Tag Archives: engagement

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


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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Participation: Action Speaks Louder than Your Words


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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Data Displays of the Day: Online Discussion and Online Contact

Infographic of the day.001

One of the big topics up for discussion this year among my colleagues is engagement. As online numbers continue to grow, the need for engaging our online learners increases. Research has shown that synchronous engagement in the online environment is what leads to student success and student learning beyond Bloom’s lower levels. Engagement, however, can be difficult when one has a demanding schedule or when students don’t seem as connected to course content and ideas as they would be in a campus class. Today’s infographics, both created by Mia MacMeekin, curator of the blog An Ethical Island and founder of Epigogy Inc., a company whose mission is to improve instruction and instructional design. The first infographic, Online Student Contact, provides some practical tips on interacting with students online. My favorite tip is “don’t forget about the A students.” Often, it’s easy to focus on challenging students over those who excel; acknowledging amazing work can help inspire other students to grow!



The second infographic covers a specific facet of online contact and engagement, online discussion boards. I can admit wholeheartedly that this is one of my most challenging. An important tip Mia shares here is always praise something in every discussion post. Again, as above, it’s easy to focus on negativity, but too much turns a student off of learning and could lead that student to failure.



Are you a teacher or trainer? How do you engage your students? What do you find works best?

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April Goal Win: The Liberal Studies Round Table


The process of proposing, organizing, and launching the Liberal Studies round table initiative has been a learning experience and a real privilege. In the past few weeks, I’ve been able to collaborate with amazing English department folks, including the very talented “Team Unicorn”, a group of composition teachers who’ve embraced the cinematic approach to creating slides. Check out one example of a deck used in this group’s English composition online course:

I am pleased to say that the English department worked for the past month to plan and organize our session, and we were ready for our debut today. The presentations went smoothly and we had an awesome turn out. The first hour was devoted to a series of presentations on the topic of teaching personas (defining persona, applying persona to a collaborative online team of teachers, and using the student’s experience to mold the teacher’s persona). The rest of the workshop was devoted to discussion. I’d like to see stronger discussion in the future, and this I think is where my presence would have been best used.

I chose not to present in this workshop (except for providing our attendees with an agenda of the session). I think at this point, people expect me to present, but I wanted to give the floor to some of the English folks who don’t often get heard but have incredible ideas. Instead, I functioned as facilitator. One of my tasks was to create a basic set of slides to serve as welcome, transition, and closing visuals. As you can see, my obsession with The Noun Project continues:

Our welcome slide sets the tone for the session--connect, discover, collaborate.

Our welcome slide sets the tone for the session–connect, discover, collaborate.

Our agenda moved from a presentation on the concept of personas to specific examples/applications.

Our agenda moved from a presentation on the concept of personas to specific examples/applications.

Overall, I found the discussion of personas to be interesting and I know Alex and I gleaned some insights about how we can further work to create a positive relationship with our students. What’s your opinion on teacher personas online? Is it something you think about as an educator? What is your teaching persona?

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Present the way you converse: the TED speech epiphany

Today in Professional Communication and Presentation, my amazing students this month delivered their TED analysis speeches. This assignment has been a staple in my class since I discovered TED three years ago. I was and am consistently amazed by the humanity, passion, compassion, humility, energy, empathy, enthusiasm, innovation, genius, wisdom, and spirit of community embodied and lived by TEDsters (those of us who consider ourselves complete lovers of TED, those who present at TED, those who attend TED, and the geniuses who began–Richard Saul Wurman–and grew–Chris Anderson–the wonder that is today’s Technology, Entertainment, and Design Conference).

Courtesy of TED.com

TED has grown from a rather elitist, by invitation only, extravagantly expensive conference to a creative commons, open sharing, open conversing, education-driving, source for all ideas worth spreading. Either way, I love it. I love TED. Not only for what it teaches me and my students about the human condition, but also for its ability to transcend barriers–socio-economic, cultural, gender, racial, sexual, environmental, political, and ideological.

My students are given the task of choosing a TED talk to analyze. They must choose something that grabs their attention, resonates with them personally, and that embodies the TED Commandments, a set of unofficial rules or caveats given to TED speakers before they present (they also get copies of my two favorite books: Presentation Zen and Slide:ology by two of my gurus, Garr Reynolds and Nancy Duarte). This month’s students are an eclectic mix, a delicious spectrum of humanity–from the introverted intellectual to the deeply passionate, emphatic, (and vocal) extrovert.

Their chosen talks were a reflection of their personalities, interests, and whether they realized it or not, their needs and wants as audience members. Today, we discussed the harrowing child prostitution problem in India as eloquently and passionately told by Sunitha Krishnan; we explored how to truth seek with Pamela Meyer and heard the tale of Norden’s bombsight as told by master storyteller Malcolm Gladwell; we learned of John Francis‘ story, the story of a man who neither used motorized transportation nor spoke for 17 years, yet taught earned a PHD, taught at the college level, and worked as a UN Ambassador; and we marveled at Jae Rhim Lee‘s amazing mushroom death suit. Yup, TED speech days make me feel like dancing a jig…with some unicorns…on a rainbow….made of all my favorite cheeses.

The speech that stood out to me the most was not delivered by the gentleman who proclaimed to all of us that he only prepared for the assignment the night before, chose his TED talk at random, and explained that he would be “winging” his presentation and he hoped this would not result in lost points. Surprising? No, not really.

The speech that stands out to me the most was delivered by someone who, upon first glance, one might dismiss as the sort of pensive, shy student who rarely makes ripples or an impact (though I must admit, I was enamored with him right away–he is, after all, a self-proclaimed nerd, and I can never resist a nerd!). This student’s speech was well-prepared, exquisitely delivered with the right amount of humor, personality, and relevant content (he went so far as to reenact Ken Robinson’s excellent opening to “Bring on the Learning Revolution!”). This student included personal experience, used storytelling, revealed his passion for the topic of education, and wholeheartedly shared his reaction to Robinson’s point. But, it wasn’t any of this that created a truly resonant moment in class, not just for me, but for everyone else in the classroom. What was this amazing, mind-blowing epiphany aka aha moment?

Present the way you would have a conversation. If you wouldn’t do it in a conversation; don’t do it in a presentation.

That’s it? Really? I’ve said keep your presentation conversational for years! How could this mere nerd show us public speaking teachers up with something we tell our students day in and day out?

The answer is in how he framed it. He managed to say what I’ve been trying to show and teach for years. His idea resonated with everyone in that cold, sterile room today:

How do you have a conversation with someone?

  • You maintain eye contact and work to even physically connect with whom you are conversing
  • You convey information through stories
  • You appeal to emotion (some conversations make you cry, some laugh, some rail at the injustices of the world)
  • You respect your conversation partner and listen
  • You focus on clarity
  • You illustrate empathy and goodwill
  • You don’t keep barriers between you and the person with whom you are speaking
  • You don’t memorize what you are going to say, but important and worthy conversations have some element of preparation to them
  • You are reactionary and adapt to the conversation partner
So, how does this relate to presenting? Can we really approach a presentation like a conversation? Will this somehow help people avoid some of the habits that make presentations sterile, robotic, forgettable?
  • Great speakers maintain eye contact; they also move away from a podium and detach from their notes. Great speakers “sweep the room” as my fellow Super Teacher Alex Rister asserts.
  • What sets apart a forgettable speech from a resonating, life-altering communication experience? Storytelling. As the Heath brothers say, by combining information, knowledge, context and emotion, “stories are important cognitive events.”
  • Great presentations make us FEEL. It’s not enough to know and believe; we are human, we are born knowing that emotion generates results (baby crying = some grown creature responding to said baby crying).
  • Great speeches are clear, direct, and specific. As Ben Zander put it, Martin Luther King did not add the caveat “I’m not sure they’ll be up to it” to his proclamation, “I have a dream!” Watch his TED talk, and see another wonderful example of humble wisdom. It’s my absolute favorite. Hands down.
  • I am still seeking the perfect way to emphasize the importance of empathy to my students. I often get the sense they think I am being “soft.” But, empathy is the driving force of the human universe. Empathy, as Jeremy Rifkin explores in “The Empathic Civilization,” is built into our biology. We are soft-wired, from our mirror neurons to our recognition of the human experience and its basis in suffering, for empathy. Empathy, or the need to belong and connect, is the invisible hand. The speakers I admire empathize with their audiences; they consider what their audience needs, wants, and what’s in their best interest (not the speaker’s own agenda).
  • One reason great presentations resemble great conversations is that great speakers erase the barriers between themselves and their audiences. Garr Reynold’s discussed this beautifully in The Naked Presenter–podiums, lecterns, technology, dimmed lights, busy slides–all of these are barriers (as is poor preparation).
  • Great speeches are often extemporaneous, at the very least, even with rehearsal and practice, the speeches we remember, for instance, MLK’s “I Have a Dream” contain moments of improvisation, speaking entirely from a place where the message is internalized, so that speaking and digressions from prewritten plans or ideas are second nature.
This student’s words truly made an impact on me. I say this gladly after watching hundreds of speeches each year both on campus, online, at TEDxOrlando or PechaKucha Orlando, and at school workshops. One simple idea, constructed in a way that resonated with a small group of people became the idea I share with you now. Present the way you converse!
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