As I prepare to begin a new month of Professional Communication and Presentation (PCP) this week, for the first time, my heart is heavy. I typically feel excited for a new month and ready to meet a new crop of students. This weekend and early this week, however, I’ve only been sad about the fact that I won’t see the faces of my August superstudents who I have come to admire and love so much.
Chiara Ojeda blogged about the precious angels on Sunday. Read her account of August PCP here. For me, last month was just one of those classes where everything clicked. It was my first month teaching with the new textbook: Nancy Duarte’s Resonate. It was a month I had been anticipating for quite a bit, as Nancy Duarte herself agreed to do a Skype interview and Q&A with the class. But these reasons alone don’t make a month successful; the students do.
Each student worked hard to become a stronger presenter. And when I say “work,” I mean work. These students worked harder this month than they have in any previous month of their degrees and, likely, more than they will work in future months. They read their textbook, they spent hours on their presentations, and they practiced with me before each speech. That hard work resulted in more As in August than I have seen in any other month; 10 out of 15 students earned a score of “A” because of the hard work they put in. Each student put in an enormous amount of work to grow as a public speaker and presenter.
I saw students resist. This is often a quality I love the most about a class because students who think for themselves question and challenge the world around them are students driven to learn and to succeed. Not every person was immediately sold on the visual design concepts I taught. Not every student understood the importance of Compfight and Flickr. But this is a good thing! Resistance helps a student actually learn.
I saw students change. No student is a perfect presenter; none of us are! But each student changed – some dramatically – from the first day of the course to the last. Most changed their approach to visual design: they went from bullets and clip art on a template to the picture superiority effect. Some changed their approach to delivery: they went from reading a script to working from an outline to deliver more authentically and embody TED Commandment #9. Some changed their approach to content: they worked hard and put in many hours to analyze their audience, outline and organize, research and develop, and then storyboard their content.
I saw students flourish. This post is for Martin, Jason, Bobby, Alex, Ruben, Dan, Gary, Tyler, Howard Zac, Bruce, Fernley, Jane, Shawn, and Adriana. Thank you for one of the greatest months of my entire teaching career. I can’t wait to see all of you leading the entertainment and music business industries. And yes, Bruce, you are all certainly going down in history as some of “the best of PCP” super all-stars. Love and miss y’all!
This weekend, I retooled my “Introduction to Professional Communication and Presentation” first day material, as the first day of May classes will begin tomorrow, the first day of May. Take a look at a few of the tweaks I made:
We’ll begin by analyzing the presentation medium to understand how and why it’s broken… and hopefully, we can come to accept that the presentations most people give are mediocre at best.
How in the world can we repair the problem when most people don’t even understand or believe a problem exists? We’ll be studying many great people in the course: Garr Reynolds, Nancy Duarte, Seth Godin, Jay Heinrichs, Guy Kawasaki, and Andrew Dlugan among others. What makes these people great? They recognize that presentations are terrible and seek to redefine the medium as something that works. They began the presentation revolution, and they have tools we can use to fix this mess.
We have to accept Jim Endicott’s metaphor: the presentation stool. Duarte’s presentation ecosystem comes from this metaphor. The idea is that presentation is based on three key concepts: effective visual presentation; strong content; and authentic delivery. In the course, we will learn to develop as public speakers in these three areas. Using Endicott’s metaphor, we hope to move from mediocre to great so that our ideas can stand out. The idea is that if we stand above the hot mess that is presentation these days and communicate more effectively, we win.
And last but not least, I’ve incorporated my catchphrase “let’s get real” into lecture material! My February students teased me for constantly telling people “you need to get real,” so I decided to use the phrase to my advantage. Each class, we’ll have “let’s get real” moments of honesty and truth to promote stronger presentations. For example, you think you can “wing” all of your speeches? Honey, it is time to get real.
Superteachers: What exciting things do you have planned for your May classes?
I’ve been shadowing Chiara Ojeda‘s Professional Communication and Presentation class as well as occasionally teaching. Every day I am in the classroom with Chiara, I feel so much joy and passion for my work. Chiara is an incredible teacher, and she inspires me to read, to learn, and to grow as an instructor and, most importantly, as a presenter.
The Professional Communication and Presentation Course exposes students to various forms of written and oral communication through technical, electronic, and creative-writing activities. In addition, students develop competency in visual presentation design. Through practice and development of written and oral skills, students sharpen their abilities to craft effective documents and presentations, while gaining confidence in both the content of their message and their ability to clearly convey it (Course Description). Our textbook is slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations.