audience drifts off
ten minutes are all you have
reset the timer
Today’s haiku was inspired by something I remember from reading John Medina’s Brain Rules. The brain isn’t going to follow along for long, especially if it finds what it is being presented with boring. The brain is seeking novelty and engagement and after about ten minutes it’s time to mix things up.
But my class is an hour long you say, suddenly feeling dejected. Don’t worry. This doesn’t mean you can’t hold an audience’s or students’ attention for the full hour of a session, it just means you have to reset the time periodically. And the best answer is to find an emotion trigger; give them something relevant they can grab onto. It can be a story, a short video, an activity, changing up with the appearance of the slides, or anything that is relevant to them.
If you want to read more about Brain Rules, check out the website. For a quick overview of information from the book, Garr Reynolds did a “presentation (of sorts)” on SlideShare that is definitely worth checking out.
"A good plan is like a road map: it shows the final destination and usually the best way to get there." ~ H. Stanley Judd
There are a lot of important words in that quote that apply to presenting as well. Planning is crucial to any successful presentation. More time should be spent planning than almost any other part of the process. Planning will help you to map out the information and then arrange it in the best way to get the audience to arrive at the conclusions and actions you chart out for them.
Planning becomes equally crucial when you have to present something prepared by someone else. it’s not just a matter of picking up the slides, reading through them and being ready. You need to find your own voice. You need to find the way to transition from one slide to the next and how you are going to make the story flow.
A great, and often under-utilized tool, in PowerPoint is Slide Sorter view. It gives you a storyboard of the slides and helps you to visualize the flow of the presentation. It also makes it easy to rearrange or remove things.
So just as you would consult a map before heading off for a trip, make sure you plan out the route you will take your audience on during your next presentation.
Whether it is a meeting or a ballroom-style presentation, whether it is informational or inspirational, it is ultimately about the audience’s experience. What can you do to take your presentation from “well, that was interesting” to “wow.” How can you go from meeting expectations to exceeding them?
One thing you can do is never stop analyzing your presentations. After each presentation, what worked and what didn’t? Were you comfortable? Did the story flow? Did you get feedback from the audience that you can incorporate into your next presentation?
Another is to give your slides a makeover. OK, you may think you have perfected the perfect slide deck, but how long have you been using it? When was the last time you took an honest look at it? Are there slides that could be improved? Could you experiment with changing at least a few slides. If you work with others this is often the best way to start the process of the makeover. See if you can get them to change one slide. Maybe give up some bullet points or use a graph instead of a table. It doesn’t have to be full-scale top-to-bottom changes. Start small. Try things out.
If appropriate for the venue and audience, do you have adequate interaction worked into the presentation. Obviously, this is not always possible, but whenever it is, go for it. The more you can get the audience engaged the better. Even if you can’t actively engage them in the moment (such as during a ball-room style presentation that is more lecture than discussion) offer them ways to interact. Give them a hashtag to attach to tweets, or encourage them to discussion items at designated times with neighboring audience members, or even just be sure to give them your email or a QR code to link out to more info. Make them speak, or click, or vote in a poll or whatever. Get them active.
Image from Shawn Campbell via Flickr: thecampbells
listen with hands
pencil and paper distract
eyes and ears record
I wrote this haiku a while back and used it to test out creating a quick presentation with Haiku Desk, which I wrote about yesterday, but today the point I wanted to make was about listening.
I have always been a note taker, and in recent years I have been known to live tweet or blog webinars and conferences, but sometimes it should be just about listening. When we practice active listening we can actually get more information than we imagine we can.
Active listening is just that — active. It requires the listener to be fully engaged. It requires more effort and more attention. If you working with someone one-on-one or in small group, it means asking questions, clarifying points, summarizing to show you understand. It is not about just letting the information flow over you.
So try it sometime. Just listen. You can always make notes later. Trust me, the paper will still be there.
Haiku Deck - I like where this is headed
I love trying out new apps and most loose their shiny novelty quickly but I suspect I will continue to use Haiku Deck. It is a work in progress but I like where it is headed. It is a simple and clean interface that is makes it easy to jump in and get your presentation going. It is not going to be the fix for all the bad presentations we all have to sit through because that is about the presenters, not the tools, but it has some features that will nudge people in the right direction.
It favors less words and more images, which still acknowledging that everyone is not ready yet to give up on bulleted and numbered list. But there is no text wrapping, so continue to type extra words on the line at your, and your audience’s, peril. The text will just continue to shrink until it looks like Alice after she drank the make me small potion.
One of the best features, particularly for those who don’t feel confident or are inexperienced with designing slides, is the image searching.
“Haiku Deck searches the Internet for high-quality images that photographers have licensed under Creative Commons, and automatically pulls in the proper attribution. Some Creative Commons images carry a “not for commercial use” restriction.”
Searching for images is often an extremely time consuming proposition and not everyone is as aware or adherent to issues of attribution and copyright as they should be so I am a big fan of the Haiku Deck approach.
Other features I really liked were how it handles notes. This is a great way to provide handouts and links to additional resources, once again encouraging people to use the slides for more visual storytelling and then the notes for … well … notes. Navigating the slides and saving them or sharing them is equally easy and as they have mentioned several times on their blog, they really are aiming for the mobile world.
This is a mixed blessing for me as I am not an iGadget girl. There are some features which have not transitioned from the iPhone/Pad version to the web app version of Haiku Deck yet. For instance, I understand that in the iPad world I would be able to make the heading on the slide above mixed case; I really don’t like all the titles being all caps.
But again, it is a work in progress. Would I ditch PowerPoint for Haiku Deck? No. But that’s not the point. It’s an alternative that I would consider in some situations, just like I sometimes use a pen and sometimes a pencil. I’ll be keeping my eye on this one.
"We learn from failure, not from success!" ~ Bram Stoker
Failure is scary, like vampires (well not the ones that sparkle I suppose). Speaking in front of people is scary because we think we might fail. But without failure, we don’t really grow.
Think about learning any new skills. I spent much of my childhood bruised either from falling down roller skating or in tumbling class or when I whacked myself on the nose with a baton I was twirling. But instead of those bruises being badges of shame, they were badges of courage. They signified that I had tried. I had failed and I had tried again. And again.
And so it is with presenting. Each time will help you get better if you can step back and use the failures as learning experiences. Take the feedback you receive and process it and make changes. Try different things. There is no one right answer. Each situation is different. Each presenter is different. Find what works best for you.
Finally, for a little tip of the day. I found this background image on Pixabay and thought it would be cute to play off of the clouds, making the one into a thought bubble. The cloud in the upper right corner of the picture, however, was too small to fit the quote so I used a Cloud Callout shape for the quote part and then just a no-fill text box for Bram Stoker’s name. The final touch was to add a gradient blend to the Cloud Callout to mimic the gradient on the other clouds.
I had to attend a mandatory diversity training program at work today and while it wasn’t the most exciting couple of hours I have ever spent it was important. It’s always useful to take some time to check in with yourself and be aware of how you are dealing with others. In the increasingly global workplace, issues of diversity should be considered and reconsidered by all of us so today’s slide is a reminder to respect the diversity of your audience.
Your audience may speak English but do they prefer the British spelling of things or American? If you are presenting online, what time zone issues might there be? Do you always schedule things based on what is most convenient for your time zone? Do you use sports metaphors or idioms that might be common in America but confusing to non-native English speakers?
The more you understand about your audience, not just in terms of what they need to know about a particular subject and their experience level but also the cultural norms and filters they will view your presentation through. Certain colors have negative connotations in some countries: green in certain African nations is connected with drug deaing; and blue is associated with pornography in China.
Numbers also have meanings that you might not be aware of. Many people know that 13 is considered unlucky by some people, having been the number of guests and Last Supper as well as the number of steps up to the gallows, but in Italy it is 17 that should be avoided and you might not find many Chinese or Japanese phone numbers with 4s in them since that number sounds like the word for death.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg, all aspects of communication has variations across cultures. Gestures and body language can be tricky as well. And mistakes will be made. But as long as we keep trying to learn and be aware of how our behavior and communication affect others, we can continue to get better at it.
There has been a lot of talk about the flipped classroom but how about flipping your next meeting. Rather than spending precious time during a meeting reading people text from slides because you need them to discuss the information, how about just giving them the information ahead of time typed up in an email or document and ditching the slides for the meeting. Or using only selected slides that have perhaps charts, diagrams or processes you need to discuss.
Job aids are often one page and often it is easiest to do them in PowerPoint.
As we’ve discussed previously, every PowerPoint file isn’t intended for projection at a presentation. Sometimes PowerPoint just happens to be a handy tool for a given need. Today I was helping someone create an organization chart that was easiest created with Rectangle and Connector shapes.
The person I was working with wasn’t that familiar with Connectors so I started roughing out a one-page handout with some reminders. The attached is just a draft, but you can see that it can be a handy way to put together a quick job aid, especially one with lots of images.
And the subject of the handout is one of the most under-utilized features. People seem a little intimidated by Connector, but the little bit of practice that it takes to get used to them will more than pay off when you see how much easier it makes adjusting shapes in complex diagrams.
So get out them and make some Connector connections.
Back in the old days before cable television and the Internet we had daily newspapers. And sometimes, if there was news so big that it warranted the extra attention there would be an extra paper published that day. Newsboys would stand on street corners yelling “Extra, extra, read all about it” to alert people that there was an extra paper. They grabbed people’s attention just like you need to when you stand up to present your latest news.
Of course, getting people’s attention is one thing, keeping it another. That’s where headlines come into play. They are brief but complete ideas that summarize the article they accompany and hopefully capture the reader’s interest. While this linked article focuses on journalistic writing, many of the tips are equally useful to consider when titling slides.
This is what titles should do on your slides. Putting titles on slides with things like Overview, Financials, Yearly Summary, etc, add little value. I’m not proposing that you fill your slide with the entire content of your “article,” but in many contexts making the headline a complete thought rather than a couple of keywords, especially when accompanied by supporting visuals is quite effective.
One example of using headlines more effective comes from research shared by Penn State regarding the assertion-evidence structure of slide design. This structure suggests a better way for information in scientific presentations to be displayed. If you are interested in presenting to engineering or other technical audiences you may want to check out their info on slides and research.