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Month: April 2012 (page 1 of 2)

Presentation Design for the Classroom

What do effective presentations look like in a college classroom?

Today I offered some thoughts on this to a group of adjunct faculty at the Hargrove School at Lincoln Christian University. The faculty development session was only 45 minutes so we were limited in what we could cover but here are the key points.

  1. Don’t default to PowerPoint – You have lots of options for learning experiences: demonstrations, writing/drawing on the whiteboard, discussion, video, and more. PowerPoint is just one tool.
  2. One idea per slide – The less that’s on the slide, the fewer distractions, the better the focus. Instead of using one slide with six bullet points, expand that one slide out to six separate slides.
  3. Minimize text – Closely related to #2. Don’t type everything on the slide that you plan to say. Use just a word or two.
  4. Use pictures – Images are powerful and emotional. We remember what we feel. When you use images, don’t feel constrained by the placeholders on the slide–let your photos fill the slide. See The Girl Effect for a good example of these points.
  5. Stories for the win – Stories engage us emotionally and spark curiosity, an essential ingredient for learning. They can also be used to keep and regain attention (See Dr. John Medina’s notes on attention from his book Brain Rules).
  6. Give cues – Many students take notes by writing what they see on the PowerPoint slides–nothing more. Give students verbal cues: “write this down,” “this is important,” “this will be on the test.” You can also build visual cues into your presentation that help them navigate your lecture. For example, create your main point slides in one color and subpoint slides in a different color.
  7. Get inspired – Here are a few helpful resources: TED (and here are some of my favorite talks), Slideshare (here are my favorites), Compfight (great tool for searching images on flickr), Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath (give them your email address and they’ll give you some excellent teaching and presenting resources for free), and Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.

Last fall I wrote a couple posts to help students prepare better presentations for their end-of-semester projects. You might find those helpful as well:

Thanks to Hargrove School leaders Steve Collins and Tom Tanner for inviting me to participate in the event and thanks also to everyone who attended and asked good questions.

UPDATE: Here’s a photo that Rick Champ, one of the attendees, took from the back of the room as we were getting started. Rick’s a smart guy and he’s on twitter–you might follow him.

Note: if you found this post helpful, be sure to visit my consulting website: Renovate Communication Design, LLC.

Renovate Communication Design, LLC - Make better presentations with the Presentation Renovation approach

Something I Saw: The 411 on Lucretia

The 411 on Lucretia - © Michael Gowin

The 411 on Lucretia. Camera: Olympus PEN E-P3. Lens: Panasonic 14mm f/2.5.

As I made the picture of Joe’s Pizzeria the other day, Lucretia (who happens to know my wife) stepped outside her office “just to bug me,” she said. In fact, if you look back at the Joe’s Pizzeria photo, you can see Lucretia’s reflection in the window. I asked her if I could make her picture and she said yes.

I’d like to say that the title and inclusion of the number on the door in the image were intentional but they weren’t. It wasn’t until after I got home and loaded the files on the computer that I noticed the door.

Creativity can be messy and generous like that sometimes.

Something I Saw: Joe’s Pizzeria + Character’s Pub

Joe's Pizzeria + Character's Pub - © Michael Gowin

Joe’s Pizzeria + Character’s Pub. Camera: Olympus PEN E-P3. Lens: Panasonic 14mm f/2.5.

Something I Saw: Chairity

Chairity. Camera: Olympus PEN E-P3. Lens: Olympus 45mm f/1.8.

Two Good Articles on Stories and Presentations

These are both worth checking out:

The first reveals how Russell Goldsmith, CEO of City National Bank in Los Angeles, has created a culture of storytelling in his company. Since stories are memorable and emotional, this enables both employees and customers to build stronger relationships with the business. There are also some good insights on interviewing and hiring at the end of the interview.

The second article offers advice that many presentation designers have been sharing for years (but that still needs reinforcing): tell a story, use pictures, avoid bullet points, issue a clear call to action. I’d argue that the author’s fifth point–don’t use more than 10 slides–is unnecessary. While you don’t want to use any more slides than necessary, placing a limit on the number of slides is arbitrary.

Something I Saw: Swings and Churches

Swings and Churches. Camera: Olympus PEN E-P3. Lens: Olympus 45mm f/1.8.

The Secret to Accomplishing Your Goals (Shhh!)

The other day I mentioned that I was taking cold showers as a way of making change in my life. As part of that process, I said that I’d set some goals and shared them with a couple friends to keep me accountable. A buddy of mine, John, said that he makes goals too but doesn’t share them with anyone.

As Derek Sivers shares in this short talk, there’s some science to suggest that keeping your goals to yourself gives you a greater chance of accomplishing them.

Maybe the secret to accomplishing your goals is just that–to keep them secret.

So what do you do?

Something I Saw: Kony 2012

Kony 2012 #2 - © Michael Gowin

Kony 2012 #2. Camera: Olympus PEN E-P3. Lens: Panasonic 20mm f/1.7.

By now you’re probably familiar with Invisible Children and the campaign to make Kony famous. Some unknown parties plastered Kony posters all over our downtown square last night.

Something I Saw: Garage Wall

Garage Wall. Camera: Olympus PEN E-P3. Lens: Panasonic 20mm f/1.7.


Why I’m Taking Cold Showers This Week

Change is hard–no two ways about it.

Whether you want to lose weight, kick a bad habit, improve a relationship, make a difference at work, or change the world in some other way, getting started is the easy part. Most of us can probably change our behavior for a day or two.

What’s hard is sticking with it.

I’m no different from you. I want to be a better person but I’ve fought the same fights as you. I get started for a while (remember those New Year’s resolutions?) and then eventually lose interest. I lack the resolve to resolve my resolutions.

This year, however, I’ve had more success than I’ve had in the past. I’ve discovered some things that may help you, too. Here’s what I’ve done:

  • I defined one to three goals in each of seven areas: career, financial, spiritual, physical, intellectual, family, and social.
  • For each goal, I’ve set a specific, measurable action. For example, as a physical goal, I’ve determined to do 30 (or more) pushups and situps at least three days per week. At the end of each week, I know whether I’ve met the goal. This is much easier than saying “I want to get in shape.” How would I know if I’d accomplished that?
  • I’ve written down the goals and shared them with a couple folks who will keep me accountable. Ultimately, though, I make these commitments to myself–I can’t have goals for someone else’s benefit.
  • I’m forcing myself to do things I wouldn’t normally do. This is where the cold showers come in and I’ll get to that in a minute.

Rocket surgery, right?

Not really. This is pretty basic stuff. You don’t need a college degree to change your life like this, but you do need to follow through.

And this is where most of us fail.

I recently read The Flinch by Julien Smith. It’s short and it’s free–you should read it. The flinch is the reaction we have to danger or threats to the way things are, the status quo. It’s about avoiding pain and protecting ourselves. In some cases, this is life-saving; in most, however, it’s not. If you raise your hands in front of your face to avoid getting hit, this is good. If you’re afraid of visiting the dentist, this is not good. A trip to the dentist’s office may bring some pain but it (most likely) won’t kill you.

Julien Smith suggests some exercises to help you overcome the flinch instinct–essentially tricks that you learn to play on your subconscious mind. The purpose of the exercises is to help you push your limits and to train you that most scary/hard things won’t kill you.

The first exercise is to step into a cold shower. Why? Because you’ll flinch but the cold water won’t kill you.

That’s why I’m taking cold showers this week.

Each morning, I’ve turned on the water and let it run. Good and cold before I step in. On Monday, it wasn’t so bad. Sure, it was shocking at first, but after a few seconds I turned up  the hot water and finished my shower. It was kind of fun.

Tuesday and Wednesday, though, were harder.

I knew what to expect and started thinking about how that cold water would feel well before I stepped in. Yesterday, in fact, I was thinking about it while I was shaving. It was harder to step in to the cold water but I did it. And I did it today and I’ll do it tomorrow because I know these silly little assignments are testing me and asking whether I’ve got what it takes when the stakes are higher.

And I’m discovering that I do.

That’s how I’m making change work in my life: setting goals, following through, and pushing myself to do things that test my limits.

What makes you flinch? What are you doing to change? Drop a comment below.

Start doing the opposite of your habits. It builds up your tolerance to the flinch and its power.  –Julien Smith

Incidentally, what Julien Smith calls “the flinch,” Seth Godin has called “the lizard brain” (Linchpin) and Steven Pressfield has called “Resistance” (The War of Art and Do the Work). Those are good reads and will give you insight into what’s preventing you from making the change you want to make.

Reading the books, however, won’t change your life.

You’re the only one who can step in the shower.

Get The Flinch–free on Amazon.

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