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.


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?



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?

Links of the Week: 2014.05


Have you made time to read this week?  I’ve had a particularly busy week, so it was nice to take a forced but much-needed break this afternoon to do some reading for pleasure.

Unfortunately, I read Ethos3’s “Make The Best Call To Action Of All Time” too late to share with my students who are delivering their persuasive presentations tomorrow in class.  This is an article, though, that I will definitely want to hand out in the future.  Ethos3’s CEO Scott Schwertly gives us four important ways to call our audience to action: by triggering an emotional response; by sharing a sense of urgency; by using actionable language; and by giving incentive (Source).

My favorite suggestion was to give a sense of urgency.  When mentoring the Sports Marketing and Media students earlier this week, one student’s call to action did include that feeling of pressure on his audience.  But how do we create this in our presentations?  Schwertly says, “Give the audience a sense of urgency; why are you standing before them presenting today? Why is important they hear your message and “act now?” What will happen if they don’t act? Build your [call to action] to be time sensitive so that your audience knows they can’t put off their action” (Source).  Another suggestion is to analyze infomercials and commercials to see how companies market that urgency.


Kevin Daum of posted a fantastic article called “10 Tips for Giving Great Online Presentations.”  Daum’s suggestions come at the perfect time.  Since the beginning of 2014, I’ve had four major online interviews/meetings using either Skype, FaceTime, or Google+ Hangouts, and I’ve conducted a dozen GoTo Training presentations for students.  The age of technology and innovation allows us to meet and to present online, and this is important because our audience is global.

Daum tells us we must first use the right tool for the job.  With all of the online meeting and presentation tools available, how do you pick the one that works best for your purpose?  Next, he suggests we focus on clarity; simple slides; and engaging content.

His seventh tip, encourage conversation, is something I feel is essential.  Daum says, “The great part of collaborative software is that it allows people to communicate with the presenter and each other during the presentation through messaging, so the talk isn’t interrupted. You should encourage your team to do this from the beginning. Watching the online activity will give you a sense of how engaged your listeners are and allow you to tailor your presentation along the way, if need be” (Source).  In the GoTo Trainings I lead for my students, I would speak for 45 minutes and leave 15 minutes for Q&A.  My “ah ha!” moment came after I re-read John Medina’s Brain Rules, and I realized that students sitting and starting at a computer for 45 minutes wasn’t conducive to learning.  In 2014, my focus has been on a 5 minute warm-up conversation or “question of the day” to get people talking; 25 minutes of my content; 20 minutes of student activity; and 10 minutes of Q&A at the end.  The GoTo Training sessions have been more interactive and better than ever, and student participation has really helped us learn more about public speaking and presentation in the 21st century.

Read all 10 of Daum’s online presentation tips here.

What great articles did you read this week?

Links of the Week: 2014.04


During my search for the perfect book for my Public Speaking class, I added The Power Presenter to my list.  I still haven’t read it, but a certain blog post pushes the book to the top of my list.  Ethos 3’s book review on Jerry Weissman’s The Power Presenter is short and gives some great information on the strengths and drawbacks of the text.  Ethos3 claims the text contains advice on overcoming speaking anxiety as well as strong delivery and content… I am excited to read it!


Angela DeFinis of DeFinis Communications gives us Public Speaking Best Practices from her clients.  Written at the start of the new year, this advice resonates with me because it is so valid in every setting for every speaker.  For example, some of the client advice includes simplifying the message and the slides; using engagement strategies; and considering delivery (Source).  Check out her entire article here.

Make A Powerful Point is quickly becoming my favorite website/blog on public speaking and presenting.  Curator Gavin McMahon’s latest article “Comparisons Speak Louder Than Words” is something I want to implement in my classes to help students present numbers and data.  McMahon explains that audience members can’t really understand large numbers because they become abstract (Source).  Knowing this, presenters should put a focus on comparisons, and he gives us 5 ingredients for a good comparison.  This post is essential for business presenters!  Read it here.

What great articles have you read this week?

Ethos3’s Your Business Needs Visual Content


Slideshare began supporting infographics in addition to slideshare decks a few months ago, and I love the important and well-designed messages I’ve been seeing.  For a stunning example of the new, scroll-down layout, check out Ethos3’s infographic.  Designed with their signature color scheme, the message is important: visual content dominates.


Since we talked about the importance of visuals in Professional Communication and Presentation on Friday, I especially loved Ethos3’s infographic about mid-way through.  The data visualization explained that from 2008 to 2013, bullets were banished and more images were used.  To all of my fellow presentation designers, thank you for your good work!  We are seeing a significant increase in effective slides.

What is your favorite piece of Ethos3’s “Your Business Needs Visual Content” infographic?  Have you used Slideshare’s new infographic tool yet?

Links of the Week: 2014.02


For both my on-campus and online students, I explain that when it comes to public speaking and presentation, there are two major problems: lack of preparation and presentation anxiety.  It is true that these often go hand-in-hand.  In his latest blog post on Presentation Zen, Garr Reynolds discusses speech anxiety, also known as the lizard brain.  “Coping With Presentation Anxiety and Stage Fright” starts off by showing us an example of a Michael Bay presentation fail.  Reynolds then explains that we all suffer from stage fright in certain speaking situations, and we must learn how to deal with that anxiety.  He gives us an excerpt from his book The Naked Presenter written by guest author Les Posen called “Five Tips for Dealing With Presentation Nerves.”  These five suggestions include chunking your presentation; rehearsing; engaging in positive self talk; controlling physical symptoms of fear through deep breathing; and practicing deliberately.

Sometimes, the part of the presentation that makes us most fearful is the question and answer portion.  Fortunately, Ethos3’s latest post, “How To End Your Q&A Session,” can help!  My on-campus students are the only ones who ever do Q&A after speeches, and this can be a positive, productive experience or a really, really sad time.  For example, one of my students gave a persuasive speech on an emotionally-charged, polarizing topic… one which I told him he should reconsider due to his audience.  He ignored my advice, and I told him to meet me in my office to prepare and plan a successful speech.  Of course, he declined my offer (and, I should add, declined to apply all of the things I taught him that semester) and instead delivered a scattered, disorganized, essentially impromptu presentation which, needless to say, did not go over well with his audience.  During the Q&A, his fellow classmates tore him apart.  And I let them.  While it’s not my intention to ever make a student feel bad about himself, it is important that students learn one key thing in my class: it is all about the audience.

Not all students ignore my lessons and feedback and one-on-one help in my office, and most do a great job with Q&A because they’ve prepared and practiced.  They’re ready for their audience and genuinely want to clear up confusion or elaborate on their ideas.  Ethos3’s advice on how to manage a successful Q&A is a great article I would like to share with my audience-centered students.  The three tips Ethos3 give us for a post-speech chat include 1) taking one question at a time in a structured and organized fashion; 2) explaining up front the kinds of questions that will be answered; and 3) sharing an agenda.


At our last English Department meeting, a colleague brought up the topic of visual resumes.  This is something I teach in Professional Communication and Presentation to my business students, and I loved the timing of Nancy Duarte’s “Old Career Rules Don’t Work – To Compete, You Need A Body Of Work.”  While my colleague did a great job of sharing examples of visual resumes, what wasn’t said in our Department meeting was why an online, digital portfolio or visual resume is essential in 2014.  Duarte talks about that specifically in her latest blog post.  She writes, “If you neglect your story, one will be written for you […] The rise of social media has blurred the line between our personal and professional lives. Anybody can search for your name on the Internet and interpret the results however they wish” (Source).  And this is where managing your digital reputation comes in.

In 2010, Facebook was my obsession.  I’d had it since 2004 and spent hours every single day looking at photos and posting on my friends’ walls.  My Internet “brand” was what I posted on my personal Facebook page and the pages of other people.  Fast-forward to 2014, and I’ve been Facebook-free for nearly three years.  Instead, I’ve focused on building my digital brand in a much more constructive way through my blog, my contributions on the blogs of others, my Slideshare posts, my visual resume, and my LinkedIn profile page.  If you’d conducted a Google search of me back in 2010, you wouldn’t find much because I was wasting so much time on Facebook.  These days, I like what I see when I type “Alex Rister” into Google, and this has taken years and years of work.

Duarte says, “[Y]ou can no longer rely on a traditional resume of bullet points to position you for success. You must understand that all information in the public forum will become stories that influence your personal brand” (Source).  We only have 24 hours each day, and we get to decide how we want to spend that time.  Are we using our hours on the Internet for constructive, career-building, brand-creating, storytelling purposes?  If not, how can we make this more of a priority?  Can we cut out just 30 minutes or an hour of Facebooking each day to focus on our personal brand?

What great articles have you read this week?

The Story of MLK by Ethos3


Today, as we celebrate the life and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., please take a moment to scroll through “The Story of MLK” by Ethos3:


The gorgeous design and fascinating history lesson make this deck one of my favorites by Ethos3 in recent years.  Who knew King earned a “C” in his public speaking class?!

For Martin Luther King, Jr. on Creating Communication, please click here.

For my favorite NPR piece on King concentrating on the writing and delivering of the famous “I Have A Dream” speech, check out this interview with speechwriter Clarence Jones.

From Presentation Zen, read “Dr. King’s Last Speech” by Garr Reynolds here.

And if you haven’t watched it in awhile, click here to watch “I Have A Dream.”

After watching the speech, re-read Todd Cherches’ article on the metaphors and visual communication in the Dream speech here.

What is your favorite inspirational MLK article, interview, video, or Slideshare deck?  Share it with us today as we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr!

Ethos3’s Make Your Presentation Memorable


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:


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?