So what makes a good presentation then? I’m thinking a lot about this at the moment as it looks as though this summer will be the busiest yet for talks and presentations, so I’m keen to spend some time thinking this through.
Iain Dale transcribed a recent talk he had given on speech making. Opening with the line, “The best speeches are made like I sing in the shower. With no notes. Anne Widdecombe taught me that.” That’s food for thought.
One thing that is making an impression is the power of stories. Right now I can think of two presentations that I heard today. The first told stories and I can remember the basic content, from that I can then piece together the facts of the presentation. The second talk tried to convey a lot of facts, most of which I couldn’t recall no matter how hard I try. In fact, it would have been more useful to have the content of the second talk in an e-mail to refer back to when I needed.
I need to think some more about this. It’s really easy in my job to want to convey the detail, but I’m not sure that I’d expect someone outside of Wycliffe to remember the number of people still waiting for Bible translation to begin. What they may remember are the stories about individuals, such as the one in my last newsletter.
A knock at the gate drew me outside. I expected to find my co-worker waiting there but to my surprise I saw, instead, a man I didn’t recognize. He seemed almost familiar, yet not quite. Who’s this? I thought to myself as I went to greet him.
The man at the gate turned out to be a thoughtful old pastor from a border city 100 miles north of my place. He had travelled all day on the back of a motorcycle over dusty, pothole-infested roads just to ask me one question: can you translate the Bible into our language?
“When did you become a Christian?” I asked.
“I was born a Christian,” he replied.
I thought about that. If he was more than 75 years old, as he claimed to be, his parents would have been alive at the tail end of the ministry of the first missionary to go to his area. The Bible had been translated into the national language, and was at that time being translated into the wider regional language. But when the local people requested a translation in their own language, the missionary said, “Your group is too small,” implying, it’s not worth the effort.
This pastor desperately wanted God’s Word in his own language. As he was talking about his dream to a colleague from another village, the colleague said, “I know some people who do Bible translation work. Let’s go ask them if they’ll help.”
So the colleague carried the elderly pastor on the back of his bike all the way to my place to ask for help.
“Do you speak the area minority language?” I asked. He said that he did, but the hesitation in his voice led me to think otherwise. For the next four hours, I administered some language evaluation exercises to determine whether or not his language was similar to other languages in the area. I discovered that it was entirely different and would need its own discrete translation.
After finishing the assessment tests, the pastor innocently asked, “When will the translation be ready?”
I had to tell him the sad news that, in situations like his – a language that is not accessible to linguists, a people group without higher education to assist in the process, and other factors that impact translation work – the average time for completing a translation is 15 to 20 years.
He then looked at me, steady and calm, and asked, “So when can we start?”