Tag Archives: Alex Rister

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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Professional Communication and Presentation Reboot: Challenges

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This month marks my first break from both campus and online teaching since October. This is usually a time for me to review my approach to teaching the campus and online iterations of Professional Communication and Presentation. In addition to teaching, two of my most fulfilling roles as the lead instructor for this course are instructional designer and curriculum developer. The campus version of PCP changes a bit each month because I can note new areas for growth and opportunity, can consult with campus students on what works and what doesn’t work, and I can see live whether or not a lesson resonates with the students and translates into positive results. The online course, however, requires a bit more time, objective assessment, and analysis to adapt. This usually means that during the months I am not on campus I coordinate a major reboot of the overall structure, lessons, learning materials, and assignments based on the big challenges I noted for the previous six months or so of a previous iteration.

In analyzing the course this time around, I noted several challenges, opportunities, and action items. Alex Rister and I are firmly in the research and development phase. As she noted yesterday on Creating Communication, we’ve found a few amazing sources to draw from including Pamela Slim’s Body of Work. In this post, I’ll cover the big challenges this course faces now. Next, I’ll cover how I’m working to turn those challenges into opportunities, and finally share how the course will adapt and change over the next two months.

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Challenge #1: The lack of synchronous communication

As Alex discussed in her public speaking online series, teaching a presentation and communication class online is a real challenge. Everything we teach students is based on developing, designing, and delivering a presentation to a live audience. From audience analysis and slide design to “naked” delivery, the need for a live audience engaging with a presenter is ever present. Furthermore, students learn better when given an opportunity to present in the way they will likely do so in their everyday professional lives. However, we’ve been tasked with teaching this course online, despite the body of evidence that emphasizes the importance of synchronicity in online learner success (Source). So, it will be important in the next two months to bring in more instances of synchronicity. Currently, the PCP team uses iChat/Aim, Skype, and GoTo Meeting to add a synchronous element to the course, but we have not found the solution to helping students present synchronously to their classmates/teachers or to a physical audience.

Challenge #2: Understanding and engaging in presentation as a process

The biggest reason for the last reboot was to help alleviate a serious deficiency that we’ve managed to work on successfully in the face to face iteration of the course–students do not understand either the importance of or the need for engaging in a presentation process. While we talk about Nancy Duarte’s presentation ecosystem and structure the course so that students develop a portion (outline, slides, rehearsal) of their major project, an Ignite presentation, each week, many students still wait until the last minute to develop that piece and are often confused when their PCP instructor asks them to revise their outline and then implement that revision in the storyboard/design for the slides. Helping students understand how each piece fits together and also building in opportunities for them to take their time before submitting official drafts of their work is our second challenge in the reboot.

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This visualization of the presentation process by design firm Idea Transplant has been and will become an even stronger cornerstone of the course.

Challenge #3: Streamlining content

Perhaps it’s my background as a learner (I devour as much information as I can about a subject and love when there’s something new to learn and explore about a subject), but I can definitely recognize that both on campus and online I share too much information, which just leaves students feeling overwhelmed. Yes, it’s all great information, but if any of it is redundant, too complex, or repetitive, what’s the point in including it? So, our third challenge will be to reduce the number of lessons and assets to the most important and needed learning materials.

Challenge #4: Universalizing the experience for multiple degree programs

PCP began as a course offered only to music business and entertainment bachelor of science students. In the past five years, the course has expanded to other programs–computer animation, game art, game development, internet marketing, music production, media communications, and software development. While the course’s current structure, develop, design, and deliver, a persuasive speech is definitely general enough to encompass all of these programs, our students’ needs have changed. Whereas some students present informative and persuasive presentations on a regular basis to audiences, some students will only ever have to present their body of work to a potential employee or client. This leaves them wondering just how this skill will help them in the future. So, how do we communicate to students just how important and necessary strong professional presentation skills are? That’s our fourth challenge.

Challenge #5: Emphasizing the first P in Professional Communication and Presentation

Professionalism is important at my school, but it’s even more important in a class with the title Professional Communication and Presentation. Currently, the campus class devotes a week or so of in class time to the concept of a professional persona and communicating professional brand via a visual resume. However, this was removed in the last reboot of the online class to help streamline the approach and give students more time on the Ignite presentation. This means that our online students spend very little time if any truly exploring and practicing what it means to be a professional communicator. Our final challenge will be to refocus persuasion and presentation towards building professionalism.

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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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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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Slideshare of the Year….I mean the Day

 

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If you read this blog, you know of my undying admiration and affection for my superteacher best friend, the very talented Alex Rister. This month, Alex debuted her brand new visual design lesson for her class and also featured shots from this deck on her blog. Well, today, her latest Slideshare offering went live. Check out an “Introduction to Slide Design.” This deck has also become an integral part of our latest faculty development endeavor, The Presentation Revolution.

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Love the Visual Resume–Seriously!

Today’s deck comes from my favorite superteacher, Alex Rister. The visual resume began as a fun side project for me and then became a mission–help my students create a more dynamic picture of their qualities as professionals online. In teaching the visual resume, I draw inspiration from the success of others, namely David Crandall and Alex Rister. Both of these individuals have successful visual resumes.

1. She uses story to convey her unique perspective

Alex tells audiences the story of how she found her calling as communications guru and public speaking teacher. Instead of just starting with “I was born…” she begins with a bigger idea–innovation, and then illustrates how she is part of this new age of innovation.

2. She designs unified visuals

Alex uses color, type, shape, and alignment to create something that is uniquely hers. Alex’s use of pink against the vintage images is classy yet whimsical. Her choice of Komika Axis speaks to her personality–this is Alex’s signature typeface.

3. Her visual resume does more than what any traditional resume can do

Alex uses this medium to highlight not only her extensive leadership and teaching experience and professional work as an educator, but also as a means of sharing her ideas on communication, work, and the world at large.

Check out Alex Rister’s visual resume, as well as her other amazing deck (which is a required reading in our Professional Communication and Presentation course), Seven Deadly Sins of Visual Design.

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In defense of Flickr and Compfight

Last month, two students complained that “Compfight and Flickr sucked,” and that they could not find the images they were looking for. I challenged them by asking them if they thought my slides sucked or if their superteacher Alex Rister’s slides sucked. They laughed, said no, and asked why. My response–because we only use Flickr and search only through Compfight. If you can’t find what you are looking for in the world’s largest image social networking site, then the problem has more to do with the way you are searching. Flickr is awesome. I credit this storehouse of images with completely transforming my use of imagery in my slides. Compfight was a true blessing; it filters out anything I cannot use and provides me with relevant results every time. Both forced me to come to terms with the fact that I, like many, was a “slide sloth.”

According to Alex Rister, Google Images has made us all “slide sloths” (Source); we put in a search term “evolve” and expect magical results. Because Google Images is running an unfiltered search of the entire web, students often find exactly what they are looking for–too bad it is too small, cheesy clip art, watermarked stock photography, or not labeled for commercial use. We must change the way we actually search for images. I am cooking up a more thorough “how to” on searching through Compfight and Flickr for Six Minutes, but in the meantime, remember, to find great images on Flickr, follow amazing people like JD Hancock, search for concrete things that represent your abstract ideas, and be patient–I have spent hours looking for that perfect image. The first slide to my latest deck took me 4 hours of adapting search terms, rethinking my metaphor, and adapting my approach!

My deck is three images from being done (and by done I mean a first draft that several folks have the duty to now destroy and decimate) and I have a full day of grading ahead of me, so just a quick post today to share some the images I’ve found while searching for hmm….three weeks…with you. There were many more images I loved that I did not use, but these are a few of the highlights.

Incredible Bokeh

Incredible Bokeh by JD Hancock

Field 0 by zachstern

Freedom by Angelo Gonzalez

In the rapture (explored) by Elizabeth Haslam

Meditation by deadoll

Crab Nebula: Energy for 100,000 Suns (NASA, Chandra, 11/23/09) by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

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A blessed break from an epic tweak

I am taking a two month break from the classroom courtesy of an individual I have since realized is some kind of super robot, Alex Rister. She is teaching two months worth of very lucky folks. I know because I love being Alex’s student every other month! I love learning, enough to know I want to be a part of the proceses that lead to learning for the rest of my working life. This month, Alex taught a group of go-getting superstudents who outshine their contemporaries in diligence, commitment to excellence, and a positive spirit.

I took a break from working on my behemoth latest deck to review their final self-reflections for the month. Needless to say, they moved me–from admissions of this being a refuge from a tumultuous life to this being a hellishly difficult yet unforgettable month, the students gained so much from their experience this month. It echoes the concept of “naches” which I am reading about in Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken. Naches is the feeling of pride in someone else’s accomplishment; it is often felt by parents and teachers. I love a good naches. It happened this month and in many months prior. Every month, I feel naches, a sort of teacher win when a student labors towards awesomeness.

August’s class not only chose these as the qualities they most admired in other speakers; they also embodied them.

 

This post is written for superteacher, Alex Rister, who inspires her students to warm my cold, cold teacher heart each and every month.

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Presentation Lessons from Etta James

Yesterday, Alex Rister shared a new extra credit assignment with her class based on an article she wrote on comedian Kevin Hart. Rister outlines five lessons presenters can take from Hart–note that none of them are “be a comedian.” The lessons instead focus on strategies presenters can use to better engage with audiences and enrich their experiences. She then challenged us to develop our own “Lessons from..” article. I’ve begun the process (because for the past few days, tweaking and designing has been far more interesting than sleep) with one of my biggest inspirations, Etta James, whose magnificently versatile voice brought the jubilance of “At Last” to life as easily as she conveyed anguish and heart break in “I’d Rather Go Blind.” James was a dynamo her entire career. Weathering the now too common storms of stardom, she performed up until 2009, two years before she passed of leukemia. James’ live performances are mesmerizing, albeit often raunchy and bawdy. It’s this unbridled passion that inspires me as a presenter. I’ll be studying her performances over the next few days to prepare a more thorough analysis, but for now, I leave you with Ms. James and three lessons I drew from this performance.

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Lovely busy day!

Today, I worked with my superteacher bestie, Alex Rister, on our upcoming month of Professional Communication and Presentation. I am anxious to get back into the classroom, and want to convey that same much needed “reality check” to this incoming bunch of superstudents. I cooked up an explanation of the online course structure. It’s not perfect, and it needs polish, but it reinforced to me just how completely empowering design-centered thinking is. I love finding and tweaking problems and through collaboration with amazing people generating workable solutions.

I also got back on the grading horse this evening while my jambalaya cooked. My students are really impressing me with their slide:ology analysis discussion posts! They are choosing excellent examples of Nancy Duarte’s principles of slide arrangement and the choosing of impacting visual elements. This deck of slides comes via Mallic Braxton:

Back to work! Grading, then it’s time to get back to tweaking my on campus class’ first day!

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