was a sound guy. And lights. The presentation was my set, all original material. And it rocked. 

Yet you can’t be a rock star presenter without putting in the hours. Just like you don’t magically find yourself rocking a packed arena by wishing you could play guitar. That's why I've spent the last few years studying the craft of presenting. I’m so excited to share with you on this blog what I’ve learned along the way from my research, observation and experience. There are no shortcuts to a great presentation. We’ve got work to do. But we’re gonna have fun doing it and you’re gonna rock! 

This blog will be where This Is Spın̈al Tap and the Harvard Business Review intersect, which neither of them saw coming. It will weave the energy of rock, hip hop, and soul with real-world advice from presenting at conferences and boardrooms. I’m going to review presentation books, software and tools. There will also be interviews with rock star presenters that I hope will inspire and teach us both more about rocking on stage.

So here it is, I'm hitting "Publish" on this post. I've finally found the stage door! Here we go, pump your fist in the air and yell it loud with me: