Tag Archives: development

Design Smarter: Three Views on Storyboarding


Yesterday, I talked about creating a design decisions slide to serve as a guide for designing a presentation. Today, I’d like to share with you another strategy for designing and organizing a presentation. In Ideate, we learn that the first step of design is to storyboard ideas. But, what does it mean to storyboard a presentation? Storyboarding is a strategy we use in Professional Communication and Presentation as an alternative to an linear outline. While outlining works well for presentations that are content-only, it is difficult to think like a designer and visualize design using a word processor or text-based organizational tool like a formal outline. Storyboarding, a term borrowed from film, television, and animation, essentially means creating a structure that allows one to not only determine the order and organization of content but also begin visualizing the design that goes along with that content. How does one create and execute a storyboard? Here are three professional presenters on the subject:

Scott Schwertly, Ethos3

Schwertly and his firm Ethos3 are leading the presentation revolution (be sure to scroll to the end of their blog to download a copy of the Presentation Manifesto) by following their core values–my favorite of which is “Embrace and Drive Change.” In their latest addition to their comprehensive and beautifully designed blog, “Ethos3 Secrets: Crafting a Storyboard,” Schwertly shares his team’s process for creating and using a storyboard. The starting point is the big picture, the big takeaway, or the big idea. Having this in place before even beginning a storyboard can help a project stay on track. Then, using presentation software, paper, or a word processing program, create the template for your storyboard. In class, we use the layout below for storyboarding along with sticky notes.

This student drew in ideas for slides ,and in the lines provided, explained what he would cover on each slide.

This student drew in ideas for slides ,and in the lines provided, explained what he would cover on each slide.

Once you begin filling in your storyboard, remember a few important things: 1. Imagine your visual support as you craft your content and 2. Revision is part of the process and is key to generating a strong structure.

Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen

I was first introduced to the concept of storyboarding via the Zen master, Garr Reynolds. I had always known about presenter’s notes and the ability to use them as a way to combine content and visuals, but as I was still creating “slideuments,” my use of these notes was minimal. Reading the article “Lessons from the art of storyboarding” helped me move into the realm of cinematic presentations. Reynolds’ article is less a how to and more an inspirational tool illustrating what we can learn about visualization from the folks who’ve done it best since 1923, The Walt Disney Company. According to Reynolds, storyboarding helps presenters visualize the story behind their presentation. To be a good storyboarder, one must be not only a good communicator who can create a clear, engaging, and cohesive story, but also be a great storyteller, using visuals to communicate “the meaning and the feelings behind the idea” (Source). Reynolds suggests going analog for this process–a whiteboard with sticky notes and markers, a strategy used by other leading professionals in the field (and which works very well for team projects).

Nancy Duarte, Duarte Design

Duarte Design uses whiteboards and sticky notes, a practice Nancy Duarte, Fairy Godmother of Presentations, discusses in her books Slide:ology, Resonate, and the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations. In the final article I’ll share with you, Duarte explains her unique approach to storyboarding in developing a presentation on visual thinking. For this particular presentation, the traditional storyboard and stickynote format left the presentation disconnected and disjointed. So, Duarte used receipt tape (just as Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road on one continuous roll of paper as opposed to separate sheets) to storyboard the presentation. The result was a cohesive and connected presentation. Check out the result on Duarte’s blog. The lesson here is be creative! The strength of your drawings doesn’t matter, neither does any one way of storyboarding. The point is to use the best tool for you in a specific presentation development situation.

To learn more about storyboarding, check out the following articles from Tweak Your Slides:

Storyboarding a PechaKucha

Storyboarding: Four Patterns of Organization

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Slideshare Debut: Ideate!

After several weeks of work designing, revising, and receiving critique, I am proud to launch my latest deck on Slideshare.net, “Ideate! Create and Develop World-Changing Ideas.” Check it out below or on Slideshare.net. As for me, it’s time to get back to grading and wrapping up the new PCP instruction sheets. Happy Wednesday!

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Drew Dudley’s Definition of Leadership

In this week’s consultation with leadership trainer David Morillo, I was reintroduced to Drew Dudley’s short but sweet TED talk, Everyday Leadership. Every person has the potential to be a leader; we tend to either glorify leadership as something unique to a particular set of people (the extroverted, the charismatic, the confident, the powerful) or we define leadership as the state of being in a position of power. Either of these will lead to the right person avoiding a leadership position or the wrong person filling a leadership position. There is nothing more damaging to an organization than not cultivating the leadership abilities of its employees, except perhaps a person in a leadership position who cannot or does not want to cultivate growth and intrinsic motivation in his or her team. So, what is the true definition of leadership? What is the first step in growing one’s leadership? Well, there is no one true definition (that’s what makes it so universal), but we can all agree that great leaders have vision and a true understanding of the “why” or purpose that drives them. For Dudley, the first step in growing leadership comes from the recognition that one small act, something that changes another’s vision of the world is leadership.  Leadership is about those “lollypop” moments. Check out this inspirational talk below!

How do you define leadership? How do you cultivate your skills as a leader?

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Content Development: Crafting a Big Idea

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Previously on Tweak Your Slides, I covered the basics of idea creation and idea generation. Once you have engaged in divergent and convergent thinking and narrowed your topic choices down to the one topic that best fits in with your experience, your passions, and your audience’s needs, it’s time to  analyze your audience, and then develop a central theme, thesis, or big idea to guide the presentation development process.

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What is a big idea?

Whether you call it a thesis, controlling idea, theme, or main point, a strong persuasive presentation begins with a clearly articulated and assertive big idea. The big idea is what forms the basis for the rest of the presentation. Without a clear sense of what your purpose is in presenting your logic, emotional points, and credibility, your presentation flounders and your audience remains confused and unsure. Presentation expert Nancy Duarte discusses a big idea in Chapter 4 of her second book, Resonate“a big idea is that one key message you want to communicate. It contains the impetus that compels the audience to set a new course with a new compass heading” (Source). So, a big idea includes not only the core of a presentation’s purpose, but it also contains the exigency or necessity of that message as it relates to the audience. Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick and creators of the SUCCESs acronym (Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories) refer to this as the core of the message. The process of brainstorming and then drafting a big idea is known as “finding the core,” which “means stripping an idea down to its most critical essence” (Source). “Finding the core” is central to crafting a successful “sticky” message:

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This process, however, does not mean that a big idea needs to be dumbed down. The Heath brothers make a clear distinction between simple and simplistic. A strong big idea is about “elegance and prioritization, not about dumbing down” (Source).

What makes for a strong big idea?

In addition to ensuring a big idea is simple, elegant, and essential, Duarte provides three (really four) basic keys to crafting a strong big idea (Source). A big idea should:

1. Communicate your unique POV on a topic

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Instead of simply presenting a topic: “ways to go green”, a strong big idea provides the presenter’s unique point of view on the general topic (for instance, “using reusable bags can save the environment”). The idea doesn’t have to be outrageous to be interesting, merely unique and personal. This is so often why choosing a topic you already know lots about and that really matters to you is a good starting point for idea creation. It is easier to communicate a unique perspective on a topic you know well.

2. Convey what’s at stake, or, pass the “so what?” test

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So, it’s great that you have a unique perspective, but why should your audience care about that perspective? The second important piece to crafting a strong big idea is what’s at stake aka necessity aka exigency aka so what? For your audience to truly adopt a perspective on a topic, they have to understand how their participation in your perspective is needed, what could be lost or gained if your perspective is put into action, and why they should act in the first place. If we return to our previous topic, what does the audience gain by using reusable bags? what happens if they don’t? why does their choice matter?

3. Be a complete sentence

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If we think of the first two parts of a big idea as an equation or formula, the third is the solution, the two parts joined and expressed as one simple, complete thought. Duarte suggests that the pronoun “you” be part of this construct. Doing this helps you ensure that the big idea is for the audience. When we take the first two pieces of of our sample big idea above, we can formulate our core, our big idea:

Part One:

I want you to use reusable bags instead of plastic bags.

Part Two:

Reusable bags are better for the environment because they reduce the number of plastic bags produced and used; they also save time and strain when shopping (4 plastic to 1 reusable).

The resulting big idea combines parts one and two into one complete sentence.

The resulting big idea combines parts one and two into one complete sentence.

One final important aspect of a strong big idea is emotion. According to Duarte, “[ultimately], there are only two emotions–pleasure and pain. A truly persuasive presentation plays on those emotions” to either increase pain and lower pleasure if the audience does not adopt the perspective, or to increase pleasure and lower pain if the audience adopts the big idea (Source).

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In the next content development series, we’ll explore the acronym SUCCESs further and discuss how it relates to creating strong persuasive content.

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