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?

Currently Reading: Dan Roam’s Show And Tell


Today’s rainy Friday was the perfect day to receive a copy of Dan Roam‘s new book in the mail.  Titled Show and Tell: How Everybody Can Make Extraordinary Presentations, Roam’s latest release uses visual communication, Roam’s area of expertise, to explain how we can become stronger speakers and communicators.


Flipping through the first few pages, this book definitely embodies Roam’s signature style and look (think Back of the Napkin and Blah, Blah, Blah), and the advice is clear and simple.  I will be back on Monday with my review.

As you’re waiting, check out this book preview from the author himself:


Have you read Roam’s newest release yet?  Are you excited he published a presentation-specific book?

Does A Story Have A Shape?


According to Kurt Vonnegut, stories do have shapes.  As presenters, it’s important to learn the traditional shapes of stories so that we can use those to our advantage when presenting information to others.  If you’re interested in learning more about storytelling and how to use story in a presentation, check out Garr Reynolds’ blog, Presentation Zen.

In his lecture on the shapes of stories, Vonnegut displays his signature humor and embodies Reynolds’ “naked presenter” philosophy.  Take a look:


The infographic below visualizes Vonnegut’s presentation:



The infographic is beautiful, and I love the designer’s icons, type, and color.  If you are interested in owning the data visualization for your home or your office, the artist sells copies on her Etsy page.

What is the most common story shape you hear in presentations?  What is the most common story shape you tell when presenting?

Understanding Speech Delivery Using Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle


Simon Sinek believes he knows the secret to why some ideas flourish and other ideas die.  He says powerful leaders and communicators start with why.  Sinek’s “Golden Circle” explains his theory:


Why is concerned with the reason or purpose of something.  How is about the manner or means by which we do something.  What is detailed information really focused on specifying something.  In Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, he explains Apple’s why as their purpose: to think differently, to push and to challenge the status quo.  How Apple does this, the means and manner by which they share their purpose with the world, is through effective design and engineering.  Lastly, the what, are Apple’s specific products: the iPhone, the MacBook Pro, iTunes.

Starting with why, next focusing on how, and then getting specific with the what is an approach I take in the classroom when teaching students a new concept.  When it comes to public speaking and presentation, it’s important to have an overall delivery goal, a purpose for your delivery, the why.


When it comes to delivery, I am a proponent of Garr Reynolds’ “naked presenter” philosophy which says effective delivery should be natural, authentic, and real in order to connect with an audience.  Reynolds says:

Being naked involves stripping away all that is unnecessary to get at the essence of your message. The naked presenter approaches the presentation task embracing the ideas of simplicity, clarity, honesty, integrity, and passion. She presents with a certain freshness. The ideas may or may not be radical, earth shattering, or new. But there is a “newness” and freshness to her approach and to her content.  (Source)

Understanding this “naked” philosophy of presenting gives us a clear idea on why to deliver a speech this way: because we can deeply connect with our audience if we are human beings and if we show that humanity to others.  This fundamental why purpose, or starting place, is essential when discussing, teaching, or learning more about effective presentation delivery.


It’s much easier to explain how to do something once you’ve established that why.  Take a look back at Sinek’s Golden Circle.  Starting from the middle, the core, and working out gives people a clear understanding of the bigger picture before tackling the specific details.  Most audience members will only connect with an idea once they know why that idea is important and why it matters to them.  Only after that purpose is established will they focus on gathering more information on how to live out that purpose and what to do to move in the right direction.

Reynolds breaks down how to deliver a speech using the naked presenter philosophy in “Make Your Next Presentation Naked.”  He says we can be present in the moment; avoid trying to impress others and embrace trying to help/inform/teach others; keep the lights on; ditch our script and speak naturally from an outline; come out from behind the podium; move around the stage; and simplify (Source).  He has many more how tips here.

Another great article explaining how to present naturally is “10 Powerful Body Language Tips.”  The article examines nonverbal communication, body language, and gives us the means and methods by which we can speak more naturally using effective body language.  We can power pose, remove barriers, smile, shake hands, and mirror the body language of our audience members, for example (Source).

Again, notice that some of these how tips are still a bit conceptual.  The authors let us know the means and manner by which to present “naked,” but they aren’t yet giving us definitions.  Definitions come at the what level.


Unfortunately, as Simon Sinek mentions in his landmark TED Talk, many people begin with the what.  Many businesses focus on what.  In my discipline, many teachers’ lessons only explain the what.  For example, before I learned about Garr Reynolds’ The Naked Presenter, I used to teach delivery by breaking it apart and defining each of its pieces: hand gestures, eye contact, vocal variety.  I was teaching my students the what, and it didn’t work very well for them.  If you’ve ever been in a public speaking classroom with a teacher lecturing on and on with the definitions of pronunciation versus articulation versus enunciation, you know the feelings my students experienced: boredom, apathy, annoyance.  The entire time I listed definitions, they were wondering, “What’s the point of this?  Why does this matter?”

So only after we define why and how should we get into those definitions – the what.  When it comes to speech delivery, we should understand the purpose first, the means and methods second, and the definitions last.

For more tips on effective delivery, please read the “Delivery” section of Creating Communication.  Notice that the first post in the section starts with why: “The Goal of Speech Delivery.”

How do you teach or learn about delivery?  Do you agree that Sinek’s Golden Circle model works as an effective tool for communicating ideas in a powerful way?