Thursday, August 03, 2006

Well, well - if it isn't Potter!

Two days ago I was part of an interesting workshop on the skills of professional presentation. Our instructor explained how we might use emotion as a hook to grab our audience's attention. I was asked to present a mock subject myself highlighting this and other techniques. I was to present Perl - a programming language which is apparently widely used in WWW server side scripts. This what I came up with.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome! Let me begin by writing down on this flip-chart a name.

Harry Potter
(simultaneously writes on flip-chart)
Anyone heard of him? Good, I see all of you have!

(simultaneously writes on flip-chart)
What about him? I see two raised hands.

(simultaneously writes on flip-chart)
Anyone familiar with the name? No one?

So, as you can see, we have Harry Potter, the protagonist of the eponymous novels by Ms. Rowling, whom everyone here knows. Friedrich Nietzsche, the freethinker, is known to just two people. And no one here has heard of Ankh-Morpork, a city from the Discworld novels of Terry Pratchett, a delightful fantasy writer and cultural-political satirist.

Now, if you wished to learn more about them, or anything else for that matter, how would you go about it?

(audience murmurs - Internet, yahoo, google, wikipedia, WWW, STFW etc.)

Indeed! I too would look them up on the Internet - and 95% of all Internet servers are powered by Perl - which is what I wish to talk to you about today.

So began my spiel. I was gratified by the approbation my little attention-grabbing ploy received.

I wonder whether techniques like this form any part of serious journalism? Whether newspaper and online articles are written without any devices of this sort - just plain old truth, and nothing but?

Perhaps I won't answer these questions - the weekend's almost here: I plan to visit family tomorrow, and I'd like to do it in a pleasant state of mind.

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