Tag Archives: TED

A Vision of the Future for Teachers and Leaders

If you are a faithful Tweak Your Slides reader, you know that one of my favorite people is Pamela Slim, guru, author, and TED speaker. Slim advises those who want to “escape cubicle nation”and those who wish to connect the disparate threads of experience to help create a cohesive and impacting body of work, and helps them find a way to take success and their future into their own hand. Upon first studying works like Escape from Cubicle Nation and Body of Work, it seems that Slim’s focus is on experienced workers, those who have been in the workforce for years and are looking for a way to put their experience to different use or who want to pursue their “side hustles.” But, today’s TED Talk shows us that Pam’s mission to change her clients’, readers’, and the world’s vision of success extends to the group she sees as the most important in helping us recover economically–our youth. In her TEDxPhoenix talk, Slim shares several stories of young people who show strength, perseverance, and bravery in the face of a tumultuous world. These young people presented through the framework of Slim’s powerful storytelling can remind teachers and leaders of what our true role is in educating others: we are guides, encouragers, mentors who help others unlock hidden potential that can and will change the world.

Pain is Power

Among these remarkable folks is Amanda Wang, a graphic designer who brings awareness to bipolar disorder by sharing her journey to train for the Golden Gloves with audiences; Amanda uses her pain, her “weaknesses” to empower herself and empower others. In a world with constantly shifting ideas, ideologies, power structures, work modes, etc. the ability to harness pain into power is remarkably important.

A Free Mind Creates Economic Freedom

Another impacting story Slim shares is the story of Willie Jackson, who left a traditional corporate career to help others jumpstart their creative endeavors through building WordPress sites. For Willie, the traditional work mode and traditional definition of success were not enough to make him happy. His willingness to use his talents to help others freed him.

We need to stop telling our young people to spend 40 years creating spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides that have no meaning.

Beauty is a Universal Constant

Slim then shares the story of Avery, a young Navajo man, who traverses two worlds–the world of his native culture and the world surrounding it in Phoenix, Arizona. Avery uses art to communicate his perspective and the perspectives of other natives in a unique way. He gives voice to experiences most of us would otherwise know nothing about, and empowers others to share their experiences. For Slim, Avery is representative of the potential future of contemporary native people. He will grow to be a leader and guide to future generations, including her children.

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As teachers and leaders, it’s up to us to keep this idea as an important focus. Yes, generations have different concerns, different values, different interests, but I think we fall into the “what’s wrong with young people today?” way of thinking far too often and far too quickly. If we see potential in every one of our students, they will live up to that potential. I will be leaving my current position and subject matter with corporate education to return to a learning-centered college in the Fall (the same one I left almost six years ago). I brought with me the principles of learner-centered education, and I learned more than I can say about teaching, leadership, and design as a course director of Professional Communication and Presentation. I will return to Valencia College with these new skills, always keeping in mind that my role is to guide, inspire, and motivate the young people who will continue changing our world for the better.

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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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Slidesharer to Follow: Orsolya Nemes

This week’s Slidesharer to Follow is one of my favorite presentation all-starts, Orsolya Nemes. Orsolya first reached out to me several years ago as she was beginning her own journey as a professional presenter. She followed up that reach out by creating several excellent slideshares, which have been featured as “Top Presentation of the Day,” and a TEDxYouthBudapest talk based on her debut deck, “Generation Y.” Orsolya, who runs her own consulting agency, “Y Consulting,” shared the story of how effective presenting helped her communicate the Generation Y perspective in front of a group of young TEDsters. Check out her TEDx talk below as well as my favorite Orsolya deck. Check out all of her work here.

 

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Drew Dudley’s Definition of Leadership

In this week’s consultation with leadership trainer David Morillo, I was reintroduced to Drew Dudley’s short but sweet TED talk, Everyday Leadership. Every person has the potential to be a leader; we tend to either glorify leadership as something unique to a particular set of people (the extroverted, the charismatic, the confident, the powerful) or we define leadership as the state of being in a position of power. Either of these will lead to the right person avoiding a leadership position or the wrong person filling a leadership position. There is nothing more damaging to an organization than not cultivating the leadership abilities of its employees, except perhaps a person in a leadership position who cannot or does not want to cultivate growth and intrinsic motivation in his or her team. So, what is the true definition of leadership? What is the first step in growing one’s leadership? Well, there is no one true definition (that’s what makes it so universal), but we can all agree that great leaders have vision and a true understanding of the “why” or purpose that drives them. For Dudley, the first step in growing leadership comes from the recognition that one small act, something that changes another’s vision of the world is leadership.  Leadership is about those “lollypop” moments. Check out this inspirational talk below!

How do you define leadership? How do you cultivate your skills as a leader?

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Slideshare of the Day: Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo

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The Professional Communication and Presentation reboot is well under way! I bought my copy of Pamela Slim’s Body of Work today and plan on spending the weekend devouring this text. Another book on my must-read list this year is Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo. The TED model of presenting will continue to be a staple of how we discuss delivery in PCP. I’ve talked about the TED commandments before; these are the ten unofficial rules all TEDsters follow and their purpose is to help support TED’s mission, to find amazing people with amazing ideas and then spread them. Gallo’s book uncovers the nine qualities that TEDsters possess. In today’s Slideshare, a promotional tool for Talk Like TED, Gallo breaks down the qualities into three categories that define a successful TED talk: Emotional, Novel, and Memorable. In addition to swooning over the design, I particularly love how Gallo focuses on passion and storytelling as the core elements each TEDster needs to convey and communicate emotion, to help the audience feel what he or she feels about the subject at hand. Check out the rest of the deck below:

 

 

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TEDxOrlandoSalon is back!

Several years ago, my students and I had the opportunity to attend a TEDxOrlandoSalon meeting at a local restaurant, Taste. For the past three years, the TEDxOrlando group, Jenny Casey, Dave Casey, Adora English, and most recently Barbara Shell of Valencia College have been bringing the conversational spirit of TED to the Orlando area via monthly salon meetings as well as an annual TEDx Conference (the first conference was held in 2010 and I was fortunate enough to attend; James Neihouse’s talk had me in tears!).

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Sadly, Taste closed it’s doors in 2013, so the future of TEDxOrlandoSalon was unknown. Barbara Shell and Valencia College have come to the rescue and have agreed to provide a new meeting space for local TEDsters. Meetings will now take place monthly at Valencia College’s West Campus Event Center. The event is free to the public and features folks watching a selection of TED talks (and sometimes live presenters).  This month’s TEDxOrlando Salon will be on Thursday, February 20th from 6-9 pm. Stoked cannot described how I am feeling about the return of TEDxOrlandoSalon! See you there, Orlando TEDsters!

Check out this excellent TEDxOrlando talk by PechaKucha Orlando presenter, teacher, and Orlando Psycho City Roller Derby girl Amy Selikoff, and, visit the TEDxOrlando site for more information and to register for the first session of the new year!

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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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When presentations go wrong, think preparation and grit

Earlier this week, I blogged about what could be described as one of the top ten worst rounds of presentations I’ve witnessed in the five years I’ve taught Professional Communication and Presentation. While the students definitely grasped some aspects of visual design and put a week and a half worth of effort into brainstorming, organizing, designing, and submitting the project, several students produced less than mediocre work (no image sources, nine slides for a 15-30 slide project, super noisy slides), disregarded my advice (and extra credit points) to meet with me or my teaching assistant for a design consultation, and delivered abysmal at worst, forgettable at best “approach explanations” in class. I received this very thoughtful message from Cory Jim of Empowered Presentations. In this response, Cory helped me to ask the types of questions I needed to determine what really happened on presentation day:

…Is the student just going through the motion to get a passing grade? Are they afraid of public speaking. Did they get the right instruction. Did they have enough time. Are they excited to do it. Would they rather do something else instead.

He also gave me some excellent ideas for reframing how I teach the visual resume in class:

There are many many factors that one must take in to consideration such as:

A clear purpose to in fact land a job. How to use keynote/powerpoint effectively. The power of the perfect picture. How to storyboard. How to place fonts. Font Legibility. How to create a color palette. What branding is. What marketing is. A call to action. Engagement. The sales process. Different personalities. How much is too much. Where to emphasis a point. How to stand out. And many more…

I appreciate Cory’s insights, advice, and encouragement. After analyzing the situation further and speaking to several students, I think this comment sums up what happened on presentation day. Despite guidance, in class time, meetings, and reviews, a lack of preparation and drive for excellence led to the class-wide failure.

What I have found is that sometimes one does not have the excellence mentality, drive, passion, and just finishes the project going through the motions just to get it over with. Those are the ones that don’t quite get it (yet). Do we spend the time nurturing them to get better, or do we seek out better talent that is passionate for presentations? We let them go as it is not what they are self motivated to do.

One of the hardest things for me to accept as a teacher is that not everyone will get or care about the power and importance of a strong presentation, not everyone understands without being explicitly forced to that every presentation is high stakes (Duarte 2008). Not everyone, even when his or her grade depends on it, will treat his or her audience as king (Duarte 2009) and put his or her all into preparation and execution. It’s my job as teacher to give students tools, not hold their hands through every step; it’s my job as teacher to trust students to use their critical thinking skills and act autonomously and know that any and every presentation in a presentation class counts!

I could tell from observing presentations later in the class week that several students got this. However, several more still just don’t care. It’s time to let those go and focus on the ones motivated to truly achieve the goals they set at the beginning of the course. Without preparation, a presentation will go poorly–I promise. Without a growth mindset, a life will go poorly–I promise! I’ll leave you with the same inspiration I will draw from as I revise and rework this assignment in the future, Angela Duckworth’s “The key to success, grit”:

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The New TED.com

Today, I got my early access email to the new interface of my favorite place on the web, TED.com. I look forward to exploring the new interface over the next few days. The biggest change so far is to the basic splash page. Currently, this is what visitors to TED.com see:

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The focus here is on allowing users to peruse new talks and talks organized by characteristics (most persuasive, most inspiring, etc.). The new site, however, looks like this:

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So, the focus is now on isolating a trending or new talk and allowing users to find talks related to the subject more easily. The interface has been minimized, from 14 menu options to five categories–watch, read, attend, participate, and about. TED is rolling out the new site in stages, so can’t wait to see what comes next!

What do you think of the new interface so far? TED’s redesign is based on user-generated feedback, so the people have spoken and they seem to crave simplicity!

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TED Talk of the Day: Diana Nyad Finds a Way

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Alex Rister of Creating Communication has been posting a series of articles on the subject of resilience, failure, and success. This theme was echoed today during a consultation with a student who is preparing for her first speech in Professional Communication and Presentation, an analysis of Diana Nyad’s latest TED talk, “Never, ever give up.” If you are not familiar with Nyad, she is the incredible human who swam from Cuba to Florida through 100 miles of shark-infested waters at 60-years old. Her completion of this task was the culmination of a 40-year long dream, her answer to the question “how much life is there left?”

Nyad’s talk is inspiring; it emphasizes the importance of failure and fearlessness as keys to achieving a goal. This is a key mindset shift that every student of presenting and public speaking (even teachers themselves) must make in order to truly grow into the type of communicator who can inspire and move others. The belief that only those who we deem amazing public speakers (Jobs, King, Churchill) have the ability to succeed in a speech situation is what keeps many of us from even trying or tackling a public speaking challenge in the first place. Without a willingness to be vulnerable, to be open to failure, to expect that yes, you will fail at giving an amazing speech or moving others, you will never be able to push and grow and change enough to finally succeed.

But, Nyad teaches us another important lesson related to presenting. Sometimes, even the most impacting and empowering ideas mean nothing unless they are communicated and delivered in a certain way. From her first incredible pause and beautifully vivid description to her honest retelling of the triumphs and trials of her experience, the audience is hooked. Nyad brings her words to life, she empowers the audience not only with her words but also with the way her words meet her audience’s ears. Check out Nyad’s talk below–not only will you learn a bit more about how resilience can help you reach those public speaking, teaching, communicating, designing, or living horizons but you’ll also see just how much power the delivery of an idea can have on that idea’s ability to live.

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