Tag Archives: Nancy Duarte

Want to Change your World? Present better!

Yesterday, I received a phone call from a current online student who works as a data analyst. She called to share her amazing news with me. After taking Professional Communication and Presentation this month and learning how to develop, design, and deliver a presentation inspired by the work of today’s presentation revolution leaders like Nancy Duarte, Garr Reynolds, TED, and the Heath brothers, she was inspired to create a cinematic presentation for her company. Her task was to inform and train others on new software being used. She’d previously shared with the class that her company was firmly in the “death by PowerPoint” abyss Andrew Dlugan describes on Six Minutes. Presentations were tedious, forgettable, pointless, and sterile. But, for this student, being aware of these revolutionary ideas made it impossible for her to create yet another boring presentation.

Instead, she created a well-structured, well-designed presentation, and she delivered that presentation in a way that was natural and engaging. The results were remarkable. One attendee commented that in 20 years with this company, it was the first time he had felt engaged during a presentation. The student has been asked to visit other offices, present the information to the rest of the company’s employees, and even conduct future webinars based on her presentation. Not only was this student’s world changed by a strong presentation, but she has begun the great work of revolutionizing a company’s communication culture. This is not something that happened by accident or because the student was inherently already a strong presenter. A world-changing moment like this takes preparation, practice, contemplation, and a true empathy for a target audience.

If your ideas matter–if your business plans, your research results, or your cause are worth spreading–then design and presentation matter. –Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen Design

Within my own institution, I often hear students and faculty complain about yet another boring presentation, another bullet-riddled death machine, another wasted hour. It’s clear that audiences don’t respond to the standard operating procedure; however, in speaking to those presenting the information, it’s clear that they perceive what makes for a strong presentation to be a matter of opinion or preference. I often hear, “students love my slides,” or “yeah, Chiara, that’s YOUR way of doing it, but we are not you,” or “Bullets work for me; people need this information!”, or “I don’t have time to put into presenting; I’m already good at presenting.” Internally, sometimes I feel frustrated, as if I am a small voice in a giant void called the status quo. But, as an eternal optimist, my response is to try to share with them the irrefutable work of brain scientists like John Medina, the Zen philosophy of contemplation before action created by Garr Reynolds, and the multitude of case studies, examples, and stories that prove that engaging in presenting as a process truly helps propel ideas forward and is the only way to reach an audience.

Where does a strong presentation’s power come from? In part, it is the clear experiential difference an audience feels when they participate in a well-developed presentation. But, more than this, a well-designed presentation harnesses the power each and every one of us has to connect with another person, be inspired by an idea, and find ways to actualize that idea. As Nancy Duarte says, “Presentations create a catalyst for meaningful change by using human contact in a way that no other medium can” (Source). I am not talking about opinion–this perspective is designed to tap into what appeals to people, how people think, and what leads people to internalizing an idea. Creating yet another poorly prepared, cookie cutter, boring presentation squanders that power in each of us to be a catalyst for change.

Your idea becomes alive when it is adopted by another person, then another, and another, until it reaches a tipping point and eventually obtains a groundswell of support. –Nancy Duarte, Resonate

It cannot be denied–proper preparation, thorough content development, design-centered thinking, and deliberate practice are the keys to a strong presentationand a strong presentation can change the world. If you want to change your world, you must present better!

 

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Design Smarter: Three Views on Storyboarding

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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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Another Great and FREE Resource by Duarte Design

In late 2013, Nancy Duarte, fairy godmother of presentation development and design, released a free HTML 5 version of her landmark text, Resonate. I instantly fell in love with this version of her book, which took the print version to a new level of interaction and connectivity. This entirely free version of the book contains behind the scenes tidbits, interactive exercises, videos, and guides to important concepts like Duarte’s Sparkline. This week, Duarte Design released Slidedocs: Spread Ideas with Effective Visual Documents, a free guide to creating what Duarte believes to be a necessary common ground between the density of long-form reports and a live, immersive, cinematic presentation of information. What do you do when you want your audience to preview data and information before a big presentation? What about after a presentation when someone asks for your presentation? What about when you aren’t able to conduct a live presentation at all? The only answer is no longer a lengthy, text-heavy report. Instead, Duarte takes the concept of a “slideument” (coined by Garr Reynolds in Presentation Zen) and actually turns it into a positive–the beautiful blend of text, image, layout, and thorough content development, the “slidedoc.” Check out the interactive and again FREE guide to creating slidedocs below or visit duarte.com/slidedocs. This guide will come in handy as we rework the PCP course. I’ve already seen how presenting information via text-only in proposing the class to others has led to confusion instead of clarification. Thinking of the instruction sheets and other course information we provide to students as slidedocs will help us ensure students not only study their course materials carefully but are engaged and interested while doing so!

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What makes a STAR moment shine?

Your audience should always leave your presentation with something they’ll always remember. But, what does it actually take to create a memorable STAR moment?

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In her landmark text on developing persuasive and engaging content, Resonate, Nancy Duarte devotes an entire chapter to what she calls STAR moments, those moments in a presentation when an audience truly achieves shared meaning with a presenter. According to Duarte, a STAR moment should “dramatically drive the big idea home” (Source), and it should be a “significant, sincere, and enlightening” (Source) moment that imprints the audience so much so that they spread and share the big idea long after the presentation ends. In teaching this particular presentation strategy, I’ve found that one can codify and define the types of actions that serve as STAR moments: memorable dramatizations, like Bill Gates releasing mosquitos on a TED conference audience; emotive storytelling, like Jill Bolte Taylor’s dynamic recreation of her massive brain stroke; evocative visuals, like Lisa Kristine’s hauntingly beautiful images of a few of the 28 million people enslaved throughout the world; repeatable sound bites like Martin Luther King, Jr.s “I have a dream…”; and shocking statistics, like Michael Pollan’s revelation that 28 oz of crude oil go into making each and every one of those quarter pounders with cheese sold at McDonalds every day. But, I’ve also learned that one can define a set of qualities that all of these strategies embody.

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So, these are excellent examples of types of STAR moments, but what makes a STAR moment actually memorable? What is it about what these and other great speakers do that leads to that mental hook in the audience? A former student, Elianna Bentz, led a class discussion several months ago that really helped put the qualities of a strong STAR moment into an easily digestible format. A STAR Moment should be Simple, Transferable, Audience-centered, Repeatable, and Meaningful.

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Simple

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The job of the STAR moment is often to take a very complicated problem and break it down to its simplest, most human, most transparent form. Chip and Dan Heath believe simplicity starts by removing superfluous elements and getting to the core of an idea. They compare it to the way a journalist writes an article–the lead comes first, and is not buried by complexities (Source). In the same way, a STAR moment has to be straightforward and evocative. Take for example Benjamin Zander’s STAR moment in the TED talk below. To help the audience understand the technicality of music, he demoes what piano playing is like at different ages and breaks down a prelude by Chopin note by note. But, to help the audience understand just how impacting classical music can be, before he plays the piece a second time, he asks the audience to imagine a lost loved one. The first time I did this, I was in tears. I’ve watched the speech now each month for four years and its impact is never the same unless I succumb to Zander’s request.

Transferable

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A STAR moment cannot exist in the vacuum of the speaker’s own mind and heart; it’s emotional impact has to be transferred to the audience so that they can internalize it. According to Duarte, a STAR moment is “rehearsed and planned to have just the right amount of analytical and emotional appeal to engage both the minds and hearts of an audience” (Source). Bill Gates’ 2009 TED talk contains such a moment. After establishing the problem–malaria is a worldwide problem (200 million are affected), but because the people affected do not have the wealth and resources to stop the problem, not enough is being done. To transfer the impact of this problem to a room full of TEDsters, wealthy folks who cannot necessarily relate to or understand the problem, he releases mosquitos into the audience, stating “there’s no reason only poor people should have the experience” (Source). Brilliant transference!

Audience-centered

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A great STAR moment requires audience-analysis and audience adaptation.Why? Because without audience analysis and adaptation, how can a speaker truly know what will impact his or her target audience, what will push through the wall of bias and resistance present in each audience member, what will be easily understood by the audience? The last day of Professional Communication and Presentation is Ignite presentation day. Two days ago, I witnessed one of the strongest STAR moments. Shayna wanted to communicate to her classmates that while they are all a product of the environments they came from, such a truth does not necessarily mean one has to be a slave to that idea or to what one learned as a result of one’s upbringing. She began her presentation by describing what it means to be a slave; she wore chains around her arms while she described this concept. For the next two minutes of her presentation she established her big idea, used storytelling, statistics, facts, and examples to support her big idea. She then told the story of having lost friends and family to drug abuse and how these experiences led her to act, to break her chains. She then threw the chains wrapped around her arms down. The reaction from her classmates was audible–the air literally went out of the room. By the end of her presentation, she had her audience in tears, fired up and ready to take control of their destinies.

Repeatable and Meaningful

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Finally, a STAR moment (if it embodies the first three qualities) must be easily repeatable/describable and also meaningful enough that the audience must repeat it. According to Duarte, “a carefully crafted sound bite can work as a STAR moment–not only for those who attend your presentation, but also for those who encounter it second hand” (Source). One of the most beautiful, repeatable, and meaningful STAR moments of our time is the repetition in Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream.” Dr. King, who spoke this portion of the speech extemporaneously and without a pre-written set of points (Clarence Jones describes the moment when King pushed his speech aside and spoke from the heart in this NPR interview). What made it repeatable was the simplicity of the phrase; what made it meaningful is that he was vocalizing America’s collective dream of the future. In order to help the audience visualize a positive future, motivate them to action, inspire their waning spirits, and tie the dream of desegregation to the long line of America’s dream, King repeats the phrase and follows it with what Nancy Duarte calls “new bliss,” a visualization of the world with his idea in place. This phrase has become part of our cultural consciousness in the United States and it helped reinvigorate the hearts and minds of King’s followers.

So, by choosing a type of STAR moment and then ensuring it meets the qualities above, you too can create a moment that shines on long after you say “Thank you for your time. Any questions?”

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Garr Reynolds on Presentation Anxiety

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting Digital Arts and Design teacher Suzy Johnson’s class. I talked with her class about the meat of the REAL Delivery approach, which is derived from both Nancy Duarte (my students know her as the fairy godmother of presenting) and Garr Reynolds (known as the master of Zen).

I chose the more relevant pieces of information for this group (and presenting this time around taught me much about how I’ll adapt the message to the audience in future visits–more focus on audience) and spent some time discussing the lizard brain portion of REAl Delivery. In researching yesterday’s class, I ran across this article from Presentation Zen titled, “Coping with Presentation Anxiety & Stage Fright”. In the article, Garr discusses the quickly infamous Michael Bay appearance at CES in early January. I’d heard my students talk about this derisively and then took a moment to watch the video myself:

I have to agree with Reynolds in saying that this is not really an instance in which to be unkind to Bay (this is actually much of what drives our anxiety about presenting–the idea that those in the public eye are somehow just naturally better at this than the rest of us). Instead, it’s more important to remember the three takeaways Reynolds highlights:

1. Presenting is not easy

Presenting takes in-depth preparation, contemplation, and deliberate action. It's only good if it's a challenge!

Presenting takes in-depth preparation, contemplation, and deliberate action. It’s only good if it’s a challenge! Click image for source.

For anyone. Every presentation is high stakes (Duarte 2008): the death or life of your idea, company, livelihood, followers’ commitment to your cause, and it’s your job to devote 36-90 hours of time (Duarte 2008) to pre-production, content development, idea visualization, and rehearsal.This is no small or easy task. Any and every one of us when placed into a particular context will face a challenging speaking situation.

As you become accustomed to public speaking and presenting over time you will grow more comfortable and able to be more natural, letting “the real you” come out. But if you are still quite nervous about the idea of presenting in front of others, don’t worry, virtually every confident and engaging presenter you see today was at some point earlier in their careers much less sure of themselves in front of a live audience. –Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen

2. Everyone deals with presentation anxiety

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The lizard brain or amygdala was early human’s best friend, but it can sabotage even the people we perceive as masters of public speaking. Click image for source.

The lizard brain or amygdala has kept us alive for a good long time and it’s this that kicks into high gear when we are faced with a public speaking situation. The lizard brain is what tells you you need to fly or run from this situation (or from the self-created anxieties related to this situation–the what ifs), but it’s also what gives your body energy and adrenaline to brave a difficult situation. Every single one of us has a lizard brain trigger point (unless you are a zombie, a robot, or a mutant), and every one of us has to find the way to push past that trigger point and be awesome.

3. It’s better to prepare well and speak from the heart than speak off of a teleprompter or script.

This is a common scenario--a presenter begins speaking and faces the crowd, as he or she progresses, the dependency on slides or script as security blanket grows. By the end of the presentation, the presenter's back is to the audience, the focus entirely on the teleprompter.

This is a common scenario–a presenter begins speaking and faces the crowd, as he or she progresses, the dependency on slides or script as security blanket grows. By the end of the presentation, the presenter’s back is to the audience, the focus entirely on the teleprompter. Click image for source.

The biggest single trigger of Bay’s fight or flight reflex was that he was reading a script and worse than that a script he hadn’t written himself. It’s impossible to feel comfortable in someone else’s skin–unless you have years of practice and training as a speaker and performer. For most of us, speaking off of a script (even if it’s our own ideas, there’s a lack of genuineness that comes from the way we write vs. the way we speak) or using someone else’s presentation is an anxiety-causing nightmare. Comfort and confidence comes from the sharing of one’s unique ideas and perspectives.

Check out the rest of the article on Presentation Zen for tips on calming presentation nerves and reassurance that yes, this may happen to everyone, but there’s a way to win in the end!

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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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Tweak Your Slides: Presentation Delivery Redesign

One of my goals for the month of February is to “tweak” and in some cases completely overhaul several of my decks for class, Slideshare, and the blog. This week, I’ve devoted 12 hours in class to discussing delivery, and another 16 hours on redesigning the deck that accompanies this slideshow. So far, I’ve only incorporated information from Garr Reynolds’ The Naked Presenter. I plan on moving back and forth between Reynolds’ ideas and Nancy Duarte’s approach via the Harvard Business Review’s Guide to Persuasive Presentations. The blending of these two approaches will be a challenge (in particular because the structure is built around the “naked approach” (agenda slides, color scheme, specific verbiage). However, I am confident that I can meet the challenge. Look for a debut of this deck on Slideshare in the next few weeks!

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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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Audience Analysis: Segmenting the Audience

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I often reiterate to my students, and we read in the leading texts and blogs on this subject, that audience analysis and adaptation are the cornerstones of a strong presentation. However, many of us present with only our goals and needs (and hangups) in mind, leading to the “self-centered approach” (Duarte, 2010) to presenting.

Have you seen your audiences do this? Has this been you? Self-centered presentations lead to audiences that tune out.

Have you seen your audiences do this? Has this been you? Self-centered presentations lead to audiences that tune out.

This approach leads to the complete opposite of our goals for the presentation–for our audience to internalize and apply our messages. We want our ideas to spread, our concepts to be adopted, our lessons to be applied, but this cannot happen without one very important shift in thought…

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In her latest book (which I am currently devouring), the HBR’s Guide to Persuasive Presentations, Nancy Duarte explains why: “The people you’re addressing will determine whether your idea spreads or dies, simply by embracing or rejecting it” (Duarte, 2012). In essence, to accomplish this, a presenter must take a supporting or mentoring role to the audience–the real hero of the presentation, the one who must take the risk to adopt and apply the presenter’s idea.  Heroes, in mythology, literature, and film, have friends, helpers, and mentors (think Yoda and Luke, Gandalf and Frodo, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi) who provide gifts, tools, or much needed rescue.

What do these fellas have in common? They've all served as mentors and guides to extraordinary heroes. (Image Credits, from top left to bottom left: JD Hancock; GViciano; lamont_cranston; Gage Skidmore)

What do these fellas have in common? They’ve all served as mentors and guides to extraordinary heroes. (Image Credits, from top left to bottom left: JD Hancock; GViciano; lamont_cranston; Gage Skidmore)

Keep these three purposes in mind in considering how your goals align with your audience’s (Duarte, 2012):

  1. Give the hero a special gift (give people insights that will improve their lives)
  2. Teach the hero to use a “magical” tool (allow people to pick up a new skill or mind-set that empowers them)
  3. Help the hero get “unstuck” (an idea that gets the audience out of a difficult situation)

Audience Segmentation Post.004

Students panic or become frustrated when I ask them who their audience is and explain that the answer cannot be “everyone” or “people” or “students” even. While they can agree that understanding audience and putting audience needs before individual wants/goals/anxieties is important, the process of actually analyzing an audience and then applying that analysis to content building is not easy (especially because they rarely spend time objectively considering these ideas before diving right into PowerPoint or Keynote). Another common anxiety stems from the inability to appeal to every member of the audience.

Audience segmentation, a strategy Duarte discusses in Resonate and the HBR Guide, is one important means by which you can better connect with and audience and move the members towards action or a shift in ideology. Segmentation or analysis generally happens across three areas (for a comprehensive discussion of audience analysis and segmentation, see this Six Minutes article):

  1. Demographics/Ethnographics (age, education, ethnicity, gender, geography, culture, society)
    • Purpose: to learn who the audience is and what common ground there is
  2. Context/Politics (time/place, power, reason for attendance)
    • To discover how environmental and outside factors might affect an audience’s reception of a message.
  3. Psychographics (beliefs, values, attitudes)
    • Purpose: to discover what an audience thinks, knows, and believes about the topic
Image Credits, left to right:  Haags Uitburo, SP8254,  VinothChandar

Image Credits, left to right: Haags Uitburo, SP8254, VinothChandar

Answering these questions (What keeps the audience up at night? How might the resist?) may seem difficult or tedious, but the process is guaranteed to lead to a deeper understanding of each member or group of members of the audience. This understanding leads to crafting a message that is tailored to those who 1. would most benefit from the ideas presented, and 2. can help turn the idea into action. So, the purpose of segmentation is really two fold. Segmentation allows presenters to choose the person(s) who is going to help them spread an idea that resonates and helps the presenter determine how to also bring other members of the audience on board. So, even though a presenter should tailor his or her message to this one most useful audience member (or group, i.e. early adopters), he or she should not exclude other members of the audience.

Segmentation in action

In Resonate, Duarte illustrates the power of segmentation through an analysis of Ronald Reagan’s Space Shuttle Challenger speech. In this speech, Reagan expertly weaves between audiences, addressing individual groups all touched by this national tragedy while also leaving the nation with a sense of empowerment and hope.

Audience Segmentation Post.007

I share this example with my students, but find that their lack of connection to this event and this president makes it challenging to really help them see segmentation in action. So, as per the advice of my very smart colleague, Alex Rister, I am going to use President Obama’s recent speech on the Sandy Hook school shooting as an example of segmentation in action.

In this 18 minute speech, Obama identifies and addresses specific audiences:

  • The families of the victims
  • The survivors of the shooting
  • The first responders to the scene
  • The town of Newton
  • The nation as a whole (parents, non-parents, those who support stricter gun control, those who support 1st amendment rights)

The speech focuses on the immediate context (vigil) and places it in the national context (debate over gun control/gun rights). The immediate purpose of the speech is to eulogize the fallen teachers and children of Sandy Hook Elementary, but the greater purpose is to bring this event into the national gun control conversation.

How does Obama do this while still maintaining the immediate purpose? By addressing various members of the audience and then joining them via shared value–the value we all hold  for human life, safety, and security. Obama doesn’t exclude the nation from either grief over the loss of life or responsibility for this incident. Instead, he honors the immediate impact of the shooting on Newton and connects this experience to the greater cause at hand.

In depth audience analysis is not easy or quick, but if done thoughtfully and thoroughly, it can help you transform your self-centered message into an audience-centered idea that stays with them long after your presentation ends.

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First draft of Your Speech is Toxic is done!

Phew!  I’ve been working on this epic deck for months (probably 3 or so). I first had the idea to create a deck about this basic idea:

Everyone says, “I am a great communicator” or “I have great communication skills” but from my experience as a student, friend, teacher, mentor, and presenter, most of us are really not very good at communicating.

This belief was reinforced for me after a rather terrible interview I had for a faculty development position. I am convinced that it was this interview that cemented in the hiring manager’s mind that I was enthusiastic and clearly passionate about teaching, but I really had no clue how to manage or lead others. I tried to rectify this in my thank you letter and in the proposal for a new faculty orientation we were asked to submit, but my efforts at rectifying a failed communication situation were little compared to that impression I’d made.

I was involved with an epic Nancy Duarte experience this month and last. Alex Rister and I were privileged enough to speak to Nancy (who just turned 50–check out the amazing deals in the Duarte shop. If I could afford that workshop and a flight to California, I’d be there in a heartbeat) three times, the final time for an hour via Skype with some amazing superstudents. Instead of writing my experience (you can read Alex’s here, here, and here), I’ve decided to incorporate a few lessons I’ve learned from Nancy, my fairy godmother of presentations, in this latest deck, “Your Speech is Toxic”. I would go as far as saying this deck would not have been possible had I not run across Slide:ology while perusing the “PowerPoint” section of the now sadly late Borders Books. Here is a shot of a portion in the Light Table view of Keynote. I still have some tweaking to do, but I can’t wait to share this with others!

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