If I had a dollar for every time a presenter has said “I know you can’t really see what’s on this slide but …” or “I know this is really small but …” I would be someone with a whole lot of dollars.
Think about it, if you know it’s too small, too crowded, too blurry, too whatever, then why are you showing it to me? If you were sending someone a letter in the mail and the printer was running out of toner, you wouldn’t call and say I sent you a letter but I know you can’t read the last part because my toner ran out.
Now I know some will say, “well they aren’t my slides.” Well, guess what. They are your slides if you are the one presenting the information. Be clever. As Tim Gunn would advise: “Make it work.”
If it’s just one or two slides, can you hide them or skip over them? And by skip over I don’t mean just click through them so they blur by. Can you make a better version of the slide, try it out and then report back the experience and maybe get the “master” slide deck changed. Can you explain it in a way that doesn’t sound like you are apologizing for it? Maybe there is a good reason for the slide.
Bottom line: If you tell me you know the slide sucks, then you are just re-enforcing the idea that it sucks. And I don’t want you to suck. I want you to share the content you have in a way that is impactful, engaging, entertaining, inspiring, informative … (pick at least three).
Dr. Arthur Kohn and Ty Marbut recently presented a webinar entitled “Booster Your Learning” which focused on overcoming some of the forgetting that will happen in the hours, days, and months following a training event. You can get an idea of the overall presentation by checking out The Science of Booster.
Ulitimately the learner has to use the new knowledge or skill or it will be gone but you can help them along by giving them booster shots to reactivate the memory. A couple of days after the class you can send an email with a question or a poll or give them a chance to collaborate with others. Then they need another booster within two weeks.
You want to give the brain as many times to retrieve the information as possible in order to strengthen the connections. The brain is overwhelmed with information each second of the day and has adapted to “forget” most of it, so you have to help it remember the important stuff.
Another interesting aspect of the presentation was about the Spreading Activation Model of Memory. Each piece of information we encounter may trigger other connections in the brain. In the session, for instance, they read off a list of 15 words and then asks participants to write down as many of them as they could remember. One of the words was “switch” which could have triggered connections to things like change, light, cow, twig and so on. These are not necessarily conscious connections.
This was proven when one-third of the participants said they remembered hearing the word “light.” But it wasn’t on the list. What was on the list were a number of words for which “light” was a trigger. Words like bulb, bright, diet, florescent, and feather were on the list, among others. Basically the word “light” was planted in the brain without the word ever being used.
This has several implications for any type of communications you are participating in, whether for learning, business, entertainment, or personal. Words matter to the brain. They affect what a person remembers, whether it happened or not.
Another study that made this point is recounted in Susan Weinschenk’s 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People. The study by Elizabeth Loftus in the 1970s consisted of participants watching a video of a traffic accident and then being asked questions about the accident. If the interviewer said something like “when the car smashing into” versus “when the car hit,” participants were twice as likely to remember broken glass and estimated the car was traveling at a higher speed if it “smashed into” rather than “hit” something.
So the next time you want someone to remember something, think about the words you are using. The brain will fill in the story. It will fill in the gaps. Using the right words you can help it fill in the ones that communicate the message you are trying to share and not just the one the other person puts together in their head … if they remember it at all.
So how many sentences are there in the title of this post? One. Buzz. Nope. Try again.
It’s actually seven. It is seven completely different sentences depending upon which word you put the stress or accent on. (OK, maybe really six since there is the article “The” in it.) Try it. Say it out loud stressing first the “I” then the “Never” and so on. Sure the sentence remains one about some female and some money that is gone but the meaning of the sentence varies significantly with how you read it. What message are you sending and what message do you mean to send. Are you paying attention to how you are saying things.
There is more to communication than just the words. When I was a kid, and especially as I entered my teen years, I can remember my mom saying: “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.” Apparently as a teen I had a bit of a tone in my voice. Go figure. :) Of course, my mom had a tone when she hit me with the oft-quoted phrase. And, as usual, mom was right. It is a lot about tone. And tone doesn’t translate to text so well which is one reason we use emoticons to try and fill in the tonal quality and try to ensure that our joking comment came across as such.
So did you mean to say she stole the money or not?
Weeks ago I wrote about the idea of Spare Diamonds which are resources you have to help you reach a goal that are outside of the usually considered resources such as time and money. These types of resources, along with things like people and equipment fall into the category of hard resources.
Today, while reading Phil Geldart’s The Seven Cornerstones of Teamwork, I came across another type of resources which I really love — soft resources. “These include ideas, passion, determination to persevere, courage to challenge, and innovation.” I think this hits on a key challenge that people and teams have which is the loss of momentum and struggle with stamina.
We get very excited when we start something new. We gather our resources and set out to conquer the task at hand. But then reality and life and the day-to-day struggles set in and hard resources, or even the addition of more of them, is rarely sufficient to get things back on track or to jump-start progress. It is intangibles, or soft resources that are brought to bear over the long haul.
So when you are taking inventory of your resources, you may want to make sure that all the diamond bins are full — the spare, the hard, and the soft.
I’ve come across a couple of references to Robert Kelley’s 20 year study of knowledge workers in which he asked them “What percentage of the knowledge you need to do your job is stored in your own mind? Back in 1986 that number was at 75%. By 1997 it had plummeted to 15-20% and by 2006 it continued to slide down to 8-10%.
Obviously the vast changes in technology over that time period had account for the shift from knowing something to knowing where to find or who knows something we need to know. But I’m not sure that we are really being mindful of the implications of this. Have we adjusted processes and expectations? Shifted responsibility for maintaining skills, for instance. What about adjusting learning opportunities? Do you still orient people the same way? Have our expectations about learning changed? Has the outsourcing achieved benefits in efficiency? Innovation? Creativity? Just lots of questions to ponder at this point.
I know a number of people, as I suspect we all do, who are currently looking for jobs. And I have received emails or seen posts on their social media pages asking for help with preparing. What types of questions should the interviewee be prepared to answer. But perhaps not as much, if any, of the time is being spent considering what questions they should be asking as the interviewee.
Interviews are a two-way conversation … or at least they should be. This part is really hard for people, particularly those interviewing from a place of unemployment. They really want a job and are so focused on getting it that they overlook the fact that they need to ensure they and the company are a good match. They may limit their questions to things like benefits, which, while important, are not the only things that you would really want to know about if you had the time and piece of mind to think about it.
Marc Cenedella from The Ladders posts, and updates, a list of 20 questions you need to ask. Click through for the full list, but even just considering the following few will get you started:
What’s the biggest change your group has gone through in the last year?
What type of people are successful here? What type of people are not?
What’s one thing that’s key to this company’s success that somebody from outside the company wouldn’t know about?
How did you get your start in this industry? Why do you stay?
I attended a webinar recently where the presenter did something pretty clever. Instead on an agenda slide … yawn … he put up a slide that had an acronym spelled out vertically. Ooooh, so it’s five letters. I’m curious.
He asked us to write down the five letters so we could fill in the words in our notes as he went through the content. Clever. Not only do I now know, without him having to say anything, that there are five key points but I have a basic progress bar as we move along. And bonus points for the call to action of having me interact by writing something down.
Now I’m invested. I can’t leave those letters hanging out by themselves. I need to pay attention and complete the puzzle. Of course, he still had to provide relevant, interesting, and engaging content, but the acronym agenda was a nice technique.
Then why are all of your words on your slides?
This past weekend I spent time at the Engadget Expand NY conference. All around the venue they had large screens with social media feeds using Tagboard's platform which gathers up content from Twitter, Instagram, Vine, App.net, Facebook, and Google+ based on hashtags.
I also got a chance to hear Tagboard’s founder and CEO Joshua Decker speak about hashtags. I passed along several of his tips but for those here who don’t follow me there in the Twitterverse I thought I’d give you a recap of a few key issues. Oh, and just because I mentioned Twitter, remember that hashtags can be used elsewhere.
First, if you aren’t already using hashtags … start. Decker referred to hashtags and glue of social media. They are certainly one of the key ways to find what you need. Imagine looking a word up in the dictionary if it weren’t categorized and alphabetized, it would be millions of entries with no way to find what you need.
That does not mean, however that you should just tack on as many hashtags as you can fit. The point is to help people by creating a beacon or signal not just adding to the noise. If you are really clever you can even embed the hashtag into the tweet, thereby saving characters and creating a more cohesive experience. Hashtags should add to the value of the content and not just add characters.
Finally, in many things in communication and persuasion three may be the magic number, but with hashtags, three or more actually become counterproductive. Tweets with one or two hashtags have 21% higher engagement than those with more tags than that. Of course, this presumes concise, relevant tags and not #icanstringtogetheranybunchofwordstobeclever type tags.
Takeaway tweet (in precisely 140 characters):
Hashtag 101 from @valarywithawhy Use them selectively & purposefully; no more than 2; embed if possible; create signal not noise; add value