Links of the Week: 2013.13


Since the hiatus in June, we haven’t done a “Links of the Week” on Creating Communication!  This installment features three of my favorites: Nancy Duarte’s Duarte Blog, Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen, and Ethos3’s blog.

In “Presentation Lessons from PopUp Magazine,” Duarte blogger Paula Tesch examines San Francisco storytelling event PopUp Magazine.  Yes, it is both an event and a magazine!  Cool, right?  All kinds of stories are presented live onstage including documentary films, art, radio, and – of course – stories.  Learn more about the event here.  I definitely just added this to my bucket list!

Tesch says the event teaches us quite a bit about presentations.  For example, we should make our presentations a “one night only!” style event; be an expert (or find an expert); mix things up just like a magazine does; stop talking before our audience stops listening; and leave time for Q&A (Source).  Read through Tesch’s presentation tips here.


“The Fascinating History of Aspect Ratios” by Garr Reynolds may have a funny title… What’s fascinating about aspect ratios?  Actually, fellow presentation nerds, A LOT is fascinating about aspect ratios!  Reynolds talks about the size of movie screens for storytelling and then, of course, the size of Keynote slides projected on screens.  Though the past has focused on 4:3 (1024×768), conferences such as TED, Reynolds writes, are putting a request for slides with a 16:9 aspect ratio (Source).   He gives two presentation examples from his own life, one with a 4.3 aspect ratio and one with a 16.9.  I can definitely see the benefit of learning how to create beautiful slides using both aspect ratios.

The bloggers at Ethos3 are also presentation nerds (of course!), and they’ve compiled a list of their favorite quotes about presentations.  These include gems by Churchill and Carnegie, Owen and Burgraff.  I was so inspired by this list that I decided to create my own “best presentation quotes” list which will debut tomorrow on Creating Communication!

What great articles about public speaking and presentation have you been reading?

Links of the Week: 2013.12


I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day holiday and long weekend!  Today was a workday for me, but I did spend a beautiful beach day with my girlfriends on Sunday.  This week’s “Links of the Week” include posts by Garr Reynolds, Nancy Duarte, and Chiara Ojeda.

Garr Reynolds of Presentation Zen posted “9 ways to live better, longer, happier” a few days ago, and these suggestions can apply to both everyday life and presentations.  When a person moves naturally, has the right outlook, and connects well with others in the audience, a presentation can be very successful (Source).  Reynolds explains the importance of slowing down and having a clear purpose, and these are key in the presentation creation process.  More importantly, though, these tips do lead to a healthier and happier life.


“10 Tips for More Effective PowerPoint Presentations” gives us additional advice on crafting strong presentations.  Most of the great advice relates to slide design.  Author Dustin Wax writes, “At any given moment, what should be on the screen is the thing you’re talking about. Our audience will almost instantly read every slide as soon as it’s displayed; if you have the next four points you plan to make up there, they’ll be three steps ahead of you, waiting for you to catch up rather than listening with interest to the point you’re making… Plan your presentation so just one new point is displayed at any given moment” (Source).  We may put our audience’s needs first when we’re coming up with content, but if we’re not also thinking about their needs with our PowerPoint and Keynote slides, our presentations will fall not resonate.

With online public speaking classes, Skype interviews, and GoTo Training sessions, more and more presentations are being presented remotely.  Nancy Duarte’s “5 Ways to Resonate Remotely” should be essential reading for any speaker who has an online or telephone presentation.  Duarte emphasizes the importance of a human touch; keeping the audio interesting; removing distractions; using contrast; and having fun (Source).

Last, but not least, was an important message for every presenter.  “Murder Your Darlings” by Chiara Ojeda of Tweak Your Slides gives us advice for editing and cutting content.  Ojeda says of murdering our darlings: “The purpose of this violent act is to keep the focus on the audience. Without the editing and shaving off of what may seem necessary to you but is not necessary to your audience’s understanding of that particular subject, you will lose your most important tool in creating an idea that spreads–the audience themselves” (Source).

What great things did you read over the long weekend?

Links of the Week: 2013.09


This week, I’ve been reading some interesting articles to prepare for two new, short class lessons on audience analysis and storytelling.  This articles helped me to teach my class about these concepts, so I hope they help you, too!

First, Ethos3 wrote “3 Ways to Make the Most of Your Next Presentation,” and the article gives some advice on how to be a more audience-centered presenter.  If a selfish presenter focuses only on himself and his message without concentrating on his audience, he is on the fast track to delivering a boring presentation.  My students examined qualities of boring presentations here.  Ethos3 helps us to move away from the selfish, boring approach with these three tips.  They explain that as audience-centered presenters, we must be transparent and honest so that our audience knows we are human beings.  We must focus less on lecturing and droning on and on about what we know; instead, we should convey what we understand (Source).  Lastly, we must help people connect with us after the presentation.  If you’ve presented well and if audiences want to know more, be sure to give them a place to connect with you (email, social media, blog, etc.)  Read Ethos3’s amazing article on how to be a more audience-centered presenter here.


Second, I am using Garr Reynolds’ research for his upcoming book on story to my advantage!  His blog posts have all been related to story, so I’ve used these to help craft my storytelling for presentations lesson for my class.  His latest post asks, “Should we be suspicious of stories?”  Since I love to question everything, the idea Reynolds explores based upon Cowen’s Talk is amazing.  However, as Garr Reynolds writes in his review, “Rather than offering a convincing critique on storytelling per se, Cowen seems to be offering a critique on the reliance we place on anecdotal evidence today. And this kind of ‘story’ is indeed something of which we should be very suspicious” (Source).  Just as we should question everything, we should question the stories we hear.  However, one thing we shouldn’t question is the importance of story to convey a message in a way that resonates with people.

This month, I’m having an expert storyteller, creative writer and photographer Ashley Inguanta, visit my class.  Learn more about Ashley’s work here.  I can’t wait to learn more from her!

Finally, “80% of Presentations Fail” helps us see the connection between my research focus this week: audience analysis and storytelling.  Janice Tomich of Calculated Presentations explains that presentations fail when presenters don’t know their audience and when they don’t tell stories.  You can see why I’m so interested in amping up my lessons to my students on this issue!  Tomich also says presentations fail when we create ineffective slides and when we lack authenticity in our delivery.  Read her entire amazing article here.

What great articles have you been reading this week?

Links of the Week: 2013.05


This has been such a wonderful week!  I’ve been reading some amazing articles for my Interpersonal Communication graduate class, and I’ve also stumbled across some interesting articles on public speaking and presentation…


I’ve been really focused on pushing my presentation design skills to the next level in 2013, so Ethos3’s latest article was just what I needed to read this week!  “Learn By Example: Presentation Design Tips via ‘How To Use Color Wisely'” is an analysis of a Slideshare presentation.  The article explains that an Ethos3 intern created one of my favorite decks, How To Use Color Wisely, and that the slideshow is an example of effective design in many ways.  First, Ethos3 explains that this deck teaches us how to use text wisely in a slideshow (Source).  The deck is also a lesson in organization and focus; each objective is communicated clearly.  The last lesson I learned from the analysis was that I should work to play with content and design a bit more (Source).  I love that Ethos3 looks at Slideshare presentations – even their own – with a critical eye. It pushes us all to be stronger designers!

Visual literacy is an essential skill for a 21st century presenter to possess.  Garr Reynolds’ article “On The Need for Visual Literacy” is an interesting study using video from George Lucas and Martin Scorsese, two experts in multimedia.  What I love most about reading Presentation Zen is that Reynolds focuses on public speaking and presentation but also education, teaching, and training… These are subjects that are so close to my heart that I always learn something from his articles.  Reynolds has also been posting on his blog much more frequently, so I appreciate his renewed commitment to spreading his knowledge and passion with his readers.

What great articles did you read this week?

Personal Brand “Mechanics” – An Interview with Garr Reynolds


In this video, Peter Sterlacci interviews Garr Reynolds on Presentation Zen and the personal brand Reynolds created:


The question and answer session can help you to brand yourself, to promote your brand, and to make sure people “get” your brand.  Reynolds suggests several techniques to boost your personal brand including 1) building a website with a specific focus and 2) constantly updating a website.  Did you know that Reynolds didn’t seek out a publisher for Presentation Zen?  Because of his website, publishers came to him!

The question Sterlacci asks at about the 6 minute mark is my favorite question of the entire interview.  He asks, “How does being a good presenter help promote someone’s personal brand?”

Reynolds’ answer is amazing.  He explains that he learned some great advice from Guy Kawasaki: give it away.  Reynolds says the medium he uses to give knowledge and information away is through presentation.  Through presentations, he grew his network and his community – which led to his business and the money he makes.

What were your favorite take-aways from Garr Reynolds’ interview?  How do you communicate your brand to an audience?

How To Be a Charismatic Presenter: Part Two


His 2007 iPhone launch is one of Steve Jobs’ best speeches and is studied in many of my favorite presentation books such as Nancy Duarte’s resonate.  Watch Part One of the iPhone launch here:


In Presentation Zen, Garr Reynolds says of Steve Jobs, “It all seems so automatic and natural.  It all seems so easy, so you’d be tempted to think that it just comes naturally to Steve, and that it’s a pretty easy task for him to use his natural charisma to woo a crowd.  But you’d be wrong [...] The reason Steve Jobs’ presentations go so well and are so engaging is because he and his team prepare and practice like mad to make sure it looks ‘easy'” (Source).  As charismatic as Steve Jobs may be, it is foolish to believe he could wake up one morning and deliver a presentation as great as the 2007 iPhone launch with absolutely zero preparation.

Let’s think about charisma in conversation.  A charismatic conversationalist has had years of experience in social situations practicing the art of communicating well with others.  Someone is not born with the ability to charm others in everyday conversation; charisma develops through trial and error in dealing with others, through a keen awareness of social behavior as well as awareness of self.  We know through Garr Reynolds’ delivery masterpiece, The Naked Presenter, that presentation delivery should be like a conversation.  If we compare charisma in conversation to charisma in presentation, we know that practice always helps.  More practice allows the presenter to be more natural; the more authentic a presenter can be, the more charisma he or she can reveal to the audience.

Terry Starbucker explains it this way: “About 90% of [charisma], in my view, is obtainable through experience, self-awareness, observation, confidence, good grooming and appearance, intelligence,  a good command of the language, and (maybe most importantly), a unwavering belief that you have it” (Source).  So what about the other 10%?  Is that 10% a magical, special quality we’re born with?  Starbucker says no: “Because in my view that 10% can be overcome with three things  – hard work, a passion for leadership,  and sheer determination” (Source).

Join me for Part Three of How To Be a Charismatic Presenter tomorrow!

Design Tip of the Day


Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen first introduced me to the signal to noise ratio.  Reynolds actually learned about this principle from Universal Principles of Design.  No matter where we hear this for the first time, the lesson is simple and applies to design everywhere: clean is better than clutter.

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A clean slide is one that has high signal that clearly comes across to the audience without noise.  A cluttered slide is one that has an unclear or low signal due to high noise and too much clutter.  Reynolds explains, “Ensuring the highest possible signal-to-noise ratio means communicating (designing) clearly with as little degradation to the message as possible” (Source).  Clutter will always degrade the message.

How can you work to unclutter your slides?  You can start with these five easy tips:

1.  Do not use templates.

2.  Do not use bullets.  Bullets kill.

3.  Do not use clip art.

4.  Do not use unnecessary, corny transitions or animations such as flames or comet.

5.  Do not use your slides as a document or teleprompter.

What other tips do you have for those of us who work hard to declutter our slides?

Phil Waknell on Presentation Zen


Phil Waknell has tremendous advice on Presentation Zen:

It’s at those times when you may think this approach is least appropriate that, on the contrary, it can make the most difference.


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As much as I possibly can, I try to spread the gospel of Presentation Zen.  The text and accompanying video were my very first introduction to visual presentation that works, visual presentation that isn’t death-by-bulletpoint, visual presentation that connects.  The approach changed my entire life.  Like Oprah says, I had an “Ah Ha!” moment of clarity, and it is my goal in my life to make as many other people as I can feel the same way.

More often than not, people protest.  They don’t want to change!  It’s so easy to grab a template and to quickly type in all of your information into a bulleted list.  It takes 10 minutes to create a terrible PowerPoint that, in turn, will make your audience fall asleep in 10 minutes.  People protest.  Here are the three most common protests I’ve heard:

“My audience loves my visual presentation!  I don’t need to change anything.”

A co-worker of mine actually spoke those words to me.  I bit my tongue out of common courtesy, but here’s what I was thinking, “Actually, sir, your students complained so loudly about your presentations in my class that it took about 30 minutes out of lecture time to calm them down.”  During your presentation, count the number of people on their laptops, texting on their telephones, or sleeping.  Your goal is to have that number be 0 and to have everyone in the audience engaged, awake, and excited to learn.

“My material is too technical.  My audience just needs to know the information.”  

Instead of bombarding students with slide after slide of text in bullet point format, why not give them a handout containing all of the detailed, step-by-step, technical information?  Your visual presentation could then be visual!  Your slides could contain images of the equipment.  As human beings, we must hear something seven times before we retain that information.  If you are using a handout, speaking your content to your audience, and showing a visual aid that is actually visual, you can reach more learners more quickly and in a more engaging way.

As Phil Waknell points out, “Coming back to the software explanation example, you might use screen captures, or videos, or a live demo, or you might get the audience to learn hands-on with their own computers. Any of those would be more effective than throwing out dozens of bullet points over a two-hour monologue and hoping some of it sticks” (Source).

I don’t have time to make pretty slides.”

If you think the Presentation Zen approach is just about making slides pretty, you definitely missed the point.  And that’s okay!  I would definitely ask people with the above mindset to try watching the PZ DVD if reading the text didn’t work… or vice versa.  Sometimes changing the medium can help deliver the message more effectively.  Again, because it takes us hearing a new idea or process seven times before we really understand it, trying again to get it is always recommended.

Garr Reynolds himself explains it best by tying presentation to Star Wars.  Death-by-PowerPoint is a Darth Vader approach, and a strong visual presentation is a Yoda approach.  Intrigued?  Read Reynolds’ thoughts here.

Advice: The Power of Faces


Garr Reynolds recently discussed the power of faces on his blog, Presentation Zen.  He explains that not only are we wired to see faces (both human and animal), but also that we notice of eye gaze (Source).

Think about eye gaze when designing your visual presentations.  Since we immediately focus on the face before the text, use the face to guide your audience around your visual.  Look at this example:

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Since faces are the most powerful visual tool, our eye first focuses on the face.  After processing the face, our eyes follow the eye gaze of the man in the picture.  The flow of this image is simple, but it goes something like this: 1) face —> 2) eyes —> 3) eye gaze —> 4) text.

Garr Reynolds shows the power of eye gaze in an example similar to this one:

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Faces are important in advertising, marketing, and slide design because our eye gravitates toward a face.  Simply remember that eye gaze is important when placing text on a slide so that you can lead the audience visually in a way that flows well.