Dr. Emdin’s “Teach Teachers How To Create Magic”


Dr. Christopher Emdin‘s hook got me.  He tells the story of an aspiring teacher writing a 60-page paper about a super old education theory developed by a long-dead man and wondering what in the world that paper has to do with her future career goals and aspirations.

As a graduate student AND a full time teacher, this is something I’ve too often experienced.  I’ve found that research-based universities (the big universities such as the University of Florida and the University of Central Florida) are concerned with just that: research.  Teaching duties are secondary to research and publication, conferences and journals.  Research-based universities employ scholars: the thinkers, philosophers, and inventors of our day.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have learning-centered institutions (formerly community colleges, now state colleges, such as Valencia College or Seminole State College).  These colleges are concerned with teaching and learning.  Check out Valencia’s learning-centered mission statement here.  As opposed to research, faculty members at learning-centered institutions are expected to be strong teachers.  Teaching is the primary goal, not the means to an end.

As Dr. Edmin’s introduction continues (watch him continue this train of thought until 1:30), he asks us to focus on this research-based university system which, from personal experience I can agree, trains students how to become scholars and researchers.  Teachers aren’t focused on engaging students or on creating magic in the classroom to inspire learning.  And Dr. Edmin thinks that is a bad thing.

You may be wondering who Dr. Emdin is.  A professor at Columbia University and a Director of Science Education for the Center for Health Equity and Urban Science Education, Dr. Emdin is a superteacher.  He is the creator of the Hip Hop Ed social movement and has also collaborated with Wu Tang Clan’s GZA and the website Rap Genius on an initiative designed to engage students in science through hip hop battles.  Watch Dr. Emdin’s TEDx Talk below:


His argument is that superteachers aren’t often found in the classroom.  We know from people like Dr. John Medina, Garr Reynolds, and Nancy Duarte that great presenters (and great teachers) are storytellers, engaging presenters who focus on delivering content in an audience-centered fashion.  Superteachers and super-presenters are bound, linked, tied together, and this is a huge reason why I live and breathe public speaking and presentation.  Dr. Emdin says teachers are educated on theories and standards, but they have no idea how to develop that magic in the classroom, and that magic comes from careful study of effective communication and presentation techniques.  If we ditched education curriculum and replaced it with books like Brain RulesPresentation Zen, and Resonate, imagine the classrooms filled with students on the edge of their seats, excited and ready to learn.

Just like Sir Ken Robinson, Dr. Christopher Emdin sees that the system of education is broken.  His solution: teaching teachers how to develop “that magic” (as he calls it).  Dr. Emdin’s solution is that we should study effective presentation content and delivery, and I wholeheartedly agree.

What advice or suggestions would you give a new teacher to help her become a superteacher?

Review: Dan Roam’s Show And Tell


When a book receives acclaim from Nancy Duarte, Garr Reynolds, and Guy Kawasaki, I know it’s going to be good.  After reading Dan Roam’s Show and Tell: How Everybody Can Make Extraordinary Presentations over the weekend, I can confirm that yes, the book is good.

Dan Roam is a communications expert who believes our presentations aren’t as powerful as they could be because we don’t use enough stories and pictures.  His two previous books, The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas With Pictures and Blah Blah Blah: What To Do When Words Don’t Work ask us to incorporate more visual communication in our everyday lives.  Just like those previous books, Show and Tell includes Roam’s signature look: hand-drawn pictures.  Unlike his previous books, Show and Tell focuses specifically on the presentation medium.


Roam begins by laying out three rules for effective presentations: 1) tell the truth, 2) tell it with a story, 3) tell the story with pictures.  This simplicity really helps, and I can see these ideas connecting with my students who don’t have a lot of public speaking and presentation experience.  However, I found that these simple ideas aren’t just for new presenters.  As someone who presents for a living, who teaches public speaking and presentation for a living, and who studies effective communication and presentation on the side, I can say I learned quite a bit from this text.  It really helps me to hear a perspective like Roam’s because I can use it to teach my students in the campus and online classroom environments.  Explaining things the way Roam does may help me connect with more students in a more powerful fashion.

How?  Well, first, I can use three tools Roam teaches us in his preface: a pyramid to help my students with the truth; an outline to help with stories; and a pie to help with the pictures.  So far, the only tool I am using with my students is an outline.  I would love to teach them to back up and pyramid their presentation first and to use that pie instead of a storyboard after their outline has been completed.  I also really liked Roam’s “Bucket Rule,” which I think is one of the strongest explanations of idea + presenter + audience that I’ve ever heard.

An important piece of Roam’s book was that it applied to almost any presentation.  The author has experience in management-consulting for a variety of clients such as Google, Boeing, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Wells Fargo, and even the US Navy and Senate.  Because of his vast experience with a variety of different companies and organizations, Roam’s book examines wider range of presentations than I’ve seen before.  For example, he says 100% of presentations can be created and delivered using four storylines: 1) report, 2) explanation, 3) pitch, and 4) drama.  These four structures can help my students see that no matter the type of presentation, this approach will always work.  I like this because my students do sometimes have a hard time seeing how the approach I teach them in class will apply to the presentation they deliver in their next class, their Final Project pitch, or a Skype interview.  Roam also shows us four shapes that match the four storylines, and this reminds me of the Kurt Vonnegut “shape of stories” post I shared with you a few days ago.  Some of my students feel like learning about organization and structure becomes boring and frustrating, so I think the “PUMA” shape Roam shares is an effective tool I can use in the classroom.



In Chapter 4, Roam introduces slides, and his advice is on point with anything you’d hear from Duarte and Reynolds.  He also points out that during his explanation of each of the four storylines (report, explanation, pitch, and drama), he has created strong slides to go with each main point.  Chapter 4 examines each of the different types of visual aids (flowchart, equation, portrait) and explains when and how to use each one.

Chapter 5 touches on presentation anxiety, but I did feel this section seemed like a bit of an afterthought.  If Roam had been going into delivery in more detail, the presentation anxiety chapter would have felt like a natural tie-in.  Standing on its own, with no advice about effective delivery, this chapter did leave the last “leg” of the presentation stool unexplained.  I would have liked to see more information about strong, powerful delivery to go along with detailed chapters on content and slides.

One final drawback was that there was no mention of an online presentation via Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, etc.  Since Roam covered so many other types of presentations (a cooking show, the commentary of a sports game, TED Talks, a report at a meeting), at least one mention or example of an online presentation would have been helpful.  For my students, especially my online students, practical examples of the 21st century communication they will be doing in the future is incredibly helpful.  Interviews, meetings, and presentations online are increasingly common, and this is one thing I feel many books on public speaking and presentation leave out.

I enjoyed Show and Tell more than any other Dan Roam book, and I would recommend it for both beginning and advanced presenters.  Read my previous blog posts about Roam and his work here.

Have you read Dan Roam’s latest book yet?  What did you think?

Three Slideshare Presentations For The Communications Expert


Sometimes, Slideshare is jam-packed with beautiful slide decks featuring not only good information but also good design.  Today, I’d like to share three top-notch Slideshare decks with you.

The first comes from Carmine Gallo.  “Talk Like TED: 3 Unbreakable Laws of Communication” is such a powerful resource for communicators and presenters.  The Slideshare presentation serves as promotional material for Gallo’s latest book: Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds.  I love that TED has been become such an important part of pop culture and that the organization has been featured in so many new business and communication books.  We can learn so much from TED presenters, which is exactly what Gallo covers in his book and Slideshare deck.  Check it out below:


The second is a visual presentation by Illiya Vjestica, The Presentation Designer, and is called “How To Become A Better Speaker.”  I love this deck because of its simple design and important advice.  Vjestica tells us there is not a quick fix or a detour to becoming a strong presenter.  Being a powerful speaker takes practice and dedication to the craft.  “How To Become A Better Speaker” lays out simple advice on how to begin putting in the time and effort it takes to delivering better speeches.  Click through the deck here:


The third and final deck was created by the folks at Placester.  Called “The 12 Tenets of Content Creation,” this presentation is for business, marketing, and communication specialists who want to learn how to develop and distribute powerful content to share with others.  Advice includes learning how to listen, making a list, addressing questions, researching, focusing on titles, and other expert advice.  As the incoming Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Junior League of Greater Orlando, I will definitely be taking this advice to heart as we develop our content creation and distribution plan for the 2014-2015 League year.


What great Slideshare presentations have you seen lately?

Want To Learn How To Become A Better Presenter?


One of my favorite public speaking and presentation bloggers, Gavin McMahon of Make A Powerful Point, recently held a webinar called “How To Become A Better Presenter.”  In the hour-long session, McMahon discusses audience analysis, creating strong persuasive content, and other effective presentation techniques along with something fascinating: your Presenter Type.

Do you know your presenter type?  To find out what kind of natural presenter you are, take the survey on Make A Powerful Point here.  Next, watch the webinar below:


What Presenter Type are you?  What was your favorite part about McMahon’s webinar?



This week started off busy, but by its end, I got exactly what I needed: a much-needed break.  This time of year means the end of my Spring semester at UCF and Spring Break at work, so I am where I need to be: relaxing and enjoying some time to refocus on the things that are important.  During that time, I am planning to read for pleasure.  I just received Dan Roam’s Show And Tell in the mail yesterday, got Kafka On The Shore from my brother for my birthday, and purchased Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald today at Target.  As a reader, I cannot tell you how excited I am for some pleasure reading for the next few weeks between graduate classes.

Today, I also had a bit of time to catch up on my favorite blogs.  I’d like to share new offerings from Chiara Ojeda and Ethos3.

Chiara Ojeda of Tweak Your Slides shared two incredible posts this week.  “Participation: Action Speaks Louder Than Your Words” shares some audience-centered advice on how to include participation and activity in your next speech.  Chiara writes, “When an audience can move beyond passive absorption of information or even active visualization of an idea, that audience is more likely to not only remember the idea, but pass it along to others (whether it is through action, word of mouth, or influence). A message come alive in the audience’s hearts and minds creates that ripple effect speakers need to gain traction for their ideas” (Source).  I think activity CAN be incorporated in any presentation.  If you are short on time, that activity could be asking your audience to imagine something or asking for them to raise their hand in response to a prompt.  If you have more time, that activity can be acting out a scene, drawing on a whiteboard, or engaging in some sort of play.

Chiara also posted “Design Smarter: Learn To Generate Color,” a must-read for slide designers.  She shares tips for how we can work to create effective color schemes in our slideshows using helpful tools such as Design Seeds (my personal favorite) and Adobe’s Kuler.  If choosing a color scheme is difficult for you when you create a slideshow, this article is essential! 


Ethos3 also published two great articles since the last time I read the blog.  Amy Cuddy is one of my favorites, and I always recommend that my students watch her TED Talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.”  I was delighted to see Ethos3′s “Presentation Lessons from Amy Cuddy” yesterday.  Ethos3 CEO Scott Schwertly gives us some great tips from Cuddy’s presentation including a strong hook, effective use of visuals and video, storytelling, and a strong conclusion.  Schwertly writes, “Combining moving personal narrative, wisely-chosen media, and a strong hook, Amy Cuddy succeeds massively in her TED Talk. It makes us want to take a power pose right now” (Source).  Let’s stand up and do the Wonder Woman all together now!

Ethos3 also published “The 5-7-5 Presentation Technique,” which I recognized as a form of poetry called the haiku but never imagined could be applied to presentations.  The article suggests we consider the haiku style when presenting because it allows us to be “mindful about using too much text with extraneous narrative and filler” (Source).  The goal is to include as little text as possible on our slides and to consider the haiku style when developing those slides.  Ethos3 gives two examples here and explains, that when “broken into separately designed slides, it’s minimal and filler-free” and “a triumph of minimalism” (Source).  I am definitely going to try this when designing my next Slideshare deck!

What great articles on public speaking and presentation did you read this week?