Tag Archives: technology

Slides Don’t Matter

At least not as much as we think…

June marked my last month teaching the current campus iteration of PCP. In July, Alex Rister will be tackling the new iteration on campus; and in August, the new online course launches. The focus of the reboots as I’ve discussed before is on helping students develop a personal and professional brand. The courses minimizes the focus on visual design and slides and places more emphasis on process, strong content, and natural delivery. Why this shift? Well, frankly, it’s because slides don’t matter. That’s right–this is me, the presentation designer and Slideshare.net contributor telling you slides don’t matter, at least not as much as what’s at the core of the 21st century model of presenting–conversation, connection, and engagement. Slides and technology, regardless of how flashy, beautifully designed, interesting, or relevant just aren’t a substitute for consistent and thorough preparation, impacting content, and engaging delivery.

What do when our technology fails or our slides don’t function the way they did on our screens? Most of us freak out, begin an elaborate struggle with the computer, and create an awkward waiting period for our audiences while we set that technology right. My students and their teachers often reduce what they learn in PCP to “making better slides,” but this disregards the most important lesson I hope my students learn–that detaching from technology as a crutch or replacement for preparation and engagement is what will ultimately lead them to not only learn when or how to use slides properly but also learn that sometimes, it’s best to go without. To help illustrate, I’ll share with you this brief but excellent talk from Improv Everywhere, “A TED Speaker’s Worst Nightmare.” This talk, while in reality an elaborate part flash mob, part improv, part prank performance, illustrates just what can happen when we rely too much on technology and a flashy concept and not enough on solid content and connection.

What do you think? Do slides matter? How can we use slides responsibly and ensure they don’t overwhelm or derail our talks?

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Animation with a Purpose: Jakob Jochmann’s The Fight For Better Presentations

Former student and slide swag superstar, Zachary Peterson shared today’s awesome example of animation with a purpose with me during our recent conversation about pushing Keynote to the very limits of animation awesomeness. I hesitated when he uttered the “Scarlet Letter” because often, presenters overuse animation. My hesitance for animation extends to my own presentations. I rarely use animation or transitions, and have really only skimmed the surface of what Keynote can do. I get serious animation anxiety! Well, I did until watching Jakob Jochmann’s The Fight for Better Presentations. Jakob developed this entire video using Keynote, editing only the music and tempo/pace in iMovie. As someone who only uses Keynote to develop her presentations, I appreciate Jochmann’s approach. But, as someone who believes in the power of a great presentation, I am even more impressed by Jochmann’s purpose–to support the cause for great presentations, for strong communication.  Check out Jochmann’s video below and if you are like me and must know how this is done, Jakob has made the source file for the presentation available for download. Joy!

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Deck of the Day: The 9 Criteria for Brand Essence

December marks the end of the school year at Full Sail University. I could not be more ready for the three week break, which will be filled with posting back-logged articles I’ve had to start and stop several times due to work projects and a demanding on campus and online course load. I also cannot wait to bring back my yearly Christmas cookie posts, spend time with family, and actually take a small break to read. I. Am. So. Ready!

But, before break begins next week, I have a new round of Slideshare analyses to grade. In my class, Professional Communication and Presentation, we devote some time to the discussion of branding and a presentation’s role in creating or conveying a brand. When we discuss the visual resume project, we come back to the idea of brand by creating what Megan Marrs calls a “brand mantra”, a statement that conveys who you are as a professional and what you have to offer. Recently, Alex Rister discussed the connection between storytelling and brand–brand is the story of a company, service, or individual. Brand can also be equated with Aristotle’s concept of ethos, the appeal that prepares the audience to deem a speaker as either worth listening to or not. Ethos is about perception, as brand is about perception.

Today’s deck speaks to this idea. Kirk Phillips, in “The 9 Criteria for Brand Essence”, defines brand as “a product, service, cause or organization with perceived intangible attributes.” In other words, in order for a strong brand to be successful, it must cause consumers to feel the intangible (hope, fear, love, freedom, exhilaration, self-actualization) through the tangible (product, service, cause, organization). Phillips supports his viewpoint by referencing feelings we associate with major brands (for instance, FedEx inspires a feeling of security; Disney offers a magical experience). He furthermore states that a brand with no intangible attributes or differentiating factors is essentially just commodity.

For Phillips, strong brands begin with strong brand essence, a “single intangible attribute” (or mantra, promise, story, principal, etc.). It is brand essence “that differentiates the brand from competitive brands” (Phillips).

After his explanation of brand, Phillips identifies the nine essentials of a strong brand:

  1. Unique (How different is it from the competition?)
  2. Intangible (Does it make people feel feelings?)
  3. Single-minded (Can it be described in one word?)
  4. Experiential (Does the essence match up with the audience’s experience?)
  5. Meaningful (Does it matter to the audience?)
  6. Consistently delivered (Does it change from user to user, experience to experience?)
  7. Authentic (Is it credible?)
  8. Sustainable (Does it EVER change? Hint: the answer is no)
  9. Scalable (Can the brand grow and expand?)

This got me thinking about how I can reinforce the importance of strong personal brand for students (and soon faculty, as I took on the task of showing my department how to create a CV using WordPress)–to be successful, you must create those moments when your audience perceives the intangible, when your audience feels you have a place in their hearts and minds. Phillips furthermore connects presentations to brand via the use of touchpoints, places in which the brand interacts with the consumer. Considering how little time we devote to presentations, is it really surprising when our audiences aren’t moved by our ideas?

The deck is well-designed and cleanly organized, illustrating strong unity through color and type. I am not a fan of the company name on every slide, but this is a minor detriment. Most of the deck was easy to process, and the slides implemented the 3-second glance media rule and picture superiority effect. The deck gets noisier as it goes along and once the 9 criteria are introduced, there’s more reliance on text alone to convey ideas. So, at times, I felt the information could have been broken up over more slides, but considering the importance of contrasting strong brand vs. commodity and method of delivery (this is more of a pdf asset to digest carefully), it makes sense that the information was presented in this way.

Take a moment to check out today’s deck below.

What is your brand mantra? What is your intangible attribute? Does it truly differentiate you from others?

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