Tag Archives: Professional Communication and Presentation

Course Reboot: Visual introduction to the Professional Persona Project

The Professional Communication team has entered the design phase of the course reboot. We’ve developed our structure, written instruction sheets, and designed a course calendar. Currently, we are working on designing our instruction sheets, planning lessons, and creating visuals. I tasked my superstar lab specialist/teaching assistant, Justin Hardy, with designing the instruction sheets for the reboot. I gave him a very loose mock up of a layout, color scheme, and headings. Below is a draft of the instruction sheet Justin created. I love his overall approach, use of supporting shapes, cohesive color scheme, and attention to readability. Something I’d like to work on is streamlining the information and applying some of those ideas I’ve been learning about in Duarte Design’s Slidedocs. Trying to find the balance between a readable, visual document that is also brief enough that students are encouraged to read the content is our challenge. Keeping text large when the instruction sheets are being written by the most verbose woman on the planet (me) is a challenge Justin is taking on head first. One solution we are implementing is creating “splash pages” for our instructions that provide an at a glance view of the activity. The way our learning platform works, student see a basic instruction/description page before they download the actual instructions for an activity. I am confident he will find that balance between readability, succinctness, and visual attractiveness.

PPP Intro Infographic_Page_1

Click on the image to access the full instruction sheet

What are your ideas for shortening a document while maintaining readability? 

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Professional Communication and Presentation Reboot: Opportunities

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Pamela Slim’s Body of Work is amazing; I am only 60 pages in, but I understand why professionals I look up to like Garr Reynolds and Nancy Duarte recommend this book. I cannot wait to integrate its ideas into the course and share Slim’s insights with students! Today, I’ll be working on creating the assignments for the month after finishing Slim’s book. I’m hoping to get down to designing lessons this week and next. Previously, in discussing the upcoming PCP reboot, I covered the challenges the team faces:

  • Challenge #1: The lack of synchronous communication
  • Challenge #2: Understanding and engaging in presentation as a process
  • Challenge #3: Streamlining content
  • Challenge #4: Universalizing the experience for multiple degree programs
  • Challenge #5: Emphasizing the first P in Professional Communication and Presentation

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Now, I’d like to talk about how we are working to turn each challenge into an opportunity for growth and what tools/concepts we’re using to tackle those challenges.

Opportunity #1: Google Hangouts to add synchronicity

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Without synchronous communication with both instructors and classmates, students never really get an understanding of how important rapport and connection are in the presenter/audience relationship. Presenting like you are having a conversation is a real challenge when your conversation is with a little green dot or camera. In order to add a bit more synchronicity to the course (in addition to weekly GoTo Trainings), students will now meet for two Google Hangouts in small teams. The purpose of these Google Hangouts is three fold. Firstly, students will be able to engage in self-analysis of their progress on the major course project, considering their strengths and areas of growth. Secondly, students will have a chance to communicate live with their peers, collaborating on project revisions and improvements. Finally, through this medium, students will have a chance to practice delivery and execution while completing fun improv exercises.

Opportunity #2: Using self-analysis and peer-analysis to reinforce process

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Currently, students engage in a bit of self-reflection in weeks 1 and 4 of PCP. First, they consider their goals, challenges, and pitch topics for a persuasive presentation. Then, in week 4, they complete a revision worksheet that includes a reflection on advice portion. Students consider the feedback they’ve received, the amount of time they’ve devoted to the project, and the time they’ll need to finalize the presentation. Peer analysis comes in the form of asynchronous discussion response posts. In the reboot, this will change a bit to include self-analysis and peer-analysis in the Google Hangout sessions. Another way we are working to make asynchronous discussions richer and more collaborative is to ask students to now videotape their responses to one another on discussion boards as opposed to asking them to write these responses out. From Alex Rister’s experience in public speaking online, videotaped responses generate stronger and more applicable feedback. Finally, self and peer analysis will help reinforce that presenting involves a systematic process of creating, designing, critiquing, and delivering.

Opportunity #3: Placing more emphasis on GoTo Training lessons

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Weekly GoTo Training lessons are currently used to reinforce the week’s lesson and activity concepts as well as cover some of the pitfalls of completing work in the course. This, however, means that they are not really used to their greatest potential–as a means of recreating the much more effective live class session, where in students are engaged in activities that reinforce what they learn via the course text and brief class lectures. In the new iteration of PCP, these live sessions will be the primary mode of instruction, with video and text lessons serving as supplements. Whereas currently students would teach themselves what a brand mantra is by studying an article by Megan Mars and watching a video on the subject, students will now learn this concept in a live class session where they can ask questions, get immediate feedback for their mantras, and collaborate with others to better understand and apply this technique. Without attending or watching the archive of a GoTo session, students will not be able to learn the concept as successfully.

Opportunity #4: Focusing on what students want to learn

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It’s been a difficult though enlightening transition from gen ed class for business students only to gen ed class for a variety of business, creative, and technical programs. Our challenge in teaching this many different types of students how to present online in one month was finding common ground, either skills-based or thematic, that would allow all students to engage with the content, their classmates, and the place of their new skills set in their professional futures. Currently, while a persuasive presentation on a non-industry related subject helps students apply their skills to a persuasive presentation delivered with visuals, the students didn’t always seem to see how this skill would fit into their careers. This made the PCP team cringe–what could be more important than learning how to effectively communicate and present your vision to others!? What we had to acknowledge was that finding a subject all students want to learn more about and also focusing their major project on something that would be immediately relevant was more important than learning presentation skills in general. What is the goal of each of our students in earning a degree? To propel themselves to professional success! This desire to grow professionally became our common ground. This leads us to the the most exciting opportunity of this reboot–the Professional Persona Project!

Opportunity #5: The Professional Persona Project

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Pamela Slim believes that a body of work is baed on the connective thread between a professional’s experiences (Source). It’s not about distinct experiences working in a vacuum; it’s about the big themes that connect all of the work you do or will do. The Professional Persona Project is an opportunity for students to consider their development and growth as professionals so far, where they see themselves going as future professionals, and how they can better communicate their unique skills as professionals in a specific field to a target audience (individual, company, or specific facet of their industry).  In this project, students will be analyzing their skills, assets, qualities, and abilities as a professional (assets). They will then consider their aspirations and goals as professionals. Finally, they will analyze the market realities in their chosen field. They will then present this information through a set of visuals and an elevator pitch. The Professional Persona Project is a showcase of what students have learned so far; work they’ve done in and out of school; and their qualities and skills (work ethic, technical abilities, communication/presenting skills, teamwork, etc.). The goal is for them to recognize their own strengths and to highlight those strengths by presenting them in an engaging, professional, and visually-driven way.

Tune in next week to learn more about the new course structure!

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From Creating Communication: Duarte and Reynolds Inspire Another Class Overhaul

Check out Alex’s post on the Professional Communication and Presentation reboot I referred to earlier last week. Tomorrow, look for my post highlighting the five challenges we face in restructuring the course in 2014.

Creating Communication

Always interested in a good reading list, I was excited to see Garr Reynolds’ “10 Books for the 21st Century Presenter, Storyteller.”  His recommendations couldn’t have come at a more perfect time for my superteacher BFF, Chiara Ojeda, and for me.  As I mentioned earlier this week, an issue Chiara and I face is differentiating Public Speaking (our basic, freshman-level class) with Professional Communication and Presentation (our advanced, junior-level course).

With a recent overhaul of our Public Speaking online course and a focus on developing a new syllabus for the campus course, PSP is looking and feeling more solid in 2014 than it has in years.  Chiara and I decided to focus PCP both on campus and online on a visual resume project called the Professional Persona Project.  Presentation will be a major component of the course, still, but there will be even more of an emphasis on developing…

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Course introduction infographic

As I talked about in July, I’ve been working on building my infographic muscles. One project I’ve been involved in is an infographic to serve as a quick view version of the video and text course introduction our online students begin their month in Professional Communication and Presentation with. I used what I learned about designing an infographic to develop this deliverable. This isn’t a final version, as I still have a bit more tweaking to do, but I am stoked to share what I’ve done so far with you!


Color, Type, and Layout

One of my goals in creating this infographic was to maintain the overall look of other course materials. The course introduction for PCP was created by Alex Rister, so I drew my inspiration from her design. Alex previously shared her presentation with readers. Check out a version of the deck below:

This meant focusing on a simple color palette of orange, black, white, and grey, and two typefaces, Blackjack and League Gothic Caps. I appreciate the simplicity and cohesion of Alex’s design for our intro slides, and it translated very easily to the infographic form.

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In addition to considering color and type, I also worked to help students interact with and process the infographic by creating flow and organization through a left to right, top to bottom hierarchy and the use of lines and color to create segments.


Because I want this to be a document that is quickly processed, I chose to use icons from The Noun Project as well as simple shapes and diagrams to communicate the core ideas presented in the infographic. My favorite? It has to be the robot!

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What do you think of this latest project? I am definitely in the revision phase of Duarte’s presentation ecosystem, and am open to suggestions. What projects have you been working on lately? How have you been building your presentation muscles?

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November’s Outstanding Visual Resume

In an effort to promote the benefits of the visual resume as a worthy project for professionals in any field to take on (remember, this doesn’t and shouldn’t replace an actual resume), I am going to showcase a super student visual resume example each month. This month’s selection comes from Nick Weymouth, a student in this month’s Professional Communication and Presentation course. Nick does an impeccable job of designing this deck, and he conveys his story and unique point of view as a professional.

As I work to refine this project in the course, which began as a self-reflection project on the student’s month-long journey into public speaking, I look to find ways to adapt the approach to different professions. I am cooking up a survey to help me answer some core questions about the practical usability and adaptability of the project. So far, a few questions to consider are:

What has the response to your visual resume been so far? Do you feel the project represents you? What is the best means of delivering a visual resume? How much is too much in a visual resume? Is a movie stronger than a deck of slides?

I leave you with Visualizing Resumes 2.0, a work in progress deck I use in a visual resume workshop for teachers.

Do you have a visual resume? If not, what would your visual resume include?

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Storyboarding a Pecha Kucha

Monday marked presentation day in Professional Communication and Presentation. I had high hopes, primarily because Alex has worked so hard to develop these students’ delivery and engagement skills, and because their topics were overall fascinating. I was not disappointed. This was by far the best bunch of PechaKuchas in recent memory…perhaps even since I introduced this subject in class. This makes me question whether this class should not consistently be taught by both Alex and myself. She brings something to the table I often forget–application. I tackled application in class last week during our discussion of arranging and organizing a PK by discussing and then facilitating an in-class storyboarding session.

This post is a bit backward, as I previously discussed how to rehearse for a PK, but I tend to adapt and adjust based on the circumstance, and I think being in the place of observer as opposed to teacher this month has helped me see what sorts of revisions my own heavily-cerebral, theory-based approach to public speaking needs to become the dynamic experience that Alex Rister brought to this month’s students. I’ve used storyboarding in class as a means of organizing this presentation since discovering Felix Jung’s guide on Avoision.com (yes, I know, I’ve mentioned it before–but it rules! If you are planning on presenting a PK–read this guide!).  Each month, students are required to ditch the traditional outline in favor of a storyboard, which usually follows the format below (which is three Power Point slides, set to print at 3 slides per page). Students use these sheets to help them develop an analog plan for their slides.

Want a quick and easy storyboarding sheet? Create 3 blank slides in Power Point. Then, print the slides in 3 per page handout format.

Not only does storyboarding provide a more well-rounded learning experience (kinesthetic, visual, auditory–they have to talk me through their storyboards), but it also serves as a much more worthwhile tool when it comes to visual design.  One challenge for novice slide tweakers is the concept of thinking in visual metaphors. Finding that impacting image in a site like Flickr (do you use Compfight.com to search through Flickr? No? Seriously–do it. It’s the easiest way to search through thousands of creative commons Flickr images. Do it!) takes conceptual thinking, to find an image of academic integrity, one cannot look for that term and expect magic results as one would get from conducting a search on a stock image website like istockphoto.

While I love Flickr's users and their bounty of Creative Commons images, to get to that content, I have to run a regular search, then an advanced search. Results for the same search term a few minutes apart generate completely different results, sometimes unusable or irrelevant images are included.

Stock images are images that are purposely shot to convey a concept or idea. However, Flickr is not a typical image repository. It is instead a collection of user-generated images, some of which are done by professionals, some of which are done by amateurs. One must search for concepts and visual representations of abstract ideas like academic integrity, for instance, a diploma, a graduate, an A+ (hint–do a search for the term in a stock image website and see what the results are. Then, return to Compfight and run a search for the concrete results you see in the stock image website.

Much better--all Creative Commons content, all sizes available via a quick preview glance, and the results are much more relevant to the term. I ❤ Compfight!

Why Compfight, you ask? While I love Flickr, I am not so in love with it’s search engine, which leaves me frustrated and confused. I was introduced to Compfight a year ago by a colleague and I now cannot live without it. I love it so much that the days when Compfight is down are dark days, desolate tweakless days.

Storyboarding a Pecha Kucha requires that the presenter take the same basic concepts that govern organizing a speech and adapt them to the pk format of 20 images x 20 seconds. In an effort to aid presenters aka amazing students (and hopefully in February Alex!) in creating a solid pk structure, I’ve developed, with a bit of help from Felix Jung, a short how to:

First, as Jung suggests, break your talk up in to sets.

Like small cupcakes, the sets in a Pecha Kucha should be delectable, satisfying bites of well structured content.

Keep it simple; break up your speech into three recognizable chunks:

Think about coordinating your presentation via recognizable ideas. In this case, Reeses' Pieces colors serve to remind me of what will go where.

Now, give each of those segments a number of slides.

Thinking about your speech as one long chain of connected ideas as opposed to a disparate series of chunks will help you see how these 20 second increments will work together.

Felix Jung found that 4 was a pretty good number to work with.

  1. Opening (4 slides)
  2. Body 1 (4 slides)
  3. Body 2 (4 slides)
  4. Body 3 (4 slides)
  5. Closing (4 slides)

Make these segments flexible—you might need five slides for your opening; you might only need three for one idea. Be flexible and keep the ideas simple. You can only reasonably speak 100-150 words per minute, or 33 words every 20 seconds.

Pecha Kuchas are about removing content, not adding it. Focus on what you know and what will help you prove your point and convince your audience.

Now, take each segment and write down one idea per slide that is related to your topic. These can be specific ideas or just things you know you need to include, like “thesis” and “PUNCH/opening.”

What you title each segment is up to you. Use the blank lines on your storyboard to title each segment. The blank slide to the left will work as the content placeholder or drawing of content you will place on a slide.

What you title each segment is up to you. Use the blank lines on your storyboard to title each segment. The blank slide to the left will work as the content placeholder or drawing of content you will place on a slide.

Now, in the blank space, include visual cues; you can draw these or write them out. Tie the visual cue to the big idea you are covering in the slide. You can create a separate outline for specific content or use the presenter notes feature to keep track of specific content for a specific slide.

Finally, transfer your storyboard into your slides. Create 20 slides, add your big idea, and start adding the content information from your outline and your visual cues into the presenter notes section in Keynote or Power Point.

The next post will cover a few different ways you can adapt this chunking pattern to several successful organizational patterns of persuasion including an adaptation of Nancy Duarte’s sparkline and Monroe’s motivated sequence.


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