Monthly Archives: March 2013

Tweak Your Speech: Rhetoric and Star Trek

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This week in Professional Communication and Presentation, we discussed the basics of rhetoric and persuasion. I don’t really fall too far from the rhetorical tree Aristotle and Cicero developed hundreds of years ago (with the exception of including Kenneth Burke’s concept of identification), partly because my class is only a month long and the three part structure of Aristotle’s appeals works well in this time frame, and partly because I want to impart on my students a very important truth: For the ancients, oration was a skill and art form that surpassed others–communication had immediate impact on the lives of Greek and Roman citizens, they tended to a presentation ecosystem before we’d heard of such a thing.

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This cultivation of strong speech continued through much of human history–imagine Martin Luther King writing up his “I Have a Dream” speech and sending it by mail (much less impacting that way, no?). In recent times though, the study of oration has been diluted, to the point that we devote little time to considering how we structure our messages or how our audience will process and carry on our message. We devote even less time to studying the mechanism of persuasion and analysis of how others structure a successful message. However, in order to really practice and engage in persuasion, we must first understand how it works.

I will share with you a metaphor that helped me understand how rhetoric and the means of persuasion (ethos or credibility, pathos or emotion, and logos or logic) work. An argument is like the Starship Enterprise, flagship of the United Federation of Planets. The Enterprise is THE ship on which to serve. Its reputation is stellar, its technology state of the art, and its crew stalwart and brave.  Your persuasive message is the Enterprise–it is a well-oiled machine, ready to take on any adversary, set to explore the dimensions of the human universe.

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But, the Enterprise would be nothing without three figures (the original series would not be what it is without the interplay between these three)– Leonard “Bones” McCoy, chief medical officer; Spock of Vulcan, first officer, and James T. Kirk, captain. It is the dynamic between these three individuals that drives the show, provides the excitement, drama, and relevance. Without Bones, Kirk, and Spock, the Enterprise would be a wasteland of red-shirted crewment, doomed to die during the next away mission. In the same way, your presentation cannot function without the seamless interplay between ethos, pathos, and logos.

Bones: Ethos or the credibility appeal

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Bones is the moral and ethical compass of this trio. He often protests Spock’s logic-driven decisions and tempers Kirk’s instinct-driven responses. Like Bones, ethos is all about authority. It is how your audience judges you. An audience should be able to determine if a speaker is trustworthy and reputable, knowledgeable, authoritative, and empathetic. A strong presenter develops ethos both through internal sources and external sources. Your external credibility illustrates knowledge and trustworthiness; internal credibility helps illustrate authority, reputation, and common ground or empathy.

External sources of credibility include experts, case studies, information from media sources, and data.

External sources of credibility include experts, case studies, information from media sources, and data.

 

Internal credibility includes personal experience (want to know about skydiving? ask a skydiver.), shared values with your audience, reputation, and demeanor or behavior during a presentation.

Internal credibility includes personal experience (want to know about skydiving? ask a skydiver.), shared values with your audience, reputation, and demeanor or behavior during a presentation.

 

Spock: Logos or the logical appeal

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Spock, half Vulcan, half human, made the decision as a child to embrace logic and repress emotion. His decisions are based on precise calculations, the data available, and analysis of a situation. Like Spock, logos is all about logic and evidence. It is your way of fulfilling your audience’s need for factual evidence that is presented in a way that makes sense. Logos is “the proof in the pudding”. It stimulates your audience’s need to see in order to believe. Logos is about a clear and understandable message, and a specific evidence that your audience can connect to and understand.

Kirk: Pathos or the emotional appeal

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Captain James T. Kirk, the leader of the Enterprise is a cunning, assertive, and passionate man, who often throws caution to the wind and does what seems irrational and rash. In the end though, Kirk’s actions, which turn out to be a blend of instinct, experience, and duty save the Enterprise (whether it is from a fierce Romulan commander or a super-computer bent on world domination). Like Kirk, pathos or emotion must be balanced by ethics and logic. Pathos is potentially the most ethically dangerous of the three appeals–humans are emotional creatures whose emotions can be manipulated and toyed with. However, pathos is also necessary. Your audience may see the logic of your message and may also see you as an authority in your field, but without that emotional core, they’ll ignore your message like they ignore most messages telling them to do this or not do that.

So, tend to each one of these appeals, devote time to developing the logic of your message, use emotion to humanize your logic, and show your audience you are worth listening to. You will surely go where no one has gone before!

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Tweak Your Lessons: March Updates

The reboot of PCPO is two weeks in, and already the team has seen several areas where “tweaking” will be needed in order to help students successfully complete their major project in the course, the Ignite presentation. Current challenges we face with this week by week process-based model are:

  • Students don’t sufficiently study welcome materials and don’t understand the course is based on the major project. There seems to be a disconnect between our communication of the process and their conditioning, which is to complete one task at a time without considering how each task connects with another.
    • Possible fix–schedule GoTo earlier in the week. Require attendance?
  • Students are choosing overused or unsuitable topics for the format and approach.
    • Do what we do in class–students must submit ten topics, workshop each one with their instructor, determine which three will work best for the project, then analyze each one using the model Andrew Dlugan proposes in his article “The Secret of Choosing Successful Speech Topics”.

In addition to testing the reboot of the class, I’ve also been working on several of the decks from last month I didn’t have a chance to tweak because of REAL Delivery and SIMPLE Design. I’ll be debuting Tweak Your Resume online next month, and I just used the Brainstorming and Structuring deck in today’s group workshop/planning/design session for the upcoming worst case scenario presentation.

The second version of Tweak Your Resume uses a more cohesive color scheme. I am also experimenting with smaller text unified visuals.

The second version of Tweak Your Resume uses a more cohesive color scheme. I am also experimenting with smaller text and more unified visuals.

This deck will need serious revision before it's  show ready. The content is specific to an in-class project the students are working on, though I'd like for it to become a general purpose tutorial on choosing a topic for and organizing a demonstration speech.

This deck will need serious revision before it’s show ready. The content is specific to an in-class project the students are working on, though I’d like for it to become a general purpose tutorial on choosing a topic for and organizing a demonstration speech. In this presentation, I’ve tried to detach from the image-only approach to include vector icons from thenounproject.com

What presentation projects have you been working on lately? What decks are you excited to share with others?

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Slideshare of the Day: Storytelling

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Yesterday, Alex Rister shared one of decks we now use in the online iteration of Professional Communication and Presentation, and today I’d like to pass that knowledge along. “Storytelling: Using the Most Powerful Information Delivery Tool” lays down a few basic principles and ideas about this very sticky method of communication. Storytelling is a cornerstone of the human experience. What a statistic cannot communicate alone, a story can bring to life. The deck begins by explaining the difference between report, whose purpose is to inform, and story, whose purpose is to entertain. A presentation happily lives in the middle of these two and can really help bridge the divide between informing and entertaining. But, it’s the use of story IN the presentation (and not just the slapping of a story in at the beginning or end of a speech) that really makes it so powerful.

As Nancy Duarte discusses below and Alex reiterates in the deck, we should work to layer story into an informative or persuasive speech as one layers a cake (a little info, a little story, repeat).

The deck goes on to explain what makes an effective story (conflict, characters, details, clear theme) as well as comparing story structure to presentation structure. In terms of design, Alex follows the SIMPLE method by keeping her theme unified (one typeface, Ostrich Sans, used in two weights; two contrasting colors used for emphasis, a repeated use of shape), focusing on one idea per slide, and applying the picture superiority effect consistently.

 

 

Do you incorporate story into your presentations? What types of stories do you find resonate with your audiences? Do personal stories work best?

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Data Display of the Day: Studying Abroad

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As a subscriber to Daily Infographic, I receive a daily dose of data visualization awesomeness in my in box. Today’s share comes from the newest contributor to Daily Infographic, Lindsey Lawrence. Lindsey shares with readers a very useful visualization for young folks considering studying (or teaching) overseas created by Course Hero, a site devoted to providing college students with useful supplements to their formal instruction. My 18-year-old sister is currently in the process of choosing where she will complete her undergraduate study. Although studying abroad hasn’t come up as an option yet, it’s an opportunity I wish I’d taken advantage of as a student (hint, hint, Karen Kacir…just a semester!).

(Original Source)

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Visual Thinking, an undeniable reality

After much deliberation and anxiety about overloading Slideshare.net with yet another presentation about presentation design, I’ve debuted by deck for March, Simple Design:

My decision to share this deck with others was difficult. I yearn for new conversations in the field of presentation design and visual communication and I want to be a part of these new conversations. However, I want to share something that is a stronger example of design with users than my previous deck on design, Tweak Your Slides.

The subject of visual thinking and cinematic visual aids is inevitable as we move further and further towards a society that yearns to connect with experience/brand/individual beyond the textual. In class, we devote a significant amount of time to designing a visual story, but more than this, we consider how inherent visuals have become in the conveying of our ideas and brands. Outside of class, I spend my time defending the post-clip art, post-1987 PowerPoint approach to presentation design against what I can only classify as a lizard brain-driven anxiety that comes with doing something different or non-traditional. Many of my colleagues accept how I approach teaching and see that it works, but cannot believe it could work outside of the vacuum of “fluffy” subjects like public speaking (this is of course not true in any respect). Alex Rister discussed this resistance on her blog, and lists this as one reason why this approach “won’t work” we often hear. But, then there are times when the visual thinking bug takes hold. One of our colleagues created a dynamic and immersive GoTo training complete with zombies and sound effects, and this month, super student Chris Martignago completed his month’s work of homework using visual thinking:

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Assigning reading homework is the bane of my existence--Resonate is an awesome book, but forcing students to read it means some of its impact is lost in the miasma of routine and compulsory action. Chris's solution, which was to make the outline something immersive and kinesthetic is brilliant!

Assigning reading homework is the bane of my existence–Resonate is an awesome book, but forcing students to read it means some of its impact is lost in the miasma of routine and compulsory action. Chris’s solution, which was to make the outline something immersive and kinesthetic, is brilliant!

In the past few weeks, several new decks focused on the topic of visual thinking have debuted on Slideshare. The first I’ll share with you today is Duarte Design’s #IllustraTED, which is a project developed by Duarte Design that gathers amazing illustrators and artists together to visualize and draw out some of this year’s talks:

(My favorite of course is Andrew McAfee’s talk on scifi and jobs.)

I also want to share with you two decks on visual storytelling and marketing that really give us a glimpse into where visual communication can take us in the future.  The first, created by Column Five Media, “Visual Content Marketing: Capture and Engage your Audience,” is an impeccably organized presentation that blends the essential ingredients–text, color, shape, layout, line, texture, and image–to communicate a core idea–we consume, communicate through, and are engaged by visuals, but succeeding with this in mind is not just about slapping a picture on a site and calling it a day.

The second deck, “Instabrand: The Rise of Visual Storytelling in a Content Marketing World,” an e-book by Christian Adams, isolates the same six communication media as the previous deck (photos, infographics, memes, videos, comics, visual note-taking), but focuses less on the how and more on the why this has happened and what the future will hold. This deck works less as a stand alone than Column Five’s, but I found the exposure to future forms of visual marketing/visual communication to be very enlightening.

What do you think? Do we still have room to grow this conversation? Have we said all there is to say about visual communication? If so, why is there still so much resistance?

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TED Talk of the Day: Amanda Palmer and the art of asking

If you aren’t familiar with the Dresden Dolls and Amanda F***ing Palmer, you will be after this moving talk. Palmer is the lead singer and siren of this truly under-appreciated band. Palmer’s message is timely–the music industry is at an impasse: either it moves back to the roots of music and performance and honors the immediate sharing of experience between artist and fan or it continues to alienate listeners and consumers by placing the focus on quantity over quality (which is akin to putting a bandaid on a torn carotid artery). Palmer’s solution is to focus on the direct artist/fan relationship. Fans, Palmer believes, can support artists, as an artists supports a fan’s personal growth through experience. Watch Palmer nail the TED Commandment, “thou shalt not flaunt thine own ego” in this inspirational talk!

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