Tag Archives: revision

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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Tweaks of the week: pushing design beyond images and embracing the acronym

Last week was incredibly productive although exhausting. Some of this exhaustion is self-induced: I’ve hit an incredible creative streak and I want to let this tweak take me to places previously unexplored. I finally feel like I am designing, as opposed to just scratching the surface of presentation design. I happy to report that I’ve made significant strides with several major projects:

1. Revamped part one of the Storytelling as a Presentation Tool deck (still working on a new title)

One way I've begun pushing my design is to rely less on images and text as the primary means of conveying ideas.

One way I’ve begun pushing my design is to rely less on images and text as the primary means of conveying ideas.

  • Added a diagram of Freytag’s pyramid and Syd Field’s paradigm.
  • A diagram of the hero’s cycle is next

2. Completely overhauled the delivery lesson. It’s new title (an agonizing process, choosing this name) is REAL Delivery. Many of my mentors and sources of inspiration use the acronym as a way to help audiences remember key ideas. So, after some painstaking work with Alex Rister, I landed on REAL delivery in a flash of tweak inspiration. REAL delivery is:




Lasting Impression

Real Delivery is the deck that will likely take the longest as I look for ways to combine Garr Reynolds' Naked Presenter with Nancy Duarte, Malcolm Gladwell, and Nick Morgan

Real Delivery is the deck that will likely take the longest as I look for ways to combine Garr Reynolds’ Naked Presenter with Nancy Duarte, Malcolm Gladwell, and Nick Morgan

3. Finally, and most exhaustively, I revised my entire visual design lesson and reduced the material from nine tips to 6 basic principles I coin SIMPLE Design:

Simplicity takes work

Ideally, one idea per slide

Make unity a priority

Pictures are superior

Lose the signal, lose the audience

Eliminate fluff

In Simple Design, I'll cover the basics of presentation design as well as revealing some important lessons I've learned along the way.

In Simple Design, I’ll cover the basics of presentation design as well as revealing some important lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Incidentally, this deck saw the death of the Venn diagram as a permitted diagram in my decks. I really need to find a new visualization….

These decks are still a few weeks away from show ready, and I’d like to spend a bit of time blogging about aspects of each that warrant further expansion beyond the visual medium. 2013 is the year of the tweak!

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Build your presentation design muscle

You’ve studied presentation design, created beautiful new presentations, and learned the ins and outs of your presentation software. What’s next? How do you grow and exercise those new design skills?

Revising a Bulleted List

One great way to do this is to revise older versions of decks you’ve abandoned for the cinematic approach to presentation design. I have several hundred presentations and versions of presentations scattered throughout two hardrives and cyberspace. I could dump these old versions or engage in nostalgic  “remember when I used the ‘dancing delivery boy’ animated gif in my presentation delivery lesson?” sessions. Instead, I like to try out new techniques, typefaces, images, and design styles and continue building on the foundational principles of design by revising these decks. Revising slidedecks full of template-driven lists of bullets, clip art, and frenetic animation takes attention to just a few basic design ideas:

  1. Less is More (From Presentation Zen Design)
  2. One Idea per Slide (From Slide:ology)
  3. Picture Superiority (From Brain Rules)

Let’s take this slide for example:


By remembering that an extra slide costs nothing, that less clutter actually means more design work, and that each slide can convey one simple idea best when paired with an image, you can expand one slide of bullets into several well designed aspects of one visual story. Here is a simple process to follow (process adapted from Nancy Duarte’s Slide:ology):

1. Examine your original slide and remove the clip art–no one connects to cheesy clip art. Highlight the key idea in each slide. This key idea will be the basis for each of the rest of your slide.

Choosing what is or isn't important in a sentence isn't easy. Ask yourself, what word can describe the subject of the sentence? This answer is your starting point to shortening your bullet.

Choosing what is or isn’t important in a sentence isn’t easy. Ask yourself, what word can describe the subject of the sentence? This answer is your starting point to shortening your bullet.

2. Design a slide for each bullet/highlighted pair. In this example, I’ve chosen to amplify the farmer’s market theme by using three typefaces I purchased from the Lost Type Co-Op, Ribbon by Dan Gneiding, Edmond Sans by James T. Edmondson, and Highlands by Tyler Galpin. I chose 4 core colors and chose imagery that I could adapt to the color scheme and theme. See the finished product below.

The title slide for this revision presentation sets the tone for the rest of the deck.

The title slide for this revision presentation sets the tone for the rest of the deck.

In order for the new deck to make sense, the second bullet should actually become the introduction in the revision.

In order for the new deck to make sense, the second bullet should actually become the introduction in the revision.




The previous example is one I created for class. However, I want to share with you an example of a slide from one of my previous decks on Universal Constructivism to show you that theory can truly be put into practice:










Try revising one or more of your bullet-driven slides to build up your presentation “guns.” And remember….


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Early New Years Resolution: Tweak Nonfunctional Slides

I’m always looking for new projects to tweak. Ideally, I’d like to devote my time to non-education tweaks; I’d love to show that my abilities extend beyond lecture-based materials. But, those projects are hard to come by for someone who spends 23.5 hours a day working in education. I decided to take a look through my older decks (some a good six years old, from my days teaching English and humanities at Valencia College); I realized they were all in serious need of tweaking. Despite spending hours poring through material and searching for pictures, this is what I tortured my students with:

The ubiquitous title slide; the standard bullet-riddled overkill.

Pictures are clearly secondary here. The content is still most important--but what's the point of the slide during a lecture? Is it a note taking tool? A teleprompter?

I probably stopped paying attention by this point too.

To begin with, I started looking for a set of slides I’d created in Latin American humanities that I thought would be great to integrate into my class. The deck dealt with the elements and principles of art, which I briefly covered at the beginning of the course’s unit on visual art. The slides were meant to serve as a crash course in analyzing how a piece of art is constructed. Well, I looked for hours through my completely disorganized Mac, only to discover that the file was indeed gone. I admit that part of my desire to start with that deck was that it was a hundred times better than what you see above, so I thought my job would be easier. Slides or no, I think the elements of art is a good place to start, so the next few series of posts will feature the deck as it develops.  Definitions and descriptions come from the J. Paul Getty Museum‘s excellent education section.

The elements of art are: line, shape and form, color, texture, and space.

Let’s begin with line, the most basic structure of artistic expression.

Line is at its simplest the visualization of an objects trajectory through space. Line can create emotion, movement, and energy. Lines can also be grouped to create shapes, and to create perspective or the illusion of 3 dimensions on a 2 dimensional surface.

Monet in Sunset On the Seine in Winter uses horizontal lines to create a sense of depth and distance.

The use of vertical lines by Monet here indicates action, energy. Vertical lines are the domain of objects in motion. Note how horizontal lines here are used to give further depth to the landscape.

The intersection of horizontal and vertical lines creates shape.

Piet Mondrian is one of my favorites; his simple use of line creates structure and solidity combined with a vibrant energy.

Christina's World by Wyeth uses diagonal lines to create a sense of movement and to draw the eye to a particular focal point. The line of Christina's body, which is broken, unable to move on its own, indicates desire and longing.

Photographer Eugene Atget used curved lines to create an anthropomorphic composition in this photograph.

Consider line in your choice of images and your integration of text with these images. Consider images with horizontal lines to help indicate rest or repose; use images with vertical lines and vertical figures to convey action. Combine horizontal and vertical lines (and use clear grids) to create structure. Diagonal lines are lines in motion–use them to move your audience towards action, towards a conclusion. Curved lines are sensual and attractive. Use them to attract your audience to your core message.

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