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?

Prezi’s Top 100 Presentation Resources

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I am excited to announce that Creating Communication was named one of Prezi’s Top 100 Presentation Resources!  Check out their list: “The #PreziTop100 Online Resources Every Presenter Should See.”

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Don’t forget to answer this week’s Wednesday Challenge with YOUR favorite online presentation resource!  You can also leave a comment here.

Commencement Speeches: Advice From The Experts

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Graduation season is upon us which means my favorite kind of presentations is being delivered in high schools and colleges nationwide: the commencement speech.  In March of 2013, I compiled some expert advice on graduation speeches in this article.  Even further back in August 2012, I posted “5 Best Practices for Commencement Speeches” including my advice to prepare, know your audience, keep it short, avoid getting too emotional, and inspire in an unexpected way.

This graduation season, we have a whole host of commencement speech experts we can learn from.  In NPR’s “Anatomy of a Great Commencement Speech,” Cory Turner and the NPR Ed Team analyzed hundreds of speeches dating back to 1774 to come up with a few important rules: 1) Be Funny, 2) Make Fun of Yourself, 3) Downplay the Genre, and, most importantly, 4) You Must Have a Message (Source).  Read or listen to the article in its entirety here.

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Decker Communications gives us “The Commencement Speech: How To Rock It” with three tips on effective content preparation.  Citing famous graduation speeches from Conan O’Brien, Bono, and Steve Jobs, Kelly Decker’s advice is spot on.  Check it out here.

Entertainment Weekly shares 2014′s best celebrity commencement speeches along with video of each presentation.  From Sandra Bullock to Charlie Day, you’re sure to learn presentations lessons from watching these actors and musicians delivering this year’s graduation ceremony speeches.

Along with celebrity star power, political figures are always big on the podium at graduation day.  “10 Things To Learn From This Year’s Best Graduation Speech” proclaims Admiral William McRaven as this year’s champion of commencement presentations.  The NAVY Seal who commanded Operation Neptune Spear (Google it) spoke at the University of Texas at Austin, and Inc. says we can learn a lot about life and happiness from the Admiral’s speech.  These ten life lessons are a must-read.  Check them out here.

What was your favorite commencement speech of 2014?  What public speaking advice did you glean from watching that graduation presentation?

11-Step Guide To Awesome Presentation Content

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If you’re working on a presentation, check out SOAP’s 11-Step Guide to Awesome Presentation Content:

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I love the focus on audience analysis, storytelling, and support for the core message.  I would have liked to see a focus on “why” before “how.”  As Simon Sinek’s golden circle tells us, our focus should be “why” first followed by “how” and “what.”  I would have also liked to see a focus on content as opposed to a transition into design… Design took up half of the presentation, which was disappointing.  Even so, there are great lessons to be learned here, and I hope you enjoyed the Slideshare deck.

What great Slideshare presentations have you flipped through this week?

Currently Reading: How To Deliver A TED Talk

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Summertime in Florida means plenty of trips to the beach.  So far this summer, I’ve been to New Smyrna, Cocoa Beach, and Honeymoon Island in Dunedin.  All of this beaching for me means relaxing with a book.  I read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (disappointing) and started reading the book my brother gave me called Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami (amazing).  Mostly, though, I stick to nonfiction.

While beaching with my husband, I re-read Jeremey Donovan’s How To Deliver A TED Talk with a focus on the upcoming revamp of Professional Communication and Presentation.  I highlighted many places that link our current class (a presentation class using Nancy Duarte’s Resonate) with our future class (a self presentation class based on Pamela Slim’s Body Of Work).

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Re-reading Donovan’s book with a focus on how to blend the old class with the new made me pick up on vastly different pages and excerpts than when I read it the first time.  For example, I want to explain that communicating your professional persona and being able to present yourself and your personal brand to others is a challenge in the era of social media and texting.  Donovan says, “Those who learn how to communicate offline will have a better chance of being heard and of making a difference in an ever-more crowded world” (Source).  This really struck a chord with me, and I began to see how the blend of old class and new class might make sense structurally.

Donovan’s Tip #1 in the book, “Everybody has an idea worth spreading” is key for the revamp of Professional Communication and Presentation because everyone must also be able to spread their professional persona and to make their personal brand into a story or an idea worth sharing.  His second tip on developing a “speaking persona” resonated with me because I think that in class, we can link a professional persona with a speaking persona.  Donovan gives a list of categories of speaking personas that I think any student can understand and connect with.  I have an idea for a revamp of our old TED Analysis Presentation assignment in asking students to figure out what their speaking persona will be and finding a TED Talk with a speaker whose persona is similar to their own.  This will help incorporate TED Talks into the class with a focus this time on professional and speaking personas.

I also liked Donovan’s section in Chapter 1′s “Organizing Your Talk” on story, so I think another presentation my students can focus on in the reboot of the class is developing a compelling narrative that inspires and connects with the audience’s deepest rooted needs and desires.  Chapter Two’s Prompts on pages 48-50 can serve as an exercise and a basis for narrative presentations at the beginning of the new Professional Communication and Presentation class which will feed into the overall narrative students will tell in their Professional Persona Projects based on Slim’s Body of Work.

What was your favorite part of Donovan’s How To Deliver A TED Talk?  Can you make any additional connections between Donovan’s book and Slim’s Body of Work?

A New Elizabeth Gilbert TED Talk!

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“Success, Drive, And The Drive To Keep Creating” is a brand new TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert.  A follow-up to her wildly popular TED Talk five years ago, this shorter presentation is just as compelling and tackles the subject of success.  Check it out below:

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Equal parts funny and touching, Gilbert’s story-based content takes audience members on a journey out of failure.  Her humor and her wisdom make me feel like I know her, and this delivery style embodies Garr Reynolds’ “naked” presenter philosophy.  Whether you’re an artist or not, Gilbert’s message will resonate with you.

What was your favorite part about Gilbert’s new TED Talk?

Inc. Interview With Nancy Duarte

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Imagine my surprise when I saw a new interview with Nancy Duarte on Inc. In “Great Speakers Are Like Yoda, Not Luke Skywalker,” Kimberly Weisul interviews the Duarte Design CEO and presentation expert.  Although much of Duarte’s advice can be found in her book, Resonate, I loved the short piece because of its focus on the role of the speaker as mentor rather than hero.

Duarte on The #1 Presentation Mistake…

After working on hundreds of thousands of presentations, Duarte says the biggest problem she sees in the land of public speaking and presentation is a lack of empathy.  What I like about Resonate and about Duarte’s approach is that she talks about audience analysis in such a fresh way.  If you read traditional public speaking textbooks, you’ll see the standard, boring chapters on audience demographics, attitude, and environment that typically elicit a “duh!” response.  Duarte talks about audience analysis from a real life perspective.  For example, in her interview with Weisul, Duarte says, “When you have an opportunity to present, you tend to start to process information from your own perspective.  Usually, it’s all about the information you want to give instead of being about the information the audience wants to receive.  You need to spend an enormous amount of time thinking about what the audience wants to receive.  You need to really think through who you’re talking to, and how to make a deep connection with them.  Then you need to create content that supports that” (Source).  Yes, we should consider the audience’s age and gender and culture.  More importantly, we should be thinking about what all audiences need and want: to share an experience, to be entertained, to learn something new, to feel moved, to be inspired… The standard textbook audience analysis isn’t going to get you there, but Duarte’s advice in Resonate definitely will.

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Duarte on Being A Yoda, Not A Luke Skywalker

In her book and in her TED Talk, Duarte mentions that a great presenter’s role is that of Yoda (a mentor) as opposed to Luke Skywalker (a hero).  She explains what she means in her Inc. Interview.  Duarte says, “In movies and myths, there’s also often the mentor, who comes alongside the hero to help them get unstuck or give them a magical tool. That’s Yoda. When you’re presenting, that’s you. If you look at it that way, suddenly you’re more humble” (Source).  As a public speaking and presentation teacher, easing into a Yoda role is effortless for me because it is my goal to teach students, to come alongside them and to give them new, powerful communication and presentation tools.  However, I have to remember to adopt this mindset when I am presenting in other areas such as at work to fellow faculty or at a Junior League meeting.

Understanding the role of the presenter is important, but understanding the relationship between audience and presenter is even more essential.  Duarte explains, “The presenter’s success is completely dependent on the audience adopting the idea. The presenter is not the protagonist. You need to take that and respect that. The audience has the power to take your idea and spread it far and wide. Or it can die” (Source).  Once we realize that the success of our presentation hinges on our audience, we can remedy presentation mistake #1…  We can spend more time focusing on our audience so that they will love and enjoy our message and, ultimately, adopt our idea.

Read more from Nancy Duarte on Duarte Blog, on LinkedIn, and on the Harvard Business Review.

LINKS OF THE WEEK: 2014.07

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Garr Reynolds is on fire, which means his upcoming book is bound to be filled with amazing things!  Presentation Zen has posted two good reads in the past seven days.  “No Amount Of Technology Will Make A Bad Story Good” looks at Toy Story and the technology used in the movie.  Reynolds cites Steve Jobs and John Lasseter to point out that technical feats are meaningless in the film industry unless a compelling story exists.  The driving force is “story, story, story” (Source).  Reynolds talks a bit more about this in “Storyboarding And The Art Of Finding Your Story.”  This second blog post examines, specifically, what Pixar can teach us about storyboarding and uses advice from Walt Disney.  This advice does relate to presentations because if you can arrange your presentation (or your story) on paper in a way that makes sense, your audience will get it.

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Ethos3′s “Presentation Lessons from Brené Brown” is based on her TED Talk (and one of my personal favorite TED Talks) called “The Power of Vulnerability.”  Since it had been quite awhile since I’d seen Brown’s TED Talk, I watched it again before reading Ethos3′s article.  Not only did the presentation resonate with me once again, but the advice from Scott Schwertly was spot on.  The CEO of Ethos3 suggests we remember the importance of storytelling, simple slides, humor, and emotional moments (Source).  We can also learn a lot from Brown’s delivery.  She embodies Garr Reynolds’ “naked presenter” philosophy and shows her audience her true, authentic self.  I was happy Ethos3 reintroduced me to the Talk this afternoon.

Our final good read of the week comes from Angela DeFinis of DeFinis Communications.  Called “7 Deadly Sins of Presentation Preparation,” DeFinis explains some pretty killer mistakes people make when preparing for a speech.  These sins include not preparing content before slides; not practicing delivery ahead of speech day; and not showing energy and confidence along with four other major preparation issues.  Read the article here to ensure you fully and properly prepare for your next presentation.

What great articles did you read over the weekend?

Wednesday Challenge: Presentation Anxiety

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On Wednesdays, I am starting a brand new audience-centered series called the Wednesday Challenge.  I’ll give you a prompt, and you leave your response in the “Comments” section.  The prompt might be a question, as it is today, or it might be an activity.  I’ll share the best comment along with a new prompt the following Wednesday.

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Tell me about the time you experienced the worst presentation anxiety in your life.

Can’t wait to hear your stories!

How To Deliver A Presentation Without PowerPoint

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A few weeks ago, I posted “3 Reasons To Ditch Your PowerPoint Slides” and suggested we forgo the slideshows for our upcoming presentations.  Why?  Ditching slides allows a presenter to promote audience discussion and interaction and to engage the listeners, and this does wonders for an audience.  Additionally, getting rid of PowerPoint and Keynote forces preparation and practice on the part of the presenter.

I received such a wonderful comment on “3 Reasons To Ditch Your PowerPoint Slides” that I wanted to share Gary’s response with you:

I can go along with this, but I have a question I have not seen an answer to. Without slides, how do I remember what to talk about? I’ve heard Steve Jobs’ quote, ‘People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.’ That sounds wonderful, but I do know what I am talking about, yet I get nervous even after many hundreds of presentations. I do not trust that I would remember the overall presentation flow. I don’t need a written-out document, but I do need at least a list of bullet items. Any recommendations on how to keep on track?

Gary asks a really important question.  If we ditch PowerPoint, how can we ensure our presentation’s organization and structure are still strong?

I want to point out a few things from Gary’s comment that many presenters – including me – face.  Slides do keep us on track.  In many cases, slides have our speaking notes written on them word-for-word, so it’s easy to rely on that death-by-PowerPoint instead of thorough preparation and practice.  If we don’t have slides to teleprompt us in, how do we make sure we’ve covered all of our material?

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First, we have to get rid of this idea that “presentation” and “PowerPoint” are the same thing.  The words are not synonyms.  A presentation is a powerful tool for communicating information using meaningful human connection.  Its definition is “an activity in which someone shows, describes, or explains something to a group of people” (Source).

How is a presentation different from a PowerPoint?  Well, a PowerPoint is not an activity; it is typically a document filled with the speaker’s notes.  If your PowerPoint has all of the words you plan to speak to your audience, you don’t even need to be there in front of them to read the message for them.  They can read the slide themselves.  If you don’t need to be present for your message to be understood, you haven’t created a presentation.  You’ve created a document.

Insider Secret: To learn more about how to create an effective PowerPoint slide from the masters like Garr Reynolds, start here.  Until one learns the tools to building effective slides, I would suggest ditching them completely.

Second, we must create an outline.  You know all of the stuff you might typically write out on a PowerPoint slide?  Those are your notes, and they should be kept for your eyes only.  Your audience doesn’t need to read your notes at the same time you are reading them.  Keeping those notes to yourself allows your audience to feel engaged in the activity of a presentation as opposed to bored as you read a document they are simultaneously reading.

Some of us may prefer one piece of paper with our speech outlined on the front or on the front and back.  Others of us may prefer a few notecards with 3-5 words per card.  Others still might want to use our iPad or other tablet.  Whatever method you prefer, the most important idea is to stick with an outline as opposed to a script.  An outline should include bullets and phrases as opposed to complete sentences.  Building an outline and holding it in your hand when you present ensures you get through all of your content effectively.

Insider Secret: Presentation expert Scott Berkun writes out his 3-5 main points on an index card and keeps it in his back pocket when he speaks.  That way, he always knows his order, his structure, and his main points AND has them on his person.

Third, we need to practice so that our message makes it to our audience.  When we rely on slides, we feel we don’t need to practice because all of the information is written right there on the PowerPoint.

Some might argue, “But it’s time effective to do it the old way!”  Of course it is… for the speaker.  But the audience suffers the consequences, and on presentation day, the easiness on behalf of the speaker turns into a boring read-along for the audience.  Count every single person in the audience and consider how much TOTAL time they are spending on your presentation.  Let’s say you deliver a 10 minute presentation to 20 people.  That’s 200 total minutes being spent listening to your speech.  Put in at least that much time preparing for your poor audience who want, expect, and deserve for their time to be valued.

Practicing helps our message focus on our audience, which helps us as presenters make sure those 200 minutes are spent wisely.  When you practice something out loud, you can identify changes to make your message more cohesive, more clear, and more meaningful.

Insider Secret: When is the last time you practiced before you gave a presentation?  If the answer is “never,” then you should pick up a copy of Nancy Duarte’s Resonate.  This presentation expert’s book will change the way you present forever!

Finally, we have to practice to overcome our nerves.  To Gary’s point, most of us use PowerPoint slides as our security blanket.  We can hide behind those slides.  It’s really scary to come out and give our audience that human connection they need, want, and deserve.  Practicing allows us to feel more comfortable with our message, to internalize it.  While that won’t get rid of the public speaking anxiety completely, it will help us manage our fear.

Insider Secret: Everyone gets nervous about presenting, but the pros know how to manage that adrenaline by turning it into excitement as opposed to fear.  Figure out how you can channel your adrenaline in the right place just like the professional speakers.  Click here to learn more.

People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.  If that’s true, then it takes quite a bit of preparation and practice to get there.  I hope these four tips will help you ditch those slides and focus on a more meaningful, impacting connection with your audience during your next presentation.

What tips would you add for delivering a presentation without PowerPoint slides?