Tag Archives: presentation development

Want to Change your World? Present better!

Yesterday, I received a phone call from a current online student who works as a data analyst. She called to share her amazing news with me. After taking Professional Communication and Presentation this month and learning how to develop, design, and deliver a presentation inspired by the work of today’s presentation revolution leaders like Nancy Duarte, Garr Reynolds, TED, and the Heath brothers, she was inspired to create a cinematic presentation for her company. Her task was to inform and train others on new software being used. She’d previously shared with the class that her company was firmly in the “death by PowerPoint” abyss Andrew Dlugan describes on Six Minutes. Presentations were tedious, forgettable, pointless, and sterile. But, for this student, being aware of these revolutionary ideas made it impossible for her to create yet another boring presentation.

Instead, she created a well-structured, well-designed presentation, and she delivered that presentation in a way that was natural and engaging. The results were remarkable. One attendee commented that in 20 years with this company, it was the first time he had felt engaged during a presentation. The student has been asked to visit other offices, present the information to the rest of the company’s employees, and even conduct future webinars based on her presentation. Not only was this student’s world changed by a strong presentation, but she has begun the great work of revolutionizing a company’s communication culture. This is not something that happened by accident or because the student was inherently already a strong presenter. A world-changing moment like this takes preparation, practice, contemplation, and a true empathy for a target audience.

If your ideas matter–if your business plans, your research results, or your cause are worth spreading–then design and presentation matter. –Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen Design

Within my own institution, I often hear students and faculty complain about yet another boring presentation, another bullet-riddled death machine, another wasted hour. It’s clear that audiences don’t respond to the standard operating procedure; however, in speaking to those presenting the information, it’s clear that they perceive what makes for a strong presentation to be a matter of opinion or preference. I often hear, “students love my slides,” or “yeah, Chiara, that’s YOUR way of doing it, but we are not you,” or “Bullets work for me; people need this information!”, or “I don’t have time to put into presenting; I’m already good at presenting.” Internally, sometimes I feel frustrated, as if I am a small voice in a giant void called the status quo. But, as an eternal optimist, my response is to try to share with them the irrefutable work of brain scientists like John Medina, the Zen philosophy of contemplation before action created by Garr Reynolds, and the multitude of case studies, examples, and stories that prove that engaging in presenting as a process truly helps propel ideas forward and is the only way to reach an audience.

Where does a strong presentation’s power come from? In part, it is the clear experiential difference an audience feels when they participate in a well-developed presentation. But, more than this, a well-designed presentation harnesses the power each and every one of us has to connect with another person, be inspired by an idea, and find ways to actualize that idea. As Nancy Duarte says, “Presentations create a catalyst for meaningful change by using human contact in a way that no other medium can” (Source). I am not talking about opinion–this perspective is designed to tap into what appeals to people, how people think, and what leads people to internalizing an idea. Creating yet another poorly prepared, cookie cutter, boring presentation squanders that power in each of us to be a catalyst for change.

Your idea becomes alive when it is adopted by another person, then another, and another, until it reaches a tipping point and eventually obtains a groundswell of support. –Nancy Duarte, Resonate

It cannot be denied–proper preparation, thorough content development, design-centered thinking, and deliberate practice are the keys to a strong presentationand a strong presentation can change the world. If you want to change your world, you must present better!

 

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Design Smarter: Three Views on Storyboarding

designsmarterstoryboarding.001.001

Yesterday, I talked about creating a design decisions slide to serve as a guide for designing a presentation. Today, I’d like to share with you another strategy for designing and organizing a presentation. In Ideate, we learn that the first step of design is to storyboard ideas. But, what does it mean to storyboard a presentation? Storyboarding is a strategy we use in Professional Communication and Presentation as an alternative to an linear outline. While outlining works well for presentations that are content-only, it is difficult to think like a designer and visualize design using a word processor or text-based organizational tool like a formal outline. Storyboarding, a term borrowed from film, television, and animation, essentially means creating a structure that allows one to not only determine the order and organization of content but also begin visualizing the design that goes along with that content. How does one create and execute a storyboard? Here are three professional presenters on the subject:

Scott Schwertly, Ethos3

Schwertly and his firm Ethos3 are leading the presentation revolution (be sure to scroll to the end of their blog to download a copy of the Presentation Manifesto) by following their core values–my favorite of which is “Embrace and Drive Change.” In their latest addition to their comprehensive and beautifully designed blog, “Ethos3 Secrets: Crafting a Storyboard,” Schwertly shares his team’s process for creating and using a storyboard. The starting point is the big picture, the big takeaway, or the big idea. Having this in place before even beginning a storyboard can help a project stay on track. Then, using presentation software, paper, or a word processing program, create the template for your storyboard. In class, we use the layout below for storyboarding along with sticky notes.

This student drew in ideas for slides ,and in the lines provided, explained what he would cover on each slide.

This student drew in ideas for slides ,and in the lines provided, explained what he would cover on each slide.

Once you begin filling in your storyboard, remember a few important things: 1. Imagine your visual support as you craft your content and 2. Revision is part of the process and is key to generating a strong structure.

Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen

I was first introduced to the concept of storyboarding via the Zen master, Garr Reynolds. I had always known about presenter’s notes and the ability to use them as a way to combine content and visuals, but as I was still creating “slideuments,” my use of these notes was minimal. Reading the article “Lessons from the art of storyboarding” helped me move into the realm of cinematic presentations. Reynolds’ article is less a how to and more an inspirational tool illustrating what we can learn about visualization from the folks who’ve done it best since 1923, The Walt Disney Company. According to Reynolds, storyboarding helps presenters visualize the story behind their presentation. To be a good storyboarder, one must be not only a good communicator who can create a clear, engaging, and cohesive story, but also be a great storyteller, using visuals to communicate “the meaning and the feelings behind the idea” (Source). Reynolds suggests going analog for this process–a whiteboard with sticky notes and markers, a strategy used by other leading professionals in the field (and which works very well for team projects).

Nancy Duarte, Duarte Design

Duarte Design uses whiteboards and sticky notes, a practice Nancy Duarte, Fairy Godmother of Presentations, discusses in her books Slide:ology, Resonate, and the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations. In the final article I’ll share with you, Duarte explains her unique approach to storyboarding in developing a presentation on visual thinking. For this particular presentation, the traditional storyboard and stickynote format left the presentation disconnected and disjointed. So, Duarte used receipt tape (just as Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road on one continuous roll of paper as opposed to separate sheets) to storyboard the presentation. The result was a cohesive and connected presentation. Check out the result on Duarte’s blog. The lesson here is be creative! The strength of your drawings doesn’t matter, neither does any one way of storyboarding. The point is to use the best tool for you in a specific presentation development situation.

To learn more about storyboarding, check out the following articles from Tweak Your Slides:

Storyboarding a PechaKucha

Storyboarding: Four Patterns of Organization

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Another Great and FREE Resource by Duarte Design

In late 2013, Nancy Duarte, fairy godmother of presentation development and design, released a free HTML 5 version of her landmark text, Resonate. I instantly fell in love with this version of her book, which took the print version to a new level of interaction and connectivity. This entirely free version of the book contains behind the scenes tidbits, interactive exercises, videos, and guides to important concepts like Duarte’s Sparkline. This week, Duarte Design released Slidedocs: Spread Ideas with Effective Visual Documents, a free guide to creating what Duarte believes to be a necessary common ground between the density of long-form reports and a live, immersive, cinematic presentation of information. What do you do when you want your audience to preview data and information before a big presentation? What about after a presentation when someone asks for your presentation? What about when you aren’t able to conduct a live presentation at all? The only answer is no longer a lengthy, text-heavy report. Instead, Duarte takes the concept of a “slideument” (coined by Garr Reynolds in Presentation Zen) and actually turns it into a positive–the beautiful blend of text, image, layout, and thorough content development, the “slidedoc.” Check out the interactive and again FREE guide to creating slidedocs below or visit duarte.com/slidedocs. This guide will come in handy as we rework the PCP course. I’ve already seen how presenting information via text-only in proposing the class to others has led to confusion instead of clarification. Thinking of the instruction sheets and other course information we provide to students as slidedocs will help us ensure students not only study their course materials carefully but are engaged and interested while doing so!

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Cicero’s Five Canons: If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

Last week’s Mega-Double in Professional Communication and Presentation (that would be 8 hours of class…in one day…at once…) focused on the following topics:

  • What 10 qualities students want to work to embody in their own presentations
  • An introduction to my favorite TED talk, Benjamin Zander’s, “On music and passion”
  • How to manage presentation anxiety
  • The importance of thorough audience analysis
  • Nancy Duarte’s New Slide Ideology
  • Garr Reynold’s Naked Presenter/techniques for delivering engaging presentations

That was a light day, actually. What always falls by the wayside that I just can’t seem to find a new place for are Cicero’s Five Canons of Rhetoric.

Seriously, I sneak this in during persuasion, but it should be part of the first day. It’s time to really have a heart to heart with the part of me that is willing to cut mercilessly like Ira Glass. Until then, I share my two cents on Cicero’s Five Canons with you here. Cicero, whom I refer to as the OG of oration, developed these canons or arts between 55-51 BCE as a means of further standardizing the work Aristotle had first developed in On Rhetoric in the 5th century BCE. Cicero, although a great orator, as a supporter of the Republic, struggled against the power-hungry First Triumvirate, Julius Caesar’s taking of Rome, and the Second Triumvirate’s power plays. He met his end at the hands of Mark Antony.  Though currently not in fashion as a great rhetorician, Cicero’s study of the process of speech remains a staple of public speaking curricula. These are the five keys to any great speech, and they fit in nicely with Nancy Duarte’s presentation ecosystem of message, visual story, and delivery.

Invention

According to rhetoric god, Jay Heinrich’s, Cicero, who was considered the greatest orator of his time, believed that invention was more important than delivery. Heinrich’s quotes Cicero, stating that “eloquence without wisdom has often been a great obstacle and never an advantage” (Source). It is this searching out of wisdom, the seeking of knowledge that is applied via experience that characterizes invention best.



In the invention phase, presenters seek out the means of best appealing to their audience; they determine counter-arguments, complete audience personas, conduct surveys, and conduct deep research into credible sources of information. In this phase of the presentation development process, the best rule of thumb is to resist the urge to cut and delete. This is about getting everything out and finding all connective points.

In class, I introduce them to a few more thoughts on invention, including those of Duarte, Reynolds, and Godin, as well as introducing them to Dan Pink’s concept of “A Whole New Mind.” I use Pink’s concept of thinking with a whole mind because this objective, creative and logical approach to planning a presentation taps into all of our strengths as humans. Great invention takes a whole minded approach.


Arrangement

 While it may seem obvious to us that arranging and organizing our ideas into a digestible, understandable, and concrete structure, for orators in Cicero’s time, organizing one’s ideas around a centralized point was not so obvious. While critics of Cicero’s canons claim the rigidity of his method kills creativity, I find liberation in constraints, and as one of my students’ major concerns is the “flow” of their presentations, I believe some study into arrangement can only help.
For Cicero, arrangement was divided into six parts: “an introduction, a statement of facts, a division between ideas (if there is one), proof or evidence supporting all ideas, refutation of ideas, an optional digression, and conclusion” (Source).  A presenter uses logic, emotion, and credibility to build each of these chunks and considers the tools in his or her rhetorical arsenal when determining what goes where. For instance, in class, we discuss the importance of beginning with strong emotional or intellectual PUNCH, creating a strong initial impression of credibility, and providing a clear big idea and Duarte’s crossing of the threshold in the introduction.
Another strategy we use in class is storyboarding. My students’ prepare a Pecha Kucha presentation in two weeks as part of their major projects in class. With only two weeks, every moment becomes important, especially the moments devoted to arrangement. As a PK is not your typical presentation and presenters are often anxious about connectivity, exact organization, and flow, we use storyboarding to help create a dynamic, visually-driven structure before slide design begins.

Style

Style in terms of language has less to do with overly flowery phrases, fancy jargon, and elaborate metaphors and much more to do with the speaker applying his or her natural strengths and the three rhetorical appeals to how he or she speaks and presents the information. An orator’s style arsenal depends on experience, comfort level, and intellect, but it often includes one staple–storytelling. Telling stories is a universal form of conveying evidence, emotion, and credibility that has been a staple of the human experience, since pre-literate times as Nancy Duarte explains. Stories not only help touch your audience emotionally (at least, well written stories chock full of relatable characters, concrete detail, and significance), but they also provide tangible evidence and proof (assuming you are not lying). Finally, stories also lend speakers credibility, illustrating a personal connection to the topic and similarity with the audience.

Memory

This is probably the canon I devote the least attention to in class, partly because it is each presenter’s responsibility to practice and prepare, but also because as I’ve learned, the best messages are not memorized, but internalized so that they are delivered as if they are from memory. Unlike the Romans, though, we don’t devote attention to the memory and internalization centers of our children’s minds. We increasingly rely on tools to help us remember, going so far as using a slideshow as a teleprompter. For Cicero, “memory is the treasury and guardian of all things.” It is the presenter’s task to internalize a message and know it as well as she knows her childhood home.

Check out my post on rehearsing a PechaKucha for some excellent internalization advice from Felix Jung of Avoision.com.

Delivery

Cicero’s final canon is delivery. Delivery, while it may seem to be all about flashy hand gestures, projection, articulation, and eye contact, is so much more about conveying one’s natural passion for a subject. As Garr Reynold’s puts it in The Naked Presenter, presenting naked “means connecting and engaging with an audience…in a way that is direct, honest, and clear. …The naked approach embraces the ideas of simplicity, integrity, and passion” (Source). In class, we study his approach to delivering an engaging presentation–connect, engage, sustain, and end powerfully.

 

So, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Apply Cicero’s five canons of rhetoric to your next presentation and make one of history’s greatest orators (and your audience) proud!

 

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