Presenting from the Dungeon
Written by Rob Clement
Almost all people have some anxiety about speaking in public. The experience can range from the fluttering butterfly feeling to outright terror that threatens to have you soil your britches. Like everything else you will get better with practice and experience and eventually you will be able to handle the experience and maybe even like it. The question is how to get the experience without the potential laundry problem. In this 3 part series I would like to offer some observations on how role playing games (especially acting as Dungeon Master in Dungeons and Dragons) can help develop presentations skills.
Part 1 - Building the Adventure
Constructing a presentation, like setting up an adventure, takes some planning and forethought. In both cases you are looking to taking a group of people on an exploration that you hope they will find both entertain and rewarding. Accomplishing this requires three things:
What will the strengths and weakness of the group allow them to overcome?
How will you get the group back on the path of your adventure if they decide to charge right at the dragon?
After the adventure, what will the characters have gained to help them in future quests?
People are coming to your presentation to improve themselves in some way; your job is to make sure that happens.
It isn’t fun for anyone if low level characters get wiped out by a monster they can’t handle (think Smaug from The Hobbit). As a presenter or Dungeon Master; you must realize that it doesn’t do anyone any good if the audience leaves the presentation without getting enough information and/or if you’ve overwhelmed them.
The audience has a strange way of throwing wrenches into the best laid plans of presenters and Dungeon Masters alike (we’ll examine where they get all these wrenches from in a later article). Sometimes an adventuring party will decide they don’t want to rescue the damsel in distress or will figure out a way to destroy the goblin horde in an instant, instead of the hours you predicted. Having a few small adventure or side missions for individual characters can help smooth over these issues. Presentations don’t always go as planned either. Equipment failures, off track discussions or missing timing points (running early or late) all make adjustments necessary. Having a base plan with “escape routes” if you need to cut time or optional audience participation activities can help stretch things out. Offering to meet one on one or asking that questions be held until a suitable break can help keep things on track.
So the adventures have survived and conquered, now what? Well if you have done your job properly they should be better equipped, with tools or knowledge, to handle greater challenges and move forward. As a presenter you need to think about what you know of your audience. What will they need (or want) to know that will help them reach their goals? It really is up to you to understand their goals and help lead them to reaching them. If you accomplish that everyone will have gained and grown.
Planning for an adventure or a presentation is never easy but it will become more natural over time. There have been many a gaming night where I miscalculated something an either wiped the group out or had us all staring at each other with not enough to do. Eventually I learned to have a few small things ready and built in safeguards to prevent the group from running headlong toward their own death. The biggest thing I learned from building fantasy worlds for people to play in was to weave a story that would capture the heart and imagination of the players. By doing that the game took on a life of its own and the planning became so much easier. When an audience gets inspired and engaged their excite will become part of the presentation and you will find things begin to almost run themselves.