Category Archives: TED Talk of the Day

Slides Don’t Matter

At least not as much as we think…

June marked my last month teaching the current campus iteration of PCP. In July, Alex Rister will be tackling the new iteration on campus; and in August, the new online course launches. The focus of the reboots as I’ve discussed before is on helping students develop a personal and professional brand. The courses minimizes the focus on visual design and slides and places more emphasis on process, strong content, and natural delivery. Why this shift? Well, frankly, it’s because slides don’t matter. That’s right–this is me, the presentation designer and Slideshare.net contributor telling you slides don’t matter, at least not as much as what’s at the core of the 21st century model of presenting–conversation, connection, and engagement. Slides and technology, regardless of how flashy, beautifully designed, interesting, or relevant just aren’t a substitute for consistent and thorough preparation, impacting content, and engaging delivery.

What do when our technology fails or our slides don’t function the way they did on our screens? Most of us freak out, begin an elaborate struggle with the computer, and create an awkward waiting period for our audiences while we set that technology right. My students and their teachers often reduce what they learn in PCP to “making better slides,” but this disregards the most important lesson I hope my students learn–that detaching from technology as a crutch or replacement for preparation and engagement is what will ultimately lead them to not only learn when or how to use slides properly but also learn that sometimes, it’s best to go without. To help illustrate, I’ll share with you this brief but excellent talk from Improv Everywhere, “A TED Speaker’s Worst Nightmare.” This talk, while in reality an elaborate part flash mob, part improv, part prank performance, illustrates just what can happen when we rely too much on technology and a flashy concept and not enough on solid content and connection.

What do you think? Do slides matter? How can we use slides responsibly and ensure they don’t overwhelm or derail our talks?

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TED Talk of the Day: Diana Nyad Finds a Way

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Alex Rister of Creating Communication has been posting a series of articles on the subject of resilience, failure, and success. This theme was echoed today during a consultation with a student who is preparing for her first speech in Professional Communication and Presentation, an analysis of Diana Nyad’s latest TED talk, “Never, ever give up.” If you are not familiar with Nyad, she is the incredible human who swam from Cuba to Florida through 100 miles of shark-infested waters at 60-years old. Her completion of this task was the culmination of a 40-year long dream, her answer to the question “how much life is there left?”

Nyad’s talk is inspiring; it emphasizes the importance of failure and fearlessness as keys to achieving a goal. This is a key mindset shift that every student of presenting and public speaking (even teachers themselves) must make in order to truly grow into the type of communicator who can inspire and move others. The belief that only those who we deem amazing public speakers (Jobs, King, Churchill) have the ability to succeed in a speech situation is what keeps many of us from even trying or tackling a public speaking challenge in the first place. Without a willingness to be vulnerable, to be open to failure, to expect that yes, you will fail at giving an amazing speech or moving others, you will never be able to push and grow and change enough to finally succeed.

But, Nyad teaches us another important lesson related to presenting. Sometimes, even the most impacting and empowering ideas mean nothing unless they are communicated and delivered in a certain way. From her first incredible pause and beautifully vivid description to her honest retelling of the triumphs and trials of her experience, the audience is hooked. Nyad brings her words to life, she empowers the audience not only with her words but also with the way her words meet her audience’s ears. Check out Nyad’s talk below–not only will you learn a bit more about how resilience can help you reach those public speaking, teaching, communicating, designing, or living horizons but you’ll also see just how much power the delivery of an idea can have on that idea’s ability to live.

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Chiara Lives! And she’s been watching TED

The past few months between some big transitions in the Professional Communication and Presentation team and two moves across Orlando, September and October have been a blur! I am taking a deep breath, returning to the gym, and sharing this amazing TED talk with you tonight on Tweak Your Slides; Ash Beckham nails a particularly impacting rhetorical strategy in her TEDxBoulder talk, “Coming out of your closet.”

An impacting metaphor/comparison can take an un-relatable, complex, subjective, or polarizing idea and create a bridge of commonality that can break down barriers. In this talk, Beckham talks about coming out of the closet–but not in the way you think. Yes, Beckham shares her experience coming out to friends and family, but she says, that’s just one type of closet. We all have a closet–whether it is infidelity, bankruptcy, cancer…our closet is whatever is hard for us to be open about, what is hard for us to share with others. She introduces the closet metaphor and carries it through to her call to action, “a closet is not a place for a person to truly live.” She encourages her audience to find their closet and come out. In addition to harnessing the power of metaphor, she shares three lessons we can apply to public speaking:

Be yourself. Don’t wear armor.

Garr Reynolds says that we have to get naked to truly connect with audiences. We put on the armor of bullet-riddled slides, robotic delivery, and haphazard preparation to protect us from the judgment we feel from others in a speaking situation. That armor though, benefits neither speaker nor audience. To connect with others, you have to take off that armor!

Be direct. Just say it.

Directness and simplicity are the keys to a strong message. Filler words, fluff, irrelevant information, and decorated slides move us away from the core of our message, the idea that we want others to take on in the first place.

Be unapologetic. Speak your truth.

Like authenticity, being open as a speaker and sharing failure as well as success requires confidence in oneself. This goes for content in the form of storytelling and delivery in the form of those apologies for normal human behavior that we pepper our speech with.

Consider not only her message–what’s that difficult message you have to share with others–but also those wonderful rhetorical lessons: use relatable metaphors and be real.

 

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TED talk of the day: Jacob Barnett says think, don’t learn

Jacob Barnett is a speaker, budding mathematician, and physicist; he is also 14 years old and was diagnosed with ADD and autism at a young age. After years of special education classes and failed attempts to “correct” Jacob’s inability to learn, his parents took him out of school and allowed him to think (not just learn). Jacob believes it was the freeing of his consciousness from the bonds of traditional education that enabled him to finally think and innovate. Further, he supposes that some of our greatest thinkers (Newton, Einstein) began to really think only when they put aside learning. Now, this may not work for most of us, who don’t have the innate genius and can thrive and think once the constructs of learning are in place. However, I am fascinated by the idea that learning happens not when we are forced to exist within the constraints of lesson plans and diagnoses but when we are freed from the bonds of learning and begin thinking and tapping into our creativity. As I work on the next post in my content development series, developing a presentation’s big idea, it’s good food for thought.

Under what conditions do you stop learning and start thinking? What gets your creativity moving?

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Links of the Day: One superteacher’s story and pitch decks

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It has certainly been a while, readers! I can admit, I’ve been sucked into some professional and personal adjustments/changes that have created a mountain of excuses and pushed blogging further down on the list, but I realized today, hey, you know what I DO have time to blog. No excuse! So, today, I bring you two excellent links. The first comes from a current student who is preparing his first discussion in this month’s Professional Communication and Presentation class. The student’s task is to analyze a TED talk’s content. One question asks students to look at what research the speaker uses or cites. The student had a very relevant and valid question. What if your TED talk doesn’t really reference research? In class, we discuss the importance of creating a balance between fact and emotion. This balance, according to Nancy Duarte, is “alluring”, but imbalance can hurt a speaker’s credibility (Source).

He then shared Pearl Arredondo’s inspiring TED Education talk with me. Arredondo grew up the daughter of a gang member and was written off by many teachers as a problem student. Years later, she became a teacher herself and realized that fighting the battle to improve education wouldn’t happen unless she and her community took education into their own hands. She started a middle school devoted to empowering students to excel as technology and thought leaders in the 21st century. Arredondo’s talk is inspiring as a teacher who believes it’s up to us to reform education from the ground up. It’s also a wonderful example of a presentation that uses storytelling structure to communicate a persuasive message. It also manages to remain alluring in it’s balance of emotion and fact, using the story of one student turned teacher to put this situation into the bigger context of educational reform. Check out the talk below:

The second link of the day comes from Script Magazine by way of super writing center coordinator, Nicole Chapman. Nicole is currently pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and shares this excellent article on the importance of a clean and well-designed set of visuals to accompany a pitch aka a pitch deck. Author Martin Shapiro believes scriptwriters can take a cue from start ups pitching to a vc. In addition to being “able to talk intelligibly about the business aspects of movie marketing and distribution”, scriptwriters should be able to create a set of slides to accompany the story/tone/approach of the script. Click on the sample slide from Shapiro’s pitch for a film adaptation of the series Chopper:

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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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TED 2013 Prize Winner: Sugata Mitra

Today’s TED 2013 share is Sugata Mitra’s Build a School in the Cloud. Mitra is this year’s TED Prize winner and for good reason. His use of cloud computing in providing an enriched and dynamic learning environment for students in India is inspiring. The model of collaborative education, Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLE) empowers students to collaborate and take control of their learning journeys. Check out the talk below and enjoy this nugget of inspiration from TED!

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Calling your Audience Types to Action

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Last week, I discussed the importance of audience segmentation as a means of persuading the members of your audience to take on your big idea. This week, I want to explore how you can use the research you gleaned during audience segmentation to call your audience types to action. A great presentation ends with a strong call to action–your audience cannot take your idea and spread your message without a clear sense of what you want them to do. In this segment, I’ll be referring to one of my favorite TED talks, LZ Granderson’s “The Myth of the Gay Agenda,” so make sure to watch the talk before moving on!

In the Harvard Business Review’s Guide to Persuasive Presentations, Nancy Duarte identifies four types of audiences to leverage in your call to action: Doers, Suppliers, Influencers, and Innovators. 

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Each subgroup in your audience has a different role in supporting your message and helping your idea come to life. Duarte’s suggestion is to focus on one call to action, but one that can incorporate the skills of each of the four groups.

What appeals to each group?

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Doers are the worker bees (Duarte 2012) in the audience. Give them workable solutions and clear steps to follow.

For doers, it’s all about a specific action. Doers are the people in your audience who are best able to spread your idea via a specific and actionable task. In Granderson’s talk he outlines specific actions his audience can take in correcting the problem of inequality for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered citizens. At one point in the talk, Granderson displays a map of the United States developed by the Human Rights Campaign showing that it is legal for someone to be fired for their sexual orientation in 29 states. He asks the audience to focus on their state of Michigan, which is not shaded. He repeats this imagery several times. Our actionable point for doers–change those unshaded areas by following the super secret gay agenda aka the Constitution of the United States.

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Whether vegetarian or omnivore, cows were and are my favorite suppliers–a girl cannot live without fromage. The suppliers in your audience have a wealth of resources available. Don’t exploit them or think only in terms of tangible resources.

Suppliers, the folks with the goods and resources to propel your message forward, want to know what tangible resources you need to succeed. Granderson doesn’t ask the suppliers for money or material goods (remember, there is no selling at TED); instead, he asks his audience to donate time, effort, and respect to the cause of catching America up to the Constitution.

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Just as a strong flock follows a strong leader, others are led to take on your idea by the influencers in your audience. Change the influencer’s perception via your call to action by spinning a new perspective on an already existing problem.

Influencers help change the perceptions of others. Their status as leaders helps them mobilize others to your cause. If you can inspire an influencer, you’ve made a cheerleader for life.

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Chimpanzees have the amazing ability, like other animals, to use tools to better the daily processes of their lives.  Innovators are persuaded by the ingenious applicability of your big idea. Harness that in your closing.

Innovators are those who can use their already existing abilities to help you grow your idea (perhaps saving it, improving it, or enriching it). Innovators thrive when the call to action gives them a problem to solve through big ideas.

Granderson is in a room full of influencers and innovators–TEDsters are leaders in their industries and communities–they belong to an organization whose mission is to spread ideas. The majority of Granderson’s talk, it seems to me, is for these two final groups. He asks the audience to recall the past–when entire groups of people were treated based on what they were, not who they were, when our country systematically denied unalienable rights to its citizens for no justifiable reason. He juxtaposes the solutions we found to those problems with the problem still alive today–discrimination based on sexual orientation–and leaves his innovators and influencers with a simple message:

So when you hear the words “gay lifestyle” and “gay agenda” in the future, I encourage you to do two things: One, remember the U.S. Constitution, and then two, if you wouldn’t mind looking to your left, please. Look to your right. That person next to you is a brother, is a sister. And they should be treated with love and respect. Thank you. (Source)

By blending in actionable elements into your closing that appeal to each of these four groups–those who will work with you, those who will help supply you with needed tools, those who will influence others to join your cause, and those who will help you evolve your idea to further awesomeness–you can help motivate your entire audience to action.

Typefaces used: Edmondsans (James T. Edmondson) and Bebas Neue (Dharma Type)

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Melissa Marshall wants you to talk nerdy to her

Two of the biggest barriers to fresh speech are jargon and complex language. We often fall back on big words either because we want to appear “smart” (or we think our audience expects it), because they are a natural part of our vocabularies, or because they are a natural part of our discipline. However, according to Scott Schwertly of Ethos 3, a presentation design firm, what set Steve Jobs apart as a communicator was not his ability to use tech speak, but his ability to communicate at a level that was understandable and impacting to everyone (Schwertly, How to Be an Online Presentation God Webinar). TEDster Melissa Marshall, fellow communications teacher shares her experiences teaching engineers how to communicate their ideas to a general audience. These lessons are not only simple and applicable to science folks, but they are delivered in an engaging and dynamic way. Check out Marshall’s equation to incredible and meaningful interactions below:

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Talk of the Day: Lisa Kristine bears witness to modern slavery

In a presentation that beautifully executes Jim Endicott’s “three-legged stool” and Nancy Duarte’s presentation ecosystem, Lisa Kristine weaves a haunting story paired with beautiful, moving imagery of modern slavery in the developing world at TEDxMaui. This is a must-watch TED talk!

 

Kristine works with the organization Free the Slaves. Learn more about this organization committed to eliminating slavery around the world here.

What great TED talks have you seen recently?

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