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?

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Find Your Presentation’s “Why?”

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Today, I had the amazing opportunity to help a few Sports Marketing and Media students with their Final Project presentation dress rehearsals.  One thing I noticed that separated the strong presentations from the ones that needed work was “why?”  The strong presentations defined a clear “why,” and that purpose stood out as the string tying the entire presentation together.  Other presentations focused on “what” and even “how” but lacked a clear sense of purpose.

Because it’s so important to determine and to explain your presentation’s “why,” today’s featured TED Talk comes from Simon Sinek:

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Two Creating Communication throwback posts can also help you find your presentation’s why:

“Starting With ‘Why'” explains the importance of “why” as outlined by not only Sinek but also Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds.  Originally published on June 28, 2012.

“Communication: Great Leaders Start With ‘Why'” features Chiara Ojeda’s Slideshare deck on Simon Sinek’s philosophy.  Originally published on September 17, 2012.

How do you make sure the purpose of your presentation clearly comes across to your audience?  How do you communicate your presentation’s “why?”

Selecting A Persuasive Ignite Topic

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This week, my students prepared for their persuasive Ignite presentations.  I also received an email yesterday from Jessica Davenport asking me about her Ignite topic for an upcoming presentation.  For many people, selecting a topic is really, really difficult.  How can we make sure we’re picking the right topic for ourselves and our audience?

Andrew Dlugan’s article “The Secret of Choosing Successful Speech Topics” is a great place to begin.  Dlugan suggests we start by asking three questions: 1) Am I an expert on the topic?, 2) Am I passionate about this topic?, and 3) Does my audience care about this topic? (Source).  Since I have too many students to conference with each of them individually, over the course of two days, we engage in brainstorming and topic selection.  Last class, I had all students brainstorm 10-20 potential topics.  I had them write down things they were passionate about and had personal experience with.  Those lists could be as broad and simple as the example below:

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Some students already know EXACTLY what they want to talk about.  They know for a fact their presentations will be about music, and that’s that.  I have those students brainstorm 10-20 different ways they could approach the topic of music.  So their lists might look more like this:

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After brainstorming 10-20 topics, I ask students to put a star by their top three favorites.  (Superteacher Side Note: I’ve found that using three favorites works well for the classroom because it allows students to have a back-up plan in case their first choice gets swiped by a fellow classmate.)  Then, I have them get out of the individual brainstorming mindset and get into teams to hash out the items on Andrew Dlugan’s list.

I divide my students into random teams of five.  I try to make sure every group has people from multiple degree programs to help ensure a wide audience is represented.  Then, I ask them to participate in an activity together with their top three favorite topics.  Each student must go around and explain their three topics, their personal experience with each of the three topics, and why they think that topic matters to their audience.

My students had homework last class.  I asked them to do some research on those top three topics and to come to class with some ideas on source material.  I also asked them to consider personal stories they might tell that relate to their top three topics.

When they arrived in class today, I had them get back in their groups and discuss their homework.  Once all five students finish discussing their homework, I ask the group to vote on which of the presenter’s three topics they like the most.  Sometimes the presenter selects his/her topic based on the group vote.  Sometimes the presenter tweaks his favorite topic based on the group’s input and advice.  Sometimes the presenter ignores the group altogether.  The exercise is important because it gets the person talking about potential topics and helps in the topic decision making process.

Today, we also put a focus on narrowing the focus from topic to thesis statement… also known as the speech’s “big idea” according to Nancy Duarte.  We discussed the three qualities of a big idea from Duarte’s Resonate and dissected both strong and weak big ideas on the board as a class.  I asked the groups to form their teams of five one more time in order to define their big ideas.  100% of students today left class with a solid, persuasive, strong big idea for their Ignite.  And most of my students now understand that brainstorming, topic selection, and coming up with a core argument is NOT an easy task… It’s a process that takes days, lots of thought and research, and collaboration/feedback from other people.

Some other terrific resources on selecting a topic – whether you’re doing an Ignite presentation or not – include “Speak From Your Strengths” by Ethos3 and the first few tips in “Organization and Preparation Tips” by Garr Reynolds.

What are your tips for selecting a strong topic for a presentation?

Chiara Ojeda’s “Ideate! Create and Develop World-Changing Ideas”

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After hearing about this deck and seeing her put in hours of work during the past few months, I am excited Chiara Ojeda finally debuted her latest visual presentation on Slideshare.  “Ideate! Create and Develop World-Changing Ideas” is about developing an idea through effective brainstorming, topic selection, and preparation.  Of course, it instantly shot to “Top Presentation of the Day.”

Check it out below:

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What I like most about this Slideshare presentation is its focus.  I’ve found, in my experience, that content is truly king.  If a student prepares and develops strong content, he or she is significantly more likely to deliver a powerful presentation.  Delivery is more likely to be natural and authentic if the student spends time brainstorming, developing, researching, organizing, and polishing content.  The presentation is more likely to resonate if the student puts a focus on content.  But content doesn’t stand alone… Remember that effective presentations are a three-legged stool:

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Chiara mentions on slide 73 that the next step in the process is to design slides to go along with the idea and then to practice rehearsing the presentation… She gives some amazing resources, so be sure to check those out!

Check out more of Chiara’s Slideshare presentations here.

What did you like most about “Ideate! Create and Develop World-Changing Ideas” by Chiara Ojeda?

Ethos3’s Make Your Presentation Memorable

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The folks over at Ethos3 are my favorite.  They research and study presentations, they create beautifully designed decks on Slideshare, they write a fascinating blog, and they have a great sense of humor.

Check out their latest deck “Make Your Presentation Memorable” below:

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This visual presentation touches on the importance of speech content.  Though content versus delivery is often debated, we can all agree that crafting a memorable message is the essential first step to any speech that resonates.

What interesting Slideshare decks have you flipped through this week?

The Importance of Storytelling in Public Speaking

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While studying for my Quantitative Research Methods in Communication midterm this weekend, I took a much-needed mental break to visit TED.com.  Because so many of my friends are or were online daters, the title of Amy Webb’s “How I Hacked Online Dating” immediately caught my eye.

I started watching it, and I marveled at the seamless, perfect blend of data and numbers with story in Webb’s TED Talk.  Her casual, audience-centered delivery and her beautiful supporting visuals rounded out all three legs of the presentation stool, and as a result, Webb delivered one of the strongest TED speeches with slides that I’ve actually EVER seen on the TED website.  Watch it here:

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I am not a numbers person.  I’ve spent 8 hours today and will spend 8 hours tomorrow and 8 hours on Wednesday (midterm day) creating flashcards, reading and re-reading my textbook, going over my class notes, and highlighting my instructor’s PowerPoint slides to try to figure out nominal measurement scales, coefficients, ordered variables, and many other miserably confusing quantitative-related vocabulary words.  Even putting in 24 hours of studying won’t help me feel completely comfortable with this material.  It’s not something that I understand easily.  That being said, I do love data and numbers when that information is presented in story form.  Because I get it.  Because story works.  Webb’s presentation (above) proves it.  She makes data simple and explains the meaning behind the data, and as Garr Reynolds reminds us, this is essential if we want our audience to remember the information we are presenting.

So what is Webb doing in her TED Talk that helps me and other audience members understand and able to recall the data in her presentation?

My co-workers and I were talking about TED Talks in general, and a comment was made that TED speeches weren’t practical in teaching and learning public speaking because they were too story-driven.  I didn’t stop to think about the comment mid-conversation, but I did think about it quite a bit for the next few days.  Yes, TED is story-driven, and that’s the point: story is what drives all human beings.  Story is the most digestible,  understood, and easy to retell communication medium in the world.  And, as we know when we study ethos, pathos, and logos, people throw reason and logic out the window when the right emotional chord is struck.  TED Commandment #4 is “Thou shalt tell a story,” and this is because story is what sticks (Source).

Don’t believe me (or the TED Commandments)?  Look no further than Chip and Dan Heath, the men behind Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.  The Heath brothers know what TED presenters know: that story is sticky and resonates within us for days, weeks, months, years.  Presentation revolutionaries such as Nancy Duarte teach us that story “has played a significant role in all cultures but its adoption into professional cultures has been painfully slow. That’s because it’s easier to present a report instead of a well-crafted presentation that incorporates stories” (Source).  If we’re going to create effective speeches, we have to start turning to story as the primary vehicle for communicating and delivering the information we want to stick in other people’s minds.

So Webb is doing what all presenters should do.  She’s telling her story, and her story helps us understand a) the purpose of her speech, b) the data she collected, and c) why this is important for us as audience members.

Why do you think traditional public speaking and presentation instructors scoff at story-driven speeches?  How can we convince these old school folks to change their mindset?

Be Present: Nancy Duarte

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While searching for new, amazing videos on YouTube to share with my Professional Communication and Presentation class, I came across this:

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It was amazing to hear some background on Nancy Duarte.  Who knew she was a preacher’s wife and moved to Silicon Valley to create a church?  Interesting!

I love watching Duarte present because she seems so excited when she speaks.  Sometimes, I find myself out of breath and moving around a lot because I am so excited and happy to speak… I see some of this in Duarte’s presentation here.

What I love most about this presentation was Duarte’s summary of the important points in her book, Resonate.  If you’ve seen her TED Talk, some of this material may be repetitive, but it’s always a good brush-up.  Every time I read Resonate or watch Duarte present on the material from Resonate, I feel like I learn something new or take away something I hadn’t previously considered.

Have you read Resonate yet?  What did you think of Nancy Duarte’s amazing book on creating effective presentation content?