Tag Archives: Presentation Zen

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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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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