Monday, March 13, 2006

Killer Graphics

"I'll put you in [room] number one... ... ...because ONE stands for MURDER! Hwahahahah!"

- Zorak, The Brak Show

If there was anything I sensed about the Murder by Design conference last Saturday, it was the fact that the venue needed a bit of air-conditioning. The stamp that they placed on my right arm to certify my entrance easily started to melt from the moment I entered. I find it strange, for that matter, that they would hold the conference in an unbusinesslike establishment, but I'll chalk that up to a designer "thing".

Murder by Design was actually a workday for me -- the company was paying for my time there, and I whiled away the hours with a couple of staff members who had similar duties. All three of us expected to gain some insight into the nature of the graphic design business, and I don't think we were disappointed by the proceedings.

With all that said, however, I eventually came to a startling conclusion after watching three or four speakers come up on stage and do their little verbal dances. It was a conclusion borne from various other seminars and conferences, and it was a conclusion borne from even the iBlog summit held last year. That conclusion was a simple one: You can be as skilled as you please, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you'll be able to speak well in front of an audience.

It's true, ladies and gentlemen. Oratory is quite a different animal, as compared to literary writing, graphic design, and all those other endeavors we've come to know and love. I find it funny, in a way, that the schools and universities have probably known this for decades now, and yet most of us don't seem to have realized the fact.

But then again, I'm not complaining. After all, Oratory is hardly a pursuable art nowadays. It's difficult to practice, especially considering that the average person doesn't see many invitations to speak in front of a live audience. For that matter, it's usually only field-based professionals who are invited to speak in this fashion, and even then we probably shouldn't expect a good show. I imagine that being good at graphic design, software development or blogging doesn't leave one with much time to practice speeches in front of a mirror.

Despite all these assumptions, however, one has to wonder about Dean Alfar.

I've seen Dean Alfar speak twice so far. The first was at the iBlog summit, where he easily blew away an audience that was prepared to hear about creativity in blogging (and consequently got it in spades). The second was at last Saturday's conference, where he was able to grab the attention of a tough crowd and somehow managed to toss them a few tips on starting and running a design business. He seems to consistently do very well at this speakership thing, and I wonder how he does it.

I know that he's gotten up and spoken to audiences before, but I'm not sure if it's to a level where he's become adept at it. I know that he's a consistent writer, but there's always the question of whether or not writing has anything to do with oratory in the first place.

Maybe it has something to do with the way his mind works. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he seems confident enough to do what he does. Maybe he's just been lucky so far, and that he'll crash and burn somewhere in his next outing. (Or maybe not.)

Whatever the case, he bears watching. As with any person who seems to do something well, it's probably worth observing him to see just how he does it.

I spent most of the conference in a state of bewilderment, to be honest. A good chunk of the lectures seemed to involve a bunch of professional designers going up on stage and explaining their portfolios. They would hook up their laptops to the projector and open up a bunch of demo files, for example, essentially explaining how and why they came up with certain designs for certain clients. While these were enlightening, they brought to mind the question of what most of the designers in the audience were supposed to learn from them.

But then again, good design isn't something that you can learn from a single conference. Good design, like writing and oratory and many other things, is something that you learn from experience. That may have been the point of the entire conference, I think. Heck, if anything, that may be the point of any conference:

"We're giving you a bunch of speakers who probably aren't all that good at speaking. But they're professionals in their chosen fields, and they've been around. You have to realize that they've gone through a lot to get where they are right now, and they're going to share some of these lessons and experiences with you, so that you'll know what to expect."

It's priceless in every sense of the word, now that I think about it. Talks, round-table discussion groups, and even TV dialogues probably work under the same realization.

I unfortunately had to leave the conference early because I needed to return the family car, so I missed out on the latter proceedings as well as the ever-present raffle. It was fine, though... they were generous enough to give their attendees a fair share of giveaways in any case.

By this time, however, the stamp was nothing more than a half-congealed mess that needed a good amount of rubbing alcohol to remove. I figured, however, that if it left any vague marks on my right arm, I could always claim that it was the hallmark of a rare disease that was turning my skin blue.

Yes, no one would probably believe me. But then again, I do have a propensity for telling tall tales, and both the confidence and experience to back them up. At least I have that much to go on...


Arashi-KIshu said...

Hmm, why don't you join the Toastasters Club? I joined it in 2004, and I have no regrets. Their programs really do help make people better speakers, leaders, and listeners.

Sean said...

Arashi-Kishu: I knew I forgot to mention something here. I've heard only good things about the Toastmasters Club, and in addition to their beneficial programs, the organization seems to be a good place for people to sit around and talk about intelligent stuff.

Sadly, however, I'm engaged in too many pursuits right now. I don't want to get into something without my giving it the attention it deserves. Other people might want to give it a try, though... so does anyone have their contact info?

eClair said...

Sean: Charo. Ask her. I think she meets up with them :)

Dean Alfar is one heck of a person. I don't know if he could influence me enough to be a bit like him. It would do me a lot of good if his wit rubs off me - even just a little bit...

Sean said...

eClair: Yes, Charo mentions Toastmasters every now and then. On the other hand, she's a corporate trainer, so she'd likely have the skills with or without the club membership.

As for Dean Alfar and his ruboff, that could actually be part of a greater social perception. Maybe we have a tendency to hang around skilled or influential people because we want to attain their level of personality.

Ferdz said...

Interesting! I have to miss this one, but I was at the first MDB before, where they had several good speakers like Robert Alejandro and Avid Liongoren.

Sean said...

Ferdz: They actually did have Robert Alejandro (he of Alabang Town Center fame), but only via video recording. His puppy-dog enthusiasm really showed in his design presentation, but I get the feeling that a lot was left out of the translation to video.

Shannelle said...

Sean, so the event was worth the time and hassle?

I thought the event was scheduled only for 25th of February. I was planning to attend it but couldn't because of errands. -sighs- I should have double-checked their schedule. :(

Sean said...

Shannelle: It was here and there, I think. I didn't stay long enough to see if it was worth seven hours of attendance, but I would have gladly stayed for any of Dean Alfar's presentations.

Murder by Design was originally scheduled for February 25, yes, but due to the street protests, government arrests and abortive coup attempts that took place on that date, the event got postponed to March 11. (Yes, this sort of thing happens all the time in Manila.) I only found out about it when an acquaintance brought it up in the middle of a business discussion.