LINKS OF THE WEEK: 2014.06

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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! 

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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?

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Public Speaking and The Rule of Three

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“One, two, three… I forget.”  Watch “The Importance of the Number Three in Presentations” by Ethos3 and CEO Scott Schwertly below:

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To learn more about the rule of three, check out “How To Use the Rule of Three in Your Speeches” by Andrew Dlugan of Six Minutes.

Do you use the rule of three in your presentations?

Links of the Week: Dec 10-16

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The art and science of 21st century presenting (also called “Presentation 2.0” by Phil Waknell and “The Presentation Revolution” by Ethos3 and others) involves understanding that presentations are a three-legged stool comprised of 1) content, 2) delivery, and 3) visual design (the slideshow or any other visual aid).  The links of the week this week reinforce each of the three legs of the presentation stool:

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In “The Night 8 People Stole 50 Hearts,” the Duarte Design team reminds us of the importance of story.  What I love most is the idea of revision going hand in hand with being able to tell an effective story.

I teach a course called Professional Communication and Presentation to both on campus and online business students.  When I ask them to practice their speech with me, students will often protest that practicing will “ruin the surprise.”  The fact is, a great speech is great no matter how many times you hear it.  Practice and preparation don’t detract from the quality of a speech; in fact, the only thing the two Ps do is enhance the quality of the speech’s content AND add to the audience’s overall experience in a positive way.

Practice and preparation are the first and second qualities of an effective story as outlined in the Duarte article.  Author Paula Tesch says, “In the final weeks of preparation, each speaker performed their story a lot. Revision rounds with their peers, once-overs with their content mentors, dry runs with the designers creating their visuals, and a dress rehearsal with the entire production team. Each time a speaker told his or her story, it got better. Dramatically better. Both the delivery and the story itself improved with each performance. We practiced what we preach, and it only made us want to preach louder” (Source).  In my experience, if a student practices his or her speech in front of me, the speech only gets better, stronger, and more powerful.

Content-wise, we may often feel like we want to keep things in for the element of surprise.  However, making sure your speech resonates with your audience is more important than the element of surprise.  Additionally, as Tesch reminds us, each time we share our ideas, our message, our content, with others, we improve.

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“The Importance of Eye Contact in Presentations” contains a video by Ethos3 CEO Scott Schwertly.  I love the use of video when talking about a delivery concept because it is difficult to write about delivery without demonstrating what you mean.  The video does the trick!

Schwertly explains that eye contact from a presenter determines whether or not the audience feels valued and respected.  If the presenter is reading from notes or from slides, Schwertly says, the speaker’s delivery tells the audience, “I don’t care about you.”  Audience-centered delivery does what’s best for the audience, no matter how nervous the presenter may feel.  And audiences need to feel connected with the presenter in order for the message, the content, to resonate.

Of all of the elements of delivery – hand gestures, voice, movement – eye contact should be the presenter’s primary focus while he or she is speaking to a group of people.  Eye contact is the most important way for an audience to connect with a presenter, and it should be the primary delivery tool to be cultivated and developed.  After all, if a presenter maintains strong and steady eye contact, the audience can forgive other minor mistakes such as verbal fillers or a nervous gesture.

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Effective visual design is the trickiest leg of the presentation stool for us to embrace.  Tradition tells us we should fill up our slides with bullets.  Have you ever stopped to wonder why you do this?  When you’re in the audience and a presenter displays yet another death-by-bulletpoint slide, how do you feel?  Bored?  Disinterested?  So why do we use this ineffective medium and perpetuate the slideument as the only way to design visual aids?

Designing effective slides to meet the needs of your audience will ensure that you connect and resonate with the people you’re speaking with.  Learn more about how to create a “good” slide here.

Once we actually learn how to create strong visuals, it’s time to share those with the world.  We can spread the presentation revolution to others because once they see the RIGHT way of designing slides, they’ll never go back to death-by-PowerPoint ever again! In “Presentation Tip: Sharing Your Presentation Online,” Dave Paradi suggests Brainshark and Slideshare.  Brainshark, Paradi says, “allows you to add an audio track to your slides and create a video. But you don’t have to add audio at all. You can skip that step and use this service to simply allow people to view your slides” (Source).  He also suggests we upload our visual presentations to Slideshare, one of my favorite websites ever.  Check out “You Suck At PowerPoint!” on Slideshare here.

What great public speaking and presentation articles did you read this week?

Free Webinar: How To Be An Online Presentation God

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My favorite Scott Schwertly of Ethos3 is hosting a free, live, one-hour webinar on Wednesday, October 24, 2012, beginning at 2:00 PM EST.  Join Schwertly as he discusses how to be an online presentation superstar.  Secure your spot now!

Interested in Schwertly’s book How To Be A Presentation God ? Check out my review here.  Learn more about Ethos3 from their website, follow them on Twitter, and scroll through their visual presentations on Slideshare.

Review: How To Be A Presentation God

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Though I had three books ahead of it (these and this one), I couldn’t resist the pull of How To Be A Presentation God: Build, Design, and Deliver Presentations that Dominate by Ethos3’s CEO Scott Schwertly.  Schwertly was kind enough to send me an autographed hard copy of the text a few weeks ago, and since I opened the first page, I was hooked.  My initial review after skimming through the text and reading the first few chapters was that the book was “insanely good.”  After finishing the entire thing, I am happy to report that my first impression was correct; the book is great!

I’m always baffled when I read a lukewarm review of a book I enjoyed.  However, my dad taught me an important reading lesson; he said we must read books at the right time in our lives.  For example, let’s look at Dr. Nick Morgan‘s review.  Morgan writes, “I’m always on the lookout for good new books on public speaking, but I can’t recommend this one. The advice is too general for anyone who has any sort of experience speaking – or has read more than one or two books on the subject” (Source).  So why might Dr. Morgan and I differ in our views of the text?  Again, I believe it is because you must read a book at the right time in your life.  If you come to a book expecting a life-changing experience, you might be disappointed.  I try to read a text without any expectation other than to learn and to grow, and I am usually happy to expand my knowledge base in some way.

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I enjoyed many things about Schwertly’s book.  First, the book explained the presentation revolution concept in a new, interesting way using fantastic metaphors (ethos as an interstate highway) and examples (Bruce Lee, Ron Burgundy).  This made the presentation revolution more accessible and understandable for the beginning presenter.  My favorite part of the book was the first part called “The New Era of Presentations” comprised of three chapters.  Schwertly captured the presentation revolution’s goals perfectly in this section.

I also loved Schwertly’s humor.  Has a book ever made you cry?  Has a book ever scared you?  Has a book ever made you laugh out loud?  If a writer can make me feel feelings, I consider that writer successful because it is so rare.  Humor helps us learn because it helps us remember and retain information.  If a book can make you feel a specific emotion, such as happiness, the writer is doing his or her job.  If you can have fun while reading a book, the writer is successful.

The third thing I loved about Presentation God was the use of design to help us retain and remember these principles.  For example, I loved the ideas behind “Narcolepto” or “Mediogre,” but the full-page images applied the picture superiority effect and really helped these concepts stick in my head as characters.

There were things I didn’t like about Presentation God, too.  First, Schwertly’s Ethos3 is known for its beautiful, well-designed Slideshare presentations (among many other things).  I would have liked to see a more in-depth chapter on design letting us in on the company’s secrets.  Schwertly’s next project should definitely be a design “how to” book using images in addition to text.  It’s hard to write about design without showing examples.

Though audience analysis is extremely important, I did not enjoy Chapter 7.  I would have liked to see a different approach to audience analysis using more Brain Rules techniques to define what an audience needs from a presenter.

Finally, I would have restructured parts of the “Delivery” section (Chapters 11 through 13).  Some of “Delivery” was about presentation anxiety, which, in my opinion, should be covered before the three legs of the presentation stool: content, design, and delivery.  With a separate section on “Presentation Anxiety” before the three legs, the “Delivery” section could have focused on actual delivery: eye contact, movement, nonverbal communication, proxemics, etc.  Delivery is really, really hard to write about; do yourself a favor and read Garr Reynolds’ The Naked Presenter immediately.  You won’t ever need another resource on delivery as long as you life.  Okay, that’s lofty, but I love the book.

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I recommend Presentation God to beginning presenters and public speakers who want to learn more about the presentation revolution.  It would be a great classroom textbook because the writing style would instantly hook student readers.  I would also recommend the text to intermediate presenters who want to brush up on their skills and to re-learn material by thinking about it in new ways.  I highly recommend it for public speaking and presentation teachers or coaches who need a variety of ways to explain concepts to others.

Have you read How To Be A Presentation God?  What did you think about Scott Schwertly’s debut book?

Currently Reading… How To Be A Presentation God

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Since I learned about Ethos3 last year, I’ve been a superfan.  Not only do they post amazing articles on their blog about all things public speaking and presentation, but they also design gorgeous slideshows.  Check out their most recent stuff on Slideshare here.  And how can you not love that description?

“Stop! Please don’t present those bullet point ravaged slides. We’re here to save you from yourself. Hand them over. Seriously, give them to us. We’ll streamline and beautify your deck so your audience will be spared death by PowerPoint. We’re Ethos3, a presentation design agency in Nashville, TN. We’ve worked with some pretty huge clients, like Google, Coke and NBC. Visit our website at http://www.ethos3.com for more information on how we can help you change the world with your next presentation” (Source).

About a month ago, I also blogged about the company’s CEO, Scott Schwertly, and his book, How To Be A Presentation God.  Read my original post here.  Now that I re-read my own words, I agree that the post sounds like a desperate plea for a free, autographed copy of Presentation God… and Scott was generous enough to answer my prayers!

When I got home from teaching my precious angels this afternoon, I found a hardcover copy of the text in my mailbox.  And when I opened it, I was sucked in for about a half hour before I realized I needed to accomplish something on my enormous “To Do” list.

My first impression?  The book is insanely good.  Scott is a great writer, and the pages I read were funny and engaging with practical examples (Ron Burgundy!).  Characters like The Smoke Monster and O2-E reinforce textual material, and Scott shows off his design skills to prove Ethos3 definitely deserved their Slideshare “World’s Best Presentation” first place award for the business category.  I have quite a few other books to read, but this one definitely jumped to the top of the list.  You’ll have your official review posted soon.

Thanks again, Scott!

Scott Schwertly’s How To Be A Presentation God

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How To Be A Presentation God by Ethos3’s Scott Schwertly has been on my must-read list for quite awhile now.  If you follow me on Twitter, it’s no secret from my RTs that I am a fan of Ethos3.  They are an inspirational presentation design company committed to the public speaking and presentation revolution.  And if you’ve interacted with anyone from the Ethos3 team, you’ve likely also been blown away by how kind, thoughtful, and warm everyone is.

Learn more about Ethos3 by checking out their blog here.  It is constantly updated with relevant, engaging content such as “Presentation Lessons from Stanley Kubrick.”  You can follow Ethos3 on Twitter here.

Have you read How To Be A Presentation God?  What’s the verdict?