Professional Communication and Presentation Class Mini Discussion

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This week, four amazing artists presented their Mini Discussion presentation.  Here was the prompt: Garr Reynolds says an ineffective slide is a slideument and Nancy Duarte says we should be creating “digital scenery” instead.  Explain the difference between an ineffective slide and an effective one based on these two slide design experts.  Use one outside source, and create an activity to help the class internalize your lesson.

As they were presenting, my students animated their speech using the whiteboard and a few markers.  After they finished, I asked them if I could take their pictures next to the pictures they’re drawn on the board.

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Gerson (left) and Tuan (right) showed us the RIGHT way to design a slide relying on images, a little bit of relevant text, and strong principles of design.

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Brian (left) and Roberto (right) explain what a slidument is and dissect an example of a “wall of text,” bad slide.

I am always so impressed when my students blend what they’re learning and studying (art and design) with what we learn in class.

What great things have your students been working on lately?

Professional Communication and Presentation Class Commandments

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Today, a really strong team of students put together and presented a “Mini Discussion” about the TED Commandments, why these presentation rules are important, and how those rules apply to all presenters.

To conclude their presentation, the group asked us to think about our own class commandments for Professional Communication and Presentation.  Here are my favorite 5 of the 10:

Thou shalt respect the audience.

Thou shalt “get naked” with delivery.

Thou shalt interact.

Thou shalt not rely on PowerPoint slides.

Thou shalt always be prepared.

Some of the commandments we wrote on the board are our silly class inside jokes, but most of our tips are incredibly helpful for communicating and presenting effectively.

Here is the Mini Discussion team comprised of Fiifi, Kim, Emily, and Joe posting with the Class Commandments:

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And here is the rest of my wonderful class courtesy of a panoramic photo I had no idea my phone was capable of capturing:

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What great things have your students been up to lately?

Conference on College Composition and Communication

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Yesterday, Chiara Ojeda and I submitted our presentation proposal for the Conference on College Composition and Communication which will be held in March 2015 in Tampa.  Learn more about the conference here.  Learn more about the National Council of Teachers of English here.

Our proposal combined all of the work we’ve been doing for our Professional Communication and Presentation class in the past few years with the hopes of sharing these best practices with other teachers in our field.  Check out our proposed session below.

Redefining Paradigms of Professionalism:

Personal Branding, Online Identities, and the New World of Work

Traditional college courses in professional communication focus on teaching students best practices for creating documents such as emails, memos, and reports as well as resumes and cover letters.  However, many of these materials relate to an outdated model of work.  In our new world of work defined by innovative and conceptual thinking, we must focus on teaching students skills they can utilize to thrive in an evolving, fast-paced, demanding professional environment.  Developing a professional identity and using communication and presentation tools to communicate that online identity with others is essential.  While branding has historically been linked to a business product or service, thought-leaders Nancy Duarte, Seth Godin, and Pamela Slim among others emphasize the importance of a personal brand that clearly defines how one’s experiences communicate his or her professional mission.  Students must develop a coherent body of work showing who they are as professionals, targeting a specific audience, linking all of their past experiences together, and providing supporting examples.

In “From Cattle and Coke to Charlie: Meeting the Challenge of Self Marketing and Personal Branding,” Ifan D. H. Shepherd explains that despite its popularity in business, entertainment, and politics, personal branding has not yet made its way into college curriculum or class textbooks largely because little academic research has been conducted in this area.  Personal branding recently made an appearance in the Journal of Internet Commerce.  Chih-Ping Chen’s qualitative study “Exploring Personal Branding on YouTube” links social media and personal branding.  Chen’s results indicated the growing importance of individual brands due to the increased permanency and variety of digital and social media environments.

Creating a recognizable and sharable personal brand revolving around a comprehensive body of work requires sacrifice and risk. Professionals must share their triumphs, failures, and areas of weakness/growth with the world–this level of vulnerability is intimidating. As budding professionals, students must also relinquish their old views of work, particularly the view that work is a stable, linear process. Teachers too face risk when implementing these practices. Educators must let go of traditional modes of teaching professional communication in order to find solutions that better prepare students for the new world of work. However, the reward is great: increased job, professional, and networking opportunities for students; strengthened learning outcomes, course structures, and learning-centered assessment for educators.

In this session, specific topics will include the process for creating a body of work (what to share, how to share it); self-analysis and critical thinking (identifying a target audience, creating a brand mantra, developing a through-line story to tie experiences together, defining your competitive advantage, and determining what evidence supports the overall body of work); as well as the presentation of the body of work (through the visual resume and articulating that vision in person or online via social media).

 

Works Cited

Chen, Chih-Ping.  “Exploring Personal Branding on YouTube.”  Journal of Internet Commerce.  12.4 (2013): 332-347.  Print.

Duarte, Nancy. Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2010. Print.

Godin, Seth. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?. New York: Portfolio, 2010. Print.

Shepherd, Ifan D. H. “From Cattle to Coke to Charlie: Meeting the Challenge of Self Marketing and Personal Branding.”  Journal of Marketing Management.  21.5/6 (2005): 589-606.

Slim, Pamela. Body of Work: Finding the Thread that Ties Your Story Together. New York, N.Y.: Portfolio, 2013. Print.

Slim, Pamela. Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur. New York, N.Y.: Portfolio, 2009. Print.

What do you think?  Would you attend a conference presentation based on our proposal?  If we are accepted, what should we be sure to?  What would you like to learn by attending a session like this? 

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

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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:

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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?

M.A. Update: Thesis Preparation

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When I began teaching Professional Communication and Presentation as well as Public Speaking, I decided to go back to school to obtain 18 graduate hours in the Communication discipline.  Little did I know I would quickly fall in love with my program and my professors.  My quest for 6 classes has now turned into the goal of a second master’s degree.  Today, I presented and submitted my final paper for the class that marks the halfway point in my M.A. in Communication.

Reflecting back on what I’ve learned so far is essential as I move forward with the next phase in my studies: the thesis process.  I’ve begun thinking about my topic and my committee as well as my potential research interests.  I want to make sure my thesis will include content I can build upon in the future.  For about a year now, I’ve kept a running list of potential topics, things I like, things I read about in my spare time, things I’m interested in.  I also started keeping a Pinterest board of fascinating popular press articles.  These articles and my list helped to inform the direction my thesis will take.

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So far, I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am a qualitative versus quantitative researcher.  I also know that I am a social constructionist, and because of my background and my first M.A. in English Literature, I gravitate toward critical theories.  For the past few months, I’ve been studying and reading about many modern communication theories in Theories of Human Communication by Littlejohn and Foss.  I added the theories and theorists that interested me the most to my ongoing list of potential thesis topics.  Theorists I enjoy include Goffman, Butler, Buber, and Bakhtin.  I have recently studied facework as well as standpoint theory, and my favorite theory from a previous course was dialogue.  Tonight in class, the most fascinating fellow student paper was on Kenneth Burke.  There are so many ideas still swimming in my head that it will take me another few months to finalize and figure out my direction.  My goal is to have my thesis topic nailed down at the end of the summer.

For my remaining coursework, I am taking two core classes: Qualitative Research Methods and Statistics.  I am very excited about Qualitative.  Since the thought of taking Statistics at the graduate level is enough to make me want to drop out of college (kidding… kind of), I was happy to hear from our graduate coordinator that I could take a Sociology Statistics class focusing on application in the social sciences.  My remaining electives will be Communication and Conflict, Communication in Close Relationships, and a course from the Women’s Studies Division called Theories in Gender Studies.  It’s hard to imagine after only a few additional classes, I will have another degree and be one step closer to a Ph.D. in Communication.

It’s that time of year… Students are in the home stretch before graduation.  Are you one of them?  Or are you, like me, in the middle of a degree program?  Please share your experience with me in the “Comments” section.

Skillshare: Your New Favorite Website

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If Lynda.com‘s hipper, artsier younger sister and a MOOC had a baby, that baby would be Skillshare.  Skillshare’s manifesto is as follows:

“Education is what someone tells you to do. Learning is what you do for yourself.”

Sir Ken Robinson delivered a TED Talk called “Schools Kill Creativity.”  Education is a stuffy classroom with a syllabus, rules, guidelines, and assignments.  A teacher at the front of the room lectures using slides filled with bullets.  After 10 minutes, the students’ brains shut off.  Little learning actually happens.  I believe Skillshare is giving “education” a great new direction to help remedy that.  Take a look at this short video to learn more about what the folks at Skillshare are doing.

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From personal experience, I know “learning” is much better than “education.”  When I was first introduced to Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds, learning about a new way to present information lit a fire under me.  My passion for the subject lead to countless hours reading, studying, writing.  I began this blog three years ago today because of the fire I felt for learning how to communicate and present successfully in the 21st century.  I was so fired up that I decided to go back to school to pursue a second M.A. in Communication.  While my education has been wonderful, my education was designed to mold me into a researcher and scholar.  My education was not something I could apply in the real world but something that would help me on my path to a Ph.D. in Communication.  The learning I was doing on my own resulted in a practical application at my job and helped me become a better, stronger teacher and communicator.  For me, the gulf between “education” and “learning” is wider than ever.

I had the wonderful opportunity to try a class for free on Skillshare.  Seth Godin has now developed two courses: “The New Business Toolbox: Help Your New Business Do It Right The First Time” and “The Modern Marketing Workshop.”  (Skillshare, you had me at “Seth Godin!”)  I am enrolled in the latter course, and I love it.

Skillshare focuses on teaching students the way that they learn.  I’m seeing short, 10 minute video lessons combined with activities to teach software and subjects like fashion, graphic design, and painting.  With such an intense focus on courses crafted by industry leaders and a commitment to practical application in the real world, Skillshare’s biggest appeal is that it’s current, relevant, and useful.  To learn more about Skillshare, check out their website here.

Have you taken a Skillshare class yet?  Share your experience with me!

Design Challenge: Poster Session

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My classmate Sunshine Baker and I worked on a paper together for our Quantitative Research Methods class.  Earlier this year, our project was accepted for the UCF Graduate Research Forum Poster Session.  We excitedly began working on our poster.  Sunshine typed up all of the relevant information into the PowerPoint template we were required to use.  Here is our “Before” poster:

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After adding in the content into the template, Sunshine handed over the first draft to me to focus on design.  We had a list of requirements from both UCF and the Nicholson School of Communication.  I compiled that list of requirements together in a Word document.

Next, I took a look at some sample posters while considering how I would approach our design and layout.  I was not impressed.  To learn more, just do a Google search and a Google image search for “poster session examples.”  YIKES!  Hideous.  I also did a survey of the posters in our graduate lounge and the graduate conference room, but I wasn’t super impressed by anything I saw.

I turned to other places for design inspiration.  UCF has a page on their website called “Brand and Identity Guidelines” explaining our school fonts, colors, and design samples.  I used this as inspiration for the poster to promote a sense of school pride and spirit.  I decided to go with black, white, and gold for our colors based on the brand and identity guidelines, and I selected the fonts used by our school: “Americana” from the UCF logo and “Adobe Caslon” from many marketing materials.

After I decided how I would approach the design for our poster, I realized I just couldn’t work in PowerPoint 2007.  After calling the poster “help” line and hearing that the template only existed in PowerPoint, my genius designer/superteacher BFF Chiara Ojeda suggested that I just open the template in Keynote.  Voilà!  (And also: why didn’t I think of that?)  I began designing the poster using Keynote, a far superior program if you asked me.  After many, many long days of work and the help of Flickr and The Noun Project, I created our finished product.

Here she is, our “After” poster:

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If I had one more week to work on the poster, I would be 100% happy with it, but knowing the time limitations, I am definitely satisfied.  The final task in this journey is to prepare for the Graduate Research Forum.  The posters will be judged first, and then the poster session will begin.  Sunshine and I will be talking to people about our research and answering questions about our work.  I can’t wait!  Since this is my first poster session, I am nervous because I don’t know what to expect AND excited because it’s new and fun and challenging.

Have you ever been given a serious design challenge you had to work hard to overcome?  Share with me!