Monthly Archives: May 2013

GoTo Training Lesson: Murder Your Darlings

Yesterday, I shared with you one lesson related to slide design I put into practice in revising my slides for this week’s GoTo Training on delivery for the online environment. A second lesson to draw from my GoTo Training/REAL Delivery adaptation is the importance of cutting content and slides to fit a new purpose. In class, we discuss delivery for 6 hours, but our GoTo Training is only scheduled for an hour. That means I had to cut at least 60-70 slides from this 110-slide deck. Needless to say, this was a challenge. What is important? What isn’t? What do I think is important, and what does my audience need to know? Nancy Duarte discusses this concept in Resonate:

Although you may feel that all the ideas you generated are insightfully riveting and took a ton of time to generate, they need to be sorted and organized–and some ideas need to be killed off.

The purpose of this violent act is to keep the focus on the audience. Without the editing and shaving off of what may seem necessary to you but is not necessary to your audience’s understanding of that particular subject, you will lose your most important tool in creating an idea that spreads–the audience themselves.  As Duarte explains, we must murder our darlings because “striking a balance between withholding and communicating information is what separates the great presenters from the rest” (Source).

So, while it may be difficult and gut wrenching, a lesson I am sharing with all my students this week as they prepare to rehearse the delivery portion of their Ignite presentations is “murder your darlings.” Take the time to really hone in on the core of your message and nix anything that doesn’t communicate that core.

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Data Display of the Day: Wealth On a Plane

I ran across this visualization from visual.ly, and it upset, enlightened, and intrigued me.

It truly speaks to the power of using relatable imagery paired with strong design, clear organization, and relevant statistics. It’s also an awesome example of progressive disclosure. I am still working on my unemployment slides for the Tweak your Resume debut, and I may have to abandon them for now, as I am far behind on my launch date for this deck and the stat is really being used for a small idea in a bigger presentation. I’ve now included some progressive disclosure; I am hoping it will move me in the right direction!
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Enjoy today’s Data Display!

 

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SIMPLE Design: Make Unity a Priority

I am fortunate enough to work for a school that provides teachers with some pretty neat tools for instructional design and student interaction. I teach an on campus iteration of Professional Communication and Presentation (PCP) six times per year. In addition, I also teach one to three sections of the online version of PCP. While I work on both the online and campus classes, in the past six to nine months, the PCP team has been tweaking and retweaking the online course. Teaching public speaking and presentation online is often the pits! How does one create the level of engagement and immersion needed to really help a student internalize weeks worth of material in only 60 hours, or 4 weeks? Well, in some cases, the answer is still forthcoming, but thankfully, I am able to at least engage with my students directly each week through our GoTo Trainings. If you aren’t familiar with Citrix’s GoTo Meeting, it’s becoming the industry leader for synchronous remote meetings, and it’s exclusively used by my school for internal meetings, workshops, and virtual classroom meetings/lectures. The service isn’t perfect and its inability to handle my media rich video archives has caused me to get creative with distributing the session to those who cannot attend it live, but the chance to interact with students and to clarify assignments, lessons, and intentions is invaluable to myself and other online educators. In PCP, I am responsible for holding the GoTo sessions for weeks 3 and 4. Week 3 covers the delivery “leg” of the presentation stool: what REAL Delivery means, how some of the more important aspects of that model fit into an online structure, some best practices for how to rehearse for the students’ upcoming Ignite presentation, and an open Q & A.

In preparation for this one-hour session, I have to adapt the unity and structure of my already existing REAL Delivery deck to fit this structure (as opposed to the structure of a four-eight hour block of class). The exercise leads me to think about two important lessons related to 1. design and 2. organization. In this post, I’ll cover the first lesson:

SIMPLE Design: Make Unity a Priority

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Although this deck is a hybrid of my Conquering Presentation and REAL Delivery decks, AND the inclusion of a few class-specific elements, my goal in creating a visual aid to accompany this session is to use unity–the repetition of key elements like color, text, background, shape, and image style–to communicate how this piece of the students’ learning journey fits into the whole. For most of us, unity means choosing a pre-made template and adding elements.

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Templates are wonderful examples of how unity actually works (choose key elements, repeat and variate on a theme) and why unity is important (consistency helps reduce confusion and puts the focus on content and meaning, not visual fluff). Unfortunately, the limited number of templates, combined with our ingrained use of presentation software (open program, choose template) makes templates cliche, watered-down versions of unity.

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To make unity a priority, focus on taking the idea of a template (repetition) and making it your own. Instead of using someone else’s vision to communicate your concept in a way that is instantly forgettable, use repeated elements to create a unified theme that communicates your concept in an original way.

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Here are a few best practices for choosing two of those key repeated elements, type and color.

Typefaces:

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Focus on readability and consistency; your fancy font may be right in line with your topic and theme, but if your audience cannot read it, what’s the point? I cycled through several different choices for REAL Delivery, including my standby, Bebas Neue. I chose Utility all caps because I preferred the heavier weight and thickness when paired with Edmondsans. However, I found that not spacing my letters out somewhat (kerning) made readability a problem. So, when choosing a typeface, integrating it into your design and combining it with your other elements, remember the following:

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Finally, if you have the option of using a font or typeface beyond what is already included in your software, a great place to start is FontSquirrel:

Font Squirrel is one of my favorite sources for commercially-available typefaces and fonts. Their selections are high-quality, carefully selected, and lovely!

Font Squirrel is one of my favorite sources for commercially-available typefaces and fonts. Their selections are high-quality, carefully selected, and lovely!

Color:

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A second important element to consider in creating your own unity or making unity a priority is color. Here are three useful tips on choosing color from Ethos 3’s Color Matters:

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One final tip is to use a great color generator, such as design-seeds, which Alex Rister recently discussed on Creating Communication. Here are two of my other favorite color generators/color tools:

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Check in tomorrow for the second lesson from my GoTo Training experience: Murdering Your Darlings. Next week, we will move on to the P in SIMPLE Design, Pictures are Superior!

Check out the rest of the SIMPLE Design series below:

SIMPLE Design: Why Simple Isn’t Easy

SIMPLE Design: Ideally, One Idea Per Slide

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Slideshare of the Day: Advice for Graduates

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Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn has written one of my new favorite books and produced two decks that have absolutely inspired me as we move into the second half of the new year. The Start Up of You explains how an entrepreneurial spirit and approach can help all professionals (even us teachers) grow and develop.

His second deck, “The Three Secrets of Highly Successful Graduates”, is a must share (and view) from teachers to students. It’s also inspired me to add a few bits of Hoffman insight to my latest deck, “Tweak Your Resume”. Check out the deck below:

Tweak Your Resume Preview

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I felt Hoffman’s discussion of what competitive advantage means fit right in with why a visual resume is so useful.

What are your assets, aspirations, and how do those fit in with what your industry wants and needs?

What are your assets, aspirations, and how do those fit in with what your industry wants and needs?

Finally, here is draft two of my unemployment slide. What do you think, Margaret?

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Breaking Designer’s Block: Tweak Your Resume Update

It’s been a quiet few weeks on TYS, in no small part due to the new bane of my existence, the Tweak Your Resume deck. I will be debuting this deck on Slideshare next week, and it’s been quite the creative challenge. I am working on combining two slideshows, one on professionalism and another on some visual resume lessons from Slideshare decks and student decks. I am not sure if it is the combination of messages, the struggle I’ve had nailing down a theme that works, or my blending of photography and iconography, but this deck has given me some serious designer’s block! I’ve made my way out of it, but only after finally nailing down a strong cover image.

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I still have to eliminate the dreaded Venn Diagram (I have been banned by my superteacher partner in crime, Alex Rister from using it ever again), and I’m still working on a strong visualization for the 12 million folks unemployed in the US, but I am finally happy with the direction the deck is moving in and am excited to share it with readers and colleagues.

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My first version of the unemployment rate. I think it’s a bit weak and have a few more ideas I’m trying. What do you think?

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Simple Design: Ideally, One Idea Per Slide

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The SIMPLE design series covers my six principles for effective visual design. The first piece in this series covered the concept of simplicity in design, with a focus on a very basic truth–simple isn’t easy; it takes work. In this installment, I’ll cover the next letter in this acronym, “I,” which stands for…

Ideally, One Idea Per Slide

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Years of slideument conditioning has led all of us (including me as you’ll soon see) to see our slides as a document, something that is only really complete when filled with content (text, image, clip art, chart, random animated gif). This habit means that we’ve managed to keep our slides low in number, but high in noise (and conversely, low in signal).  According to Garr Reynolds, “[p]rojected slides should be as visual as possible and support our point quickly, efficiently (good signal-to-noise ratio), and powerfully. The verbal content, the verbal proof, evidence, and appeal/emotion comes mostly from our spoken word” (Source). So, in a live situation, it’s the presenter and not the slides who must carry the weight of the signal or content. Creating a content-heavy slide places the focus on the visual aid (in the worst way possible), can cause cognitive dissonance and confusion, and can damage a speaker’s credibility. As an educator, I felt the need to fill slides with as much content as possible, especially in courses I felt less than solid in or that required more lecture focus than composition and writing, particularly Latin American Humanities:

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What’s wrong with this slide? Well, even when I presented information by only showing one bullet at a time, my students first had no tangible concept to attach to ideas like “universal constructivism”, and second, as John Medina discusses in his must-read Brain Rules, the mind cannot multi-task, which is exactly what we ask audiences to do when we create slideuments. Our audience must read our slides AND listen to us, which they just cannot do. According to Medina, “[r]esearch shows your error rate goes up 50% and it takes you twice as long to do things” (Source) when the myth of multi-tasking is in play. Further, as Nancy Duarte asserts in Slide:ology, slides, like billboards are “glance media”, which means that your audience should be able to process your visual story quickly and then return to listening to your awesome content.

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The situation becomes even more complex when we are asked as presenters to provide our slides for publication or when we use our slides as study guides for our students. How do we keep our slides cinematic AND also communicate dense amounts of content? Reynolds has a few suggestions, including the most obvious and useful one–create a set of display slides and create a separate document with complete notes (Source). I find that doing this gives students the opportunity to use their critical thinking skills and decide what is really important or note worthy.  I want to share one of my most important design epiphanies that helped me find a good balance between content and design. Keeping this idea in mind has helped me move towards truly SIMPLE Design: An Extra Slide Costs Nothing!

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So, instead of placing every bit of information about Joaquin Torres-Garcia and Universal Constructivism on one slide, I can break the information up over many slides.

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Have you faced the challenge of creating cinematic slides that are also content-rich? What are your great ideas for moving away from the slideument? 

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