Monthly Archives: April 2014

3 As of an A+ Web Source

This week is spring break at my school, which means it’s time to spend some time attending continuing education workshops, making a big dent in the Professional Communication and Presentation reboot, and working on creative projects (along with a small side trip to the beach and another to the Salvador Dali museum). In addition to working on revising rubrics and creating lessons for the reboot, I’ve been working on two new infographics. The first is a teaching tool I’ll use in class; the second is an infographic exploring the concept of superteacher, something both Alex Rister and myself have talked about before on our respective blogs. Today, I’ll share with you the first.

For many people (students, teachers, and professionals), the web is a primary place to seek out information quickly. The web is a vast source of information and can be a great place to find relevant, useful content. But, the web is also a perfect example of information gone wrong. Information that began as “truth” is diluted, repeated, degraded, and misrepresented. While most teachers encourage or require students to avoid web sources found through Google and other search engines, asking students instead to use library resources–books and database articles–the truth is, most students will still Google their topic, choose the first five articles on the first page of results and call it a day. I find that for students, research is often a cursory part of the presentation or composition process (I often hear, “I hate the library databases; I can’t ever find anything in there!”). They understand why they need it, but are often frustrated because they don’t have the tools they need to seek out the best information.

Now, some of this stems from a need for further instruction on what search terms to use, how to best use a site like Google to filter out unusable information, and a habitual belief that good information should be instantaneous (how often do you have a conversation involving the name of this or that movie star? how often do you simply look the information up quickly on your phone, landing on the answer in the first two or three Google hits?). But, part of what makes the process of researching frustrating for students is not knowing exactly what is a credible, worthwhile source of information.

Today’s infographic, “The 3As of an A+ Web Source” is meant to address this specific need–isolate specific qualities that make a source credible and present them in a way that is visually engaging but also information rich. The infographic focuses on three core characteristics of a strong web source: authority, applicability, and aim. Within these are other categories commonly used in determining strong research: credibility, reliability, accuracy, purpose, bias, currency, and audience. I’ll be adding this as a downloadable file to the current and future iterations of PCP. In class, I’ll pair this infographic with an already existing lesson on research that includes the deck below and a series of analysis and application activities. Note that this deck is specific to using sources in a presentation, though it could easily be adapted for research in writing:

Check out the infographic below, and feel free to share with others!

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How Eno Can Jumpstart Your Creativity

Brian Eno is one of the most prolific, creative, and influential artists and producers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Eno began as part of glam rock band, Roxy Music.  After becoming a solo artist, he experimented, grew his craft, and was responsible for founding and growing the ambient music genre. Eno’s prolific influence and impact are in great part due to Eno’s ability to think conceptually, to consistently evolve his creativity, and his willingness to think differently and actualize his wild imaginings.

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Image courtesy of cinetech

Eno was the first to introduce “chance music” to popular audiences; he produced work for greats like U2, Coldplay, and David Bowie; and his work extends beyond music to include art installations, writing, and today’s focus, “Oblique Strategies,” card game he created intended to resolve studio conflicts via randomness.  I learned about Oblique Strategies today and right away started thinking of ways I could integrate this into the classroom, specifically as a part of the creative process in presentations. For teams, Oblique Strategies helps put members outside of the conflict zone, which helps them resolve conflicts.

This image by Flickr user Rusty Sheriff is of an Oblique Strategies card. Seems fitting for sparking presentation-based creativity!

This image by Flickr user Rusty Sheriff is of an Oblique Strategies card. Seems fitting for sparking presentation-based creativity!

For individuals struggling with themselves (or their lizard brain) to choose or develop a topic, Oblique Strategies can help reposition that internal conflict, recharge the creative process, and lead to growth. Oblique Strategies decks are still rare, but lucky for us, there are web versions available. Oblicard.com is a random card generator available free on the web; it contains many of the cards created by Eno and creative partner Peter Schmidt. Next time you face conflict, whether internal or external, try generating a random topic. It could be the spark that jumpstarts creativity nirvana!

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Slideshare of the Day: The ten worst body language presentation mistakes

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SOAP presentations is definitely among my top Slidesharers to follow. Their decks are consistently useful, well-designed and engaging. Today’s Slideshare of the Day features a topic that is important to both live synchronous presentations and asynchronous video presentations. While we can debate just how much we say through body language vs. verbal language, no one can deny that an audience makes certain decisions about a presenter’s credibility and relationship to them based on non-verbals. As Amy Cuddy asserts, our body language can speak volumes about how others perceive us (Source). Garr Reynolds in The Naked Presenter speaks about the honeymoon period of a presentation:

Even famous, well-established presenters–including celebrities–will only get a minute before audiences grow tired of their inability to grab attention.

Often, it is body language that can determine whether or not a presenter can truly grab an audience’s attention. Maintaing an open posture, facing the audience, maintaining genuine and consistent eye contact, moving with a purpose, and focusing on clarity in vocal delivery can all make the difference between an engaging, memorable presenter and a forgettable one. Pairing SOAP’s tips with Amy Cuddy’s “power pose” strategy can be a great starting point for stronger physical delivery. Check out today’s Slideshare below. For more on Amy Cuddy’s theories of body language, check out her TED talk.

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A superteacher’s perspective via What The Speak

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I’ve had teaching and superteaching on the brain for days now, and this week’s Creating Communication offerings only helped reinforce thoughts of all things pedagogy and superteaching. Alex Rister recently sat down with Bryan Kelly of What The Speak to share her insights on teaching presenting in the 21st century. If you know me, you know I am Alex’s “hype girl,” biggest fan, and superteacher bff. I am proud of her pursuit of her bliss, awesome communication, and am inspired by her work ethic and passion! As a superteacher, Alex shares with What the Speak viewers several important lessons about presenting in the 21st century:

1. Help students understand the importance of public speaking and effective communication from minute one

Whether she is teaching an introductory class or advanced class on presentation, Alex starts with why–she doesn’t throw her students into jargon and lecture. Instead, she gleans from them what matters about public speaking and engages them on a discussion how students can use these strong communication skills in every mode (online, in person, synchronous, asynchronous).

2. Understand your origins

Pamela Slim, in Body of Work, emphasizes that the first step to articulating your body of work and understanding how the diverse pieces of your life and experience fit in is to know your roots. In this podcast, Alex shares her roots with viewers and finds ways to thread her early experiences with her current passions and objectives.

3. The teachers who are memorable are the teachers who engage

Information doesn’t matter as much as inspiration. As a teacher, one of my biggest challenges and concerns is letting go of my responsibility to be the “mouthpiece for information.” Our job is not to spew information via lecture (though this is the stereotype of “teacher”); our job is to spark and facilitate learning–the student must guide and drive his or her own journey. Breaking out of the lecture model isn’t easy, but it is a necessary step in the journey towards better teaching and better presenting.

4. Great teachers ask questions and make changes

Tweaking is a way of life. It’s the practice of acknowledging challenges, pinpointing the sources of student problems, accepting your role in perpetuating problems, and then taking action that will create positive results for students. The best teachers look for the roots of a problem, find actionable solutions, put those solutions in practice, and then test those solutions against student performance.

Check out the rest of the interview here or by clicking the image above. If you haven’t check out Bryan’s podcast, you must start today; he speaks with all the top voices in presenting and communicating and brings you the insights of those who live, eat, and breathe public speaking!

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Data Display of the Day: How to choose the right job

The Professional Communication and Presentation reboot has entered the lesson-building phase; we’ve secured our new course textbook, developed assignments, and rubrics. Now, it’s time to craft lessons to help our students meet the objectives we’ve developed for the course. One of my primary tasks in creating lessons is drawing from and integrating strong sources related to our core outcomes. Today’s data display, courtesy of Daily Infographic and visual.ly, features a very important topic, how to find a job that will help you grow into your career. While this infographic features information you already think about when applying for a job, it puts the most important aspects that lead to career bliss first.

For me, the most of important of these are those that lead to a positive work environment–opportunities, people, and management. From my perspective, a strong leader develops his or her staff, creating worthwhile opportunities for growth, innovation, and fair acknowledgement of above and beyond effort. A strong leader further motivates those he or she leads to actualize their best selves. So, for me, when my students ask me how to choose a target market for their Professional Personal Project, my answer will be look to the leadership.

 

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What’s your key to a job that grows your body of work?

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Slideshare of the Day: 7 Rules for Writing Blog Posts That Get Read and Shared

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As a blogger, one of my main goals is gaining readership through meaningful and worthwhile effort. The blogs I love to read provide me with information I cannot find elsewhere or have conceptualized myself but not articulated.  This year, I committed myself to becoming that type of blogger. My first step was and is consistency–from what I’ve observed, blogging consistently at least three times per week not only grows the amount of relevant content I have to offer readers but also helps me continue to grow my skills as a writer. Blogging consistently has also helped me connect with other like minded professionals. So, consistency is important, but, even more important is relevance and attractiveness. Today’s Slideshare, “7 Rules for Writing Blog Posts That Get Read and Shared” created by author and blogger Michael Hyatt includes some excellent tips for determining the audience relevance of your posts and crafting blog posts that attract readership. Check out the full deck below; three tips I will implement in my next posts are: 1. focus on the reader, 2. create a powerful headline, and 3. make your posts easy to share.

1. Focus on the reader

Audience adaptation, relevance, and a focus on WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) are great guides to follow when creating any type of content. In class, we devote weeks to various forms of audience analysis–audience questions, an audience needs map, Nancy Duarte’s audience questions from Resonate, and audience interviews. But, I’ve not done the same type of in-depth audience research in my blog. To be frank, I’ve taken for granted that the subject is what drives readership, but what if my content isn’t tailored to the audience’s who most often draw inspiration from Tweak Your Slides? Hyatt’s advice is to create an audience survey, distribute it among readers, and then write a followup post with insights and observations. Creating this type of survey can help bloggers create content that is user-centered, not writer-centered.

2. Create a powerful headline

I am sure that by now you are familiar with the types of attention grabbing headlines created by sites like Upworthy and BuzzFeed. There’s something about these titles that draws the reader in and helps cut through the cacophony of social media feeds. Much of the success of sites like these comes from the genius of founders like Jonah Peretti, who devote years to studying the anatomy of a sticky idea.  BuzzFeed and Upworthy headlines are often the epitome of the Heath brothers’ sticky concept–attention grabbing, jarring, memorable. A blog post title similarly has to break through the noise to manifest as signal. Hyatt suggests three excellent strategies for blog posts titles that stick: first, create a numbered sequence headline (“Five ways to…”); second, create a provocative question headline (“Are you….”); thirdly, create a how to headline, especially since blog readers often want to learn a new facet of your core subject.

3. Make your posts easy to share

Though I tend to rely on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and WordPress to spread word of my posts for me, there are several other useful tools out there that can help you help others share your work. Hyatt introduces viewers to several tools, namely AddThis and ShareThis, that can increase shareability (whether it is other sharing your work or others reading more of your work). I particularly like the content recommendation tools available as they not only lead readers to other content related to a specific post but also allow you to link readers to other awesome blogs on the subject.

What are your tips for writing blog posts? Whose blogs are unbeatable for consistent, relevant, worthwhile content?

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Design Smarter: Learn to Generate Color

I will admit, color is one of my serious areas of growth when it comes to designing presentations. While I can manage to reasonably dress myself in suitable colors, the choosing of workable colors for a set of slides is something that takes me longer than any other part of the presentation process, especially if I choose to go it alone. This is why I appreciate the sites I’ll share with you today as well as the techniques I’ve learned from them in growing my design skills.  I’ll use the image below, courtesy of Mohamed Muha, for my examples.

Photo Credit: muha... via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: muha… via Compfight cc

First, experiment with the color wheel on Adobe’s Kuler

Adobe’s color generator, Kuler, is part of their Creative Cloud, a storehouse of tools creatives can use to collaborate, share, and create work. When I first discovered Kuler, I was intimidated–the site on first glance is for professional designers–folks who understand RGB, CMYK, Hex, and HSB values (not me at the time). However, Kuler’s user-friendly tools (creating a palette from an image, color rule options that allow users to choose from types of color schemes–analogous, monochromatic–without formal training, and the thousands of color palettes made available by Kuler’s community of users) quickly helped me create custom palettes that made sense both emotionally and aesthetically. Not sure where to start in Kuler? A great place is the create from image tool, which allows you to upload an image (ideally, one that communicates the emotional tone of your presentation) and create a color palette from that image.

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This is the “colorful palette” I created using Kuler’s image-based color generator.

Shifting to the color wheel option with the same base colors creates a new variety of options.

Shifting to the color wheel option with the same base colors creates a new variety of options.

Next, draw inspiration for capturing mood and tone from Design Seeds

So, Kuler’s algorithm does a great job of grabbing pleasing colors from an image, but as you will learn, it often misses the point when it comes to mood and tone. Learning to grow as a designer means immersing oneself in the processes that lead to design success. After a time, you may be called upon to create a scheme without the help of a generator, so learning a bit from a seasoned designer can only help you grow. Design Seeds, which is curated by Jessica Colaluca, a veteran designer and consultant who has worked with Ford, Timberland, and Reebok, is a fantastic starting point for color generation inspiration. Jessica’s site, Design Seeds, features hundreds of original color palettes organized by color value and theme. You can also gain some insight into her process by checking out the about section of Design Seeds. Her blog, Fresh Hues, features even more color palettes organized by color as well as Pinterest-inspired mood boards.

One of my favorite new design-seeds palettes--I love the vibrancy!

One of my favorite new design-seeds palettes–I love the vibrancy!

The best part of Design Seeds is Jessica’s process and her treatise in defense of true color generation. Her process may surprise you, but it works. First of all, Jessica begins by tracking color and design trends; she then creates a list of images and colors that align with those trending moods. Next, she purchases photos and modifies them to create precision color; she then imports the images into Illustrator and mixes each color swatch. Finally, she polishes her work and shares it with the world under a creative commons license via Design Seeds. What is impressive about her process is her sensitivity to mood. What she often finds with color generators is that they miss important colors that the human eye would naturally gravitate towards:

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Can you see how Kuler provides a starting point to creating strong color palettes, but that is all–sensitivity to mood, tone, trends, and design inspiration will take you further than a generator or color picker can. As Jessica asserts:

“The quality that a person has that makes them love color, is the same one which is critical in creating palettes.” -Jessica Colaluca

I’ll leave you with my first attempt at a custom palette–it’s based on color grabbing, but my focus was on mood and vibrancy. We may have much to learn in developing color skills, but with tools like Kuler and Design Seeds, both you and I can be well on our way to smarter design!

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Participation: Action Speaks Louder than Your Words

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One of the marks of an engaging, “naked” presenter is the ability to engage his or her audience in such a way that the audience retains, carries forward, and applies the speaker’s message. When an audience can move beyond passive absorption of information or even active visualization of an idea, that audience is more likely to not only remember the idea, but pass it along to others (whether it is through action, word of mouth, or influence). A message come alive in the audience’s hearts and minds creates that ripple effect speakers need to gain traction for their ideas.

There are many ways a speaker can achieve engagement and retention. Author Olivia Mitchell of Speaking About Presenting states that a speaker’s role is to nurture attention and transform it to engagement (Source). For Mitchell, attention is the passive reception of information; engagement is the active desire for more information. It’s active nature makes engagement “more valuable than attention” (Source). In the article, “4 ways to move people from attention to engagement,” Mitchell isolates four techniques that move an audience towards engagement:

1. Sell Your Presentation (show the audience what’s in it for them and appeal to audience needs)

2. Evoke curiosity (use the copywriter technique of “fascinations”, short ideas that tease an audience ala a magazine cover)

3. Be Bold (don’t be afraid of a little controversy)

4. Build Rapport (empathize with the audience and tune to their frequencies)

According to Dr. Nick Morgan, author of Public Words, audiences want an experience. They want to feel that they’ve been a part of something meaningful (Source). Audiences want to know you’ve taken the time to create a unique and authentic experience that differs from other similar experiences on your subject. For the majority of a speech, the audience is a passive passenger on a journey a speaker has carefully mapped out. However, as Dr. Morgan asserts, an audience is made up of people–flesh and blood bioelectric engines–audiences are “naturally active.  And if you’ve done your job right, they’re ready to give back.  More than that, they’re ready to get started implementing your ideas” (Source). To capitalize on this natural tendency to act, Dr. Morgan suggests giving the audience something to do beyond the cliche call to action:

“I’m talking about an actual, physical activity.  A modest one, but something real, concrete, and deliberate.

So, it seems that moving beyond words can help your audience not only retain information but can also tap into their natural tendency to act. This is the true power of an activity in a presentation. In Professional Communication and Presentation, I task my students with leading discussion for 5-10 minutes on a core topic for that day’s class. Each group chooses a discussion prompt, conducts research on the prompt, and delivers their perspective to the class. In the past, I gave students the option of developing either a discussion question or an activity to help the class apply the group’s idea to presenting. This month, though, I was curious to see if activity alone would yield different results in terms of audience retention of the concepts being discussed, so I nixed the discussion option, as Alex Rister did with her students. Overall, presentations are stronger, more memorable, and much more engaging.

Creating a strong activity is a subject for a different post, but all in all, the groups have moved their topics much closer to that action center by creating relevant activities that bring their perspectives to life. For instance, one group was tasked with discussing how to conduct strong research and what the difference is between credible information and unreliable information. They wanted us to understand that while the web has become our primary source of information and there is much information on the web that is relevant and worthwhile, much of the information we find on the web has been diluted and distorted from a primary source.

To bring this to life in the audience, they asked us to play the telephone game. One student was given a sentence to whisper into her neighbor’s ear; the neighbor then repeated the idea to the next student. The process was repeated until the last student, who then wrote what he had heard on the board. What the student wrote down contained a few of the elements of the original, but the specifics were lost, altered, or misrepresented. This brief activity helped the class see just how easy it is to get the wrong information on the web, where information is distorted, filtered, and amended the further it is away from the original source.

A well-developed, well-placed, and well-executed activity can be the key to true audience retention, internalization, and action. Consider how you can integrate activity in your next presentation. For a bit of inspiration, check out these 7 moments of audience participation from TED. My favorite is Jane McGonigal’s, whose game can literally give you 10 years of life!


 

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Slidesharer to Follow: Orsolya Nemes

This week’s Slidesharer to Follow is one of my favorite presentation all-starts, Orsolya Nemes. Orsolya first reached out to me several years ago as she was beginning her own journey as a professional presenter. She followed up that reach out by creating several excellent slideshares, which have been featured as “Top Presentation of the Day,” and a TEDxYouthBudapest talk based on her debut deck, “Generation Y.” Orsolya, who runs her own consulting agency, “Y Consulting,” shared the story of how effective presenting helped her communicate the Generation Y perspective in front of a group of young TEDsters. Check out her TEDx talk below as well as my favorite Orsolya deck. Check out all of her work here.

 

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